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FMX 2012 to Highlight Virtual Production

FMX 2012 will highlight the advent of Virtual Production with programming tracks on World Building and Previs, Megasessions covering “Reel Steel,” “Tintin” and “Hugo,” VFX showcases on “Battleship” and “The Hunger Games,” and animation highlights covering “Dr. Seuss' The Lorax” and Marvel's “The Avengers.”

Press release from FMX 2012:

FMX 2012 is highlighting one of the most profound changes that have been taking place in film production: the advent of Virtual Production. Virtual Production transfers former analogue processes into the digital realm, blurring the boundaries between pre-production, production and post. Directors such as James Cameron, Peter Jackson and Steven Spielberg have recently made great use of Virtual Production possibilities as exemplified by the successes of such films as Tintin and Avatar. The Virtual Production track is possible thanks to the generous support by FMX Main Partner Autodesk. Marc Petit, Senior Vice President, Autodesk Media & Entertainment, explains the appeal of Virtual Production:

"With the advent of digital pre-production, production and post-production, virtual production completes the digital film production pipeline. Virtual production places the creative decision-making back into the hands of director. The on-set real-time interaction between Autodesk MotionBuilder and Autodesk Maya software, provides a wealth of highly flexible CG assets which can flow throughout the filmmaking process and free filmmakers to focus on expressing their creative visions."

Aside from Avatar and Tintin, FMX offers presentations on the action movie Real Steel, Spielberg's drama War Horse, the 2012 remake of Total Recall which comes to the cinemas in August as well as sessions on Virtual Production in Games and in Television. In addition to the Virtual Production track, the audience can await presentations on the blockbuster Battleship and the box office hit The Hunger Games, an exclusive preview of highly anticipated animation feature Dr. Seuss' The Lorax as well as a screening of Marvel's latest comic adventure The Avengers.

The complete FMX 2012 program is online at

Virtual Production I - World Building: From Avatar to Tintin "World Building" refers to the stages that precede the actual film production - it is, analogously speaking, the concept of things to come. "World Building" involves the construction of a digital world space - the invention of a fictional universe that can include aspects such as geography, culture and history and so forth. The British production designer and film producer Alex McDowell, who is, among others, known for his work on Watchmen, curates the "World Building" track which explores how these fictional worlds come into being. For one thing, McDowell and Speedcam's Director Mario Janelle analyze the fusion of two worlds when they look at "Worldbuilding for Independent Movies" using the example of Juan Diego Solanas' Upside Down, a sci-fi take on "Romeo and Juliet" starring Jim Sturgess and Kirsten Dunst.

In contrast, Art Directors Andrew Jones and Jeff Wisniewski shift their perspective to blockbuster movies: together they illuminate digital worlds spanning from the Na'vi inhabitants in Avatar's exoplanetary Pandora to the highly detailed world of comic-turned-film Tintin.

Virtual Production II - Previs: Spielberg's War Horse and Wiseman's Total Recall

What becomes of this world once it is created? The FMX track “Previs,” curated by Ron Frankel (President and Previs Supervisor, Proof Inc) and Chris Edwards  (CEO & Creative Director, The Third Floor), looks at the collaborative effort that is required when complex scenes and preliminary versions of shots or sequences are visualized predominantly using 3D animation tools and a virtual environment. Edwards describes how The Third Floor branches interact and sheds light on the previs process in Len Wiseman's Total Recall. In this context, he focuses on the building of a futuristic world that differs drastically from the 1990 Schwarzenegger cult classic.

In a second presentation, Edwards and Kevin Jenkins, Supervising Art Director at Framestore, recount the creation of Steven Spielberg's War Horse: Both specialists worked together on different key scenes. They explain how they realized the historical scenery thanks to Digital Art Direction and path-paving Previs, paying particular attention to authenticity. Moreover, Edwards elucidates how The Third Floor used detailed, emotional visualizations as a blueprint for the set construction, horse training and ultimate cinematic staging to visibly enhance storytelling in Spielberg's War Horse.

The third "Previs" presentation "Integrate not dominate: Previs and Virtual Production for a non-VFX show" features Supervising Visual Effects Producer Friend Wells and Ron Frankel who analyze the importance of Virtual Production and Previs for all of those film productions which are not primarily based on visual effects - that is to say drama, comedy and low-budget film productions in general. Both speakers base their talk on the film The Last Stand starring Arnold Schwarzenegger which comes to the cinemas in January 2013.

