written by Joanne Weikel
SIGGRAPH 2009 Fjorg! competition started at 9am Monday, August 3 in New Orleans. In it’s third year, the event attracted many talented animators both students and professionals.
The competition, created by Patricia Beckmann as an Iron Animator event challenges the competitors to create a short film (15-45 seconds) from concept to finish in the short time span of thirty-two hours. To make the task more demanding, distractions are scheduled throughout the day to entice them away from the film making process.
This year there are ten teams of three people coming from Ringling, RIT, Bunko Studios (New York), The Monk (Thailand), and Cinepix, Anipark and Toiion all in South Korea. They are using a variety of techniques with 2D, 3D and a mixture of the two styles.
One unfortunate team started one person short due to airline delays. As one team member says, " We're so good that we had a one person handicap". Bold statement but they seemed to be doing fine in the early stages.
Each year a theme is assigned for the films. When Great Expectations was announced, the teams started right in on the brainstorming of ideas. Less than two hours later, they were able to pitch the ideas to two industry veterans, Frank Gladstone, an independent story consultant to major studios, and Grue DeBry, a 20 year production veteran.
They were treated to a quick visit from this years keynote speaker Randy Thom of ILM for some feedback on their sound choices. Sound files are provided every year but this year each team received different sound files. Two teams have already started some rivalry. Briar Roses and Sparkle Kittens, both from Ringling have a friendly if somewhat intense relationship keeping the atmosphere lively.
Seven hours into the competition, the animators were working away on modeling, backgrounds and sound. Rod Ibanez of Sony stopped by and gave advice to the teams as they refined their stories and worked out the details. Jason Howie also shared his time and expertise giving a short presentation and his input on their films.
Meanwhile, the missing member from The Stepped Children finally arrived at 4 pm to the cheers of everyone.
Carlye Archibeque from the Computer Animation Festival very generously brought a few more key people over to talk with our teams. Jules Urbach of OTOY listened to the 5-second pitch from each team and director Peter Berg lent the teams his insight.
Distractions, a traditional part of Fjorg!, began this year with a Brazilian performance group, Presentation of the Orixas. Most of the teams worked right through but we managed to capture the attention of two teams for a little while. After the lights were turned down and the glow sticks came out, the competitors were treated with a late visit from the 2009 Siggraph chair, Ronen Barzel who shared a few stories about his time at Pixar.
At midnight we did manage to engage just about everyone in the Reverse Pillage where the staff runs through the room throwing inflatable swords and hammers at the competitors who then turn on each other.
Since then, the teams have been diligently working, only a few taking nap breaks. A projected countdown clock reminds everyone to manage their time. To help keep the competitors awake, loud music is played throughout the night. Even at 4am most of the teams are still working though punctuated by lots of yawning and stretching. Student volunteers, a floor runner, tech support and the blogger are also here to keep them company.
Events for Tuesday include an Afro Brazilian performance group a belly dancer and Samba show as well as a variety of speakers from the industry’s creative pool.
The competition continues through 5pm Tuesday when they must turn in rendered films. The judging and awards ceremony takes place on Thursday at 6pm and is open to any SIGGRAPH participant. A documentary being filmed during the event will be shown as well as the individual films. More information can be found on the live blog at wp.siggraphorg/fjorg.