By Massimo Curatella
Too much work, too little sleep. So many friends, old and new. Amazing things flying on the big screen. This is VIEW Conference 2009 . But everything has a price, like not being able to make it for the first session in the morning.
Tale of Tales always caught my attention for their unique approach to entertainment design. They are a small team of game designers and developers creating non-violent, interactive games which, unlike most mainstream titles, are neither aiming to be competitive nor planting seeds of violence in the gamers. I remember the beautiful interactive environment of “The Endless Forest” where a deer lives free in a forest and you can follow its interaction with nature. Relaxing and poetic.
Started yesterday and aimed to beginners, the ZBrush workshop went ahead with its second installment in which the facilitator gave the foundations of the software tool par excellence dedicated to sculpting organic shapes.
NVIDIA's session was about showing the latest technology for realtime rendering. Amongst the others, the demonstration of particles in a viewport was impressive. I found the reaction of the presenter to a question from the audience about the competition interesting: it was not very well received. It's a jungle out there!
Know more about the leader of graphical hardware:
In the different halls of the Torino Incontra Conference Center there were threads going on in parallel like the several workshops, so even today we had an Animation Workshop: “Creating Effective, Spontaneous Performance” by Travis Hathaway , Animator at Pixar Animation Studios, and a Renderman Workshop: “Shading and Lighting for UP” By Dylan Sisson , RenderMan Technical Artist, Pixar Animation Studios.
More info at:
And one more chance to learn from professionals started with the Open source for the Creativity, Blender Base Workshop: the slogan really gives away hints at its contents: “There I Opened it! Now What?”
Enrico Valenza, CG artist who worked at the latest Blender Movie Project, gave a workshop on Blender, an open source 3D modeling, animation and rendering package reaching a mature version thanks to the latest important updates. The medium-sized amphitheater room was completely full of excited participants, each with their laptops. The interaction with Enrico was tight and fast. While the presenter was showing features and techniques the audience could have their try. Great