Virtual Production III - Megasessions: ILM, Weta and more

Most Virtual Production "Megasessions" are dedicated to the biggest and most successful VFX productions of 2012. To this end, FMX brings renowned VFX companies to Stuttgart. Visual Effects Supervisor Erik Nash (Digital Domain), Previs Supervisor Casey Schatz (Giant Studios) and Virtual Production Supervisor Glenn Derry (Technoprops) team up for one "Megasession" to guide the audience through the innovative workflow that helped turn Real Steel into a huge success.

In another "Megasession," FMX goes back in time when Weta Digital's Visual Effects Supervisor Wayne Stables, Chief Technology Officer Sebastian Sylwan and Head of Marketing David Gouge trace the origins of the 3D adventure Tintin and its innovative and creative Virtual Production workflow back through early tests on Peter Jackson's 2001 fantasy adventure The Lord of the Rings.

A third "Megasession" is dedicated to one of this year's top Oscar winners: Academy Award winner and Visual Effects Supervisor Rob Legato elaborates on his collaboration with VFX company Nvizage and the Art Department for Martin Scorsese's Hugo. Together with Nvizage's Previs Supervisor Martin Chamney, he explains how they sculpted both the practical set and digital set extensions of the railway station.

In a fourth "Megasession", Steve Sullivan, Senior Technology Officer at Lucasfilm, and Michael Sanders, Digital Supervisor at Industrial Light & Magic, demonstrate the importance of Virtual Production for their everyday work at Lucasfilm and ILM.

Current movie highlights: Battleship and The Hunger Games

Needless to say, FMX pays heed to other movie highlights in addition to its Virtual Production track as well: The audience awaits two extensive presentations on blockbuster Battleship that shake the room with massive explosions and action-packed gun battles on the high seas as part of the "VFX: Showcases" track.

The VFX specialists from Industrial Light & Magic remain at the helm of visual effects in this action movie featuring Liam Neeson, Taylor Kitsch and popstar Rihanna. Compositing Supervisor Marshall Krasser explains in his presentation "Not just a Board Game" why the epic battles on the high seas and the alien attacks on Hawaii constitute further milestones in ILM's long-standing VFX history. For this purpose, ILM implemented a novel water simulation system and harked back on the digital pyrotechnics tool Plume.

Moreover, John Dietz, Founder, Producer and VFX Supervisor at Vispop, devotes his talk to one of the most successful movies of 2012: The Hunger Games. Dietz supervised the work of VFX company Rising Sun Pictures which contributed over 200 Visual Effect shots to the screen adaptation of the popular book series including the design for the fully digital Capital City. For crowds, live actors were shot against bluescreen which were then digitally multiplied.

Show & Tell: Dr. Seuss' The Lorax and Marvel's The Avengers

Four weeks ahead of the European premiere at Festival d'Animation Annecy and two months before the nationwide official release, FMX presents its audience an extraordinary animation highlight: Chris Renaud‘s box office highlight Dr. Seuss' The Lorax is screened at FMX in its original 3D version. In addition, the quartet of speakers comprising Jacques Bled,Kyle Balda, Bruno Chauffard und Yarrow Cheney (all Illumination Entertainment) explains how the moustache-wearing protagonist was brought to life on the big screen. Illumination Entertainment created popular animation films such as Despicable Me.

Moreover, FMX invites visitors and specialists to attend a screening of the latest Marvel adventure: Joss Whedon's The Avengers was one of the most anticipated blockbusters of 2012. ILM's VFX Supervisor Jeff White is joined by Weta Digital's Guy Williams (also VFX Supervisor) to speak about the working processes involved in creating this film. The Avengers Captain America (Chris Evans), Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) and Black Widow (Scarlett Johannson) unite under the command of Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) as the international peacekeeping organization S.H.I.E.L.D to save the world from destruction. The experts from New Zealand's Weta Digital (Lord of the Rings, Avatar) have contributed astounding visual effects to this to date longest Marvel superhero movie.

Jennifer Wolfe's picture

Jennifer Wolfe is Director of News & Content at Animation World Network.