fmx/conference presents and reflects upon the latest trends in an extraordinarily dynamic industry. And one trend can be seen very clearly throughout animation, visual effects, games and postproduction: story is king. Computer-generated imagery or effects are only effective to the degree that they serve a suspenseful and overwhelming narration. A few highlights from the conference (held May 5-8 in Stuttgart, Germany), include:
May the force be with us! The German garrison of Darth Vader's 501st legion has dispatched Stormtroopers to bring a galactic touch to the opening day of fmx/09, including the opening talk by Xavier Nicolas, Lucasfilm Animation.
Bob Osher, president of Sony Pictures Digital Productions and Hannah Minghella, president of production, Sony Pictures Animation, offer an inside look at innovative production methods and new projects at both Sony Pictures Animation and Sony Pictures Imageworks.
Visual Effects Society President Eric Roth talks with Chris deFaria, executive VP, Digital Production, Animation and Visual Effects at Warner Bros. Pictures about the creative opportunities that new technical options offer digital artists and VFX specialists. The audience can also look forward to an encounter with two true VFX pioneers -- the two-time Oscar-winner Richard Edlund (STAR WARS, ALIEN 3, DIE HARD) and visual effects designer and supervisor Harrison Ellenshaw (STAR WARS, TRON). Further VFX highlights: Habib Zargarpour, Senior Art Director at Electronic Arts, on the various roles played by production design in games and films; Nicolas Aithadi, VFX supervisor at The Moving Picture Company (QUANTUM OF SOLACE, PRINCE CASPIAN, SWEENEY TODD); Tom Rolfe, Double Negative, on HELLBOY II: THE GOLDEN ARMY as well as speakers from the French BUF Compagnie on THE DARK KNIGHT, SPEED RACER and DANTE 01. Proof of Hollywood productions taking place completely in Germany is offered by NINJA ASSASSIN, filmed at Studio Babelsberg with visual effects by Pixomondo and Trixter. Bjorn Mayer and Alessandro Cioffi report about the new martial arts blockbuster from director James McTeigue (V FOR VENDETTA) and produced by the Wachowski brothers (THE MATRIX).
WATCHMEN Special: fmx/09 dedicates a full afternoon to Zack Snyder's adaptation of the cult comic with talks by production designer Alex McDowell (MINORITY REPORT, CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY, THE CORPSE BRIDE) and VFX supervisor John DJ Desjardin while Pete Travers from Sony Pictures Imageworks reveals the making of Doctor Manhattan.
The Virtual Humans Forum at fmx presents insight into the current state of computer-generated characters and facial performances, as last witnessed in the impressive THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON. Brad Pitt's digital old age took place in the capable hands at Digital Domain, specifically CG Supervisor Jonathan Litt and Animation Supervisor Steve Preeg, both of whom will be in Stuttgart to pass on their wisdom.
Advancements in 3-D stereo will be brought into focus in a series of talks and full-length screenings. BOLT director Chris Williams reveals Disney's stereoscopic approach to story, and further experts walk through the making of CORALINE and MONSTERS VS. ALIENS. Complementing these film projects, FMX delves into further commercial stereo3D applications such as games, theme parks, corporate presentations, sport coverage and even home entertainment.
Alex McDowell, co-director of 5D: the Immersive Design Conference, coined the term "immersive design" to describe the creation of coherent narrative worlds within a virtual workspace of collaborative teamwork. For the first time in Europe, at fmx/09, 5D will present a track of sessions themed to the interaction of creativity and technology in world building and storytelling in visual art, entertainment, and environmental design with a series of discussion rounds with world-class experts. The 5D panels are hosted by Alex McDowell ("Creation"); Chris Scoates, director of the University Art Museum at Cal State Long Beach and co-director of the 5D Conference ("Imagination"); production designer Kim Baumann Larsen, founding partner and creative director of Placebo Effects ("Construction"); Alex Laurant, art director, visual designer and concept artist ("Perception"); and Tali Krakowski, director of experience design, who heads a think-tank at WET Design ("Interaction").
Joseph Olin, president of the Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences (AIAS), has also rounded up renowned colleagues for the fmx/09 Games track. Cinematic director Jim Sonzero (RESIDENT EVIL 5) reveals how to stay relevant in the era of convergence; Matt Aldrich, Art Director at Lucasfilm Animation talks about the JEDI ALLIANCE and THE FORCE UNLEASHED; Jan-Erik Sjovall from Ubisoft talks about PRINCE OF PERSIA; Richard Hilleman, Chief Creative Director at Electronic Arts discusses the growing importance of small games and Lyle Hall, Vice President & General Manager at Heavy Iron Studios talks about adapting computer games from the popular Pixar films.
The talks about Animation are equally top-class; Danielle Feinberg, Pixar, discusses digital camera work in the Oscar award-winner WALL-E; illustrator Michael Faust discusses the highly-praised animated documentary WALTZ WITH BASHIR from Israel, creative director Viktor Antonov presents the European mega-production THE PRODIGIES and camera man Brad Blackbourn from Framestore presents "Painting with Virtual Light: THE TALE OF DESPEREAUX."
The Tech Talks take a detailed dive under the hood; Paul E. Debevec, University of Southern California, talks about live facial performance scanning and Parag Havaldar, Sony Pictures Imageworks, about the considerable advancements in motion capturing. Remi Arnaud and Rita B. Turkowski, Intel, illustrate that real-time gaming technologies have advanced from a handy previsualization tool to an industry pace-maker in practically all aspects of CGI and Steve Streeting, OGRE, discusses open-source realtime visualization. Dynamic realtime animation also plays a central role in the presentation of a virtual agent platform by Volker Helzle and Simon Spielmann from the research department of the Institute of Animation, whose very popular tools for facial animation have been publicly available for some years now.
The track fmx/spotlight illuminates further exciting topics:
-- The Echtzeit series, curated by Prof. Robert Rose from the University of Applied Sciences Augsburg, Faculty of Design-- Automotive Design with contributions from Mackevision, the Daimler AG and jangled nerves-- Focus on China, curated by Kevin Geiger, who has gained a wealth of insight into the region through his work as guest professor at the Beijing Film Academy and producer at Magic Dumpling Animation Studios-- Early Days in France: As digital images were first earning their legs in the 80's and early 90's, French companies were at the forefront of developments in CGI. This glimpse back at the veterans of the industry -- among others BUF, Mac Guff Ligne and Medialab -- is both humorous and fascinating.
The future of animation is interactive. The series Interactive Content explores current trends in the dynamic relationship between consumer and media; Dan Moskowitz, Maxis, discusses SPORE; Inga von Staden, Studies Coordinator of Interactive Media at the Filmakademie Baden-Wuerttemberg presents "User Generated Media -- Powered by Community" and a top-notch panel discusses the Creative Commons Community.
Long-standing FMX partner: the flashconference is the oldest international conference dedicated to flash in Europe. In its 11th edition it now presents the most relevant of developments within the popular format, including the integrative approach of experience design, real-time flash apps for multi-user systems as well as noteworthy artistic usage such as the cult Spanish flash comic NIKODEMO. For more visit www.flashconference.de.
fmx/forum: the Business Platform for the Digital IndustryProducts and possibilities: fmx/forum revolves around the market and education aspects of digital image-making. The fmx/workshops and courses, the fmx/suites and product presentations, the exhibition fmx/expo -- all open manifold opportunities to learn, test and exchange. Hot topics at fmx/forum are 3D stereoscopy, rendering, modeling and design, special effects, character animation, workflow solutions and postproduction. Of particular interest are the workshop constellations that arise when international software companies team up with German production houses -- such as Side Effects, Black Mountain and Axis Animation are doing, or weltenbauer with Pixomondo. Among this year's highlights are contributions from two legendary studios: Disney invites to a specialist exchange and peer portfolio review. And Pixar reveals upcoming enhancements to its coveted software RenderMan.
fmx/recruiting has long since won the attention of renowned global players, making FMX one of the hottest job markets for animation in Europe. Recruiting companies first present themselves, describing in-house atmosphere and the desired applicant profiles as well as the expectations they have for specific vacancies. Then applicants have the chance to introduce themselves in one-on-one discussions and interviews. It's a proven process to make the most of limited time. The names of participating companies show its successful nature: Aardman, Animal Logic, Axis Animation, Black Rock Studios, BUF, Crytek, Deutsche Telekom, Double Negative, Framestore, Lucasfilm Animation Singapore, Mackevision, MPC, Pixar, Pixomondo, Red Vision, rise|fx, ScanlineVFX, Sony Pictures Imageworks, Trixter Film, Ubisoft, Unexpected and Walt Disney.
Finally, fmx/talents places film schools and animation-oriented education facilities from all over the world on center stage to present themselves to talented students. The School Offerings and School Campus further bring 31 schools together, each presenting themselves and their curriculum. Geographically, the line-up reaches far beyond Europe with participating schools from New Zealand, the United States, Canada and China.
A further highlight of the fmx/talents program is the presentation of the European training initiative Animation Sans Frontieres, founded by the Animation Workshop in Denmark and funded by the European Union's MEDIA program. Gobelins (France), the Moholy-Nagy University for Art and Design MOME (Hungary), the Animation Workshop and the Filmakademie Baden-Wuerttemberg each sent four students to visit all of the partner schools, taking part in courses exploring the entire production process for animated films. This year also marks the 10th Eyes & Ears Junior Showcase, another long-standing fmx partner. This event by the design association Eyes & Ears of Europe gives outstanding students and graduates the chance to present their work in the realm of media design, scenography, promotional producing and marketing.
fmx/events: Extras with SubstanceMore and more international partners are working together with fmx to present their own program, such as:
MFG Baden-Wuerttemberg Innovation underscore their commitment to fostering IT innovations with two important fmx/09 series:
** Eurographics is the central European consortium of academic computer graphic researchers. At fmx/09, the symposium Best of Eurographics risks casting a glimpse into the future of animation and image processing. For more information visit www.eg.org** Visualization and simulation play important roles not only in films. They are gaining importance in the full breadth of graphic image production, be it the automobile industry, architecture, archeology, museum exhibitions or in medical applications. MFG Innovation honors this trend with the series Cluster Visual Computing, initiated as a platform for companies from the German southwest who are interested in networking on national and international levels. Speakers belong to institutions within the cluster, such as key-note speaker Thomas Ertl, professor of computer science at the University of Stuttgart; Robert Mayer, president of the game developer weltenbauer; or computer science professor Harald Reiterer from the University of Konstanz, director of the Human-Computer Interaction Group.
Turbulence from the international financial markets have long since made their way to the animation industry, which makes a forum such as the Animation Production Day 2009 more important than ever before. This joint event by fmx/09 and the 16th International Festival of Animated Film Stuttgart is organized by Michael Schmetz Media Consult and does more than bring creatives and investors together in pre-arranged one-on-one meetings, it also proposes novel financing models and structures. fmx/09 marks the opening of APD to formats beyond animated feature films, such as games, TV, mobile entertainment and internet. All the hustle and bustle will be complemented by two expert panels on Financing & Brands, presented by the MFG Public Film Fund. "Where To Get the Money From?" is the theme of a panel of renowned producers and financiers hosted by Susanne Schosser, who brings in-depth experience with her from her time at SuperRTL and EM Ent.
invaZion '09: behind the mysterious title is the very first competition for stereoscopic short films, called into life by more3D, producer of 3D projectors. Industry giants such as Shelley Page (DreamWorks), Rob Engle (Sony Pictures Imageworks) and Christophe Hery (Industrial Light & Magic) select the winning films, which will be screened in due pomp and splendor. More information can be found at www.invazion.org.
And don't forget: numerous further Screenings. In addition to silver-screen showings of original cinema productions like WATCHMEN, BOLT and CORALINE are plentiful special programs that can only be seen in this constellation at fmx/09:
-- Shelley's Eye Candy, Shelley Page (DreamWorks Animation) presents her personal favorites -- The Animation Show of Shows, cream of the crop by Dan Sarto and Ron Diamond (AWN)-- SIGGRAPH 2008 Computer Animation Festival, Jill Smolin (ACM SIGGRAPH) cherry-picks personal highlights-- SIGGRAPH Asia 2008 Computer Animation Festival, put together by Melanie Beisswenger (Nanyang Technological University)
And last but not least, are the motivational extras: the infamous Echtzeit Party. Dance to electronic beats by Der Thal with throbbing visuals and an immersive experience of an alternative kind. The HYPNOTRONIK project from the Augsburg Faculty of Design for graphic input, joined by the sprightly Onni Pohl (Strahlentiere) taking over as VJ, guiding dancers through a night of rhythm. By the way, Onni is the artist behind the fmx/09 trailer. fmx/09 thanks Autodesk, the generous sponsor of the Echtzeit party. You won't want to miss it: Wednesday, May 6 starting at 10 p.m. at Rocker 33.
fmx/09 is an event by Filmakademie Baden-Wuerttemberg in cooperation with VES Visual Effects Society, AIAS Academy of Interactive Arts and Sciences, ACM Siggraph and 5D Conference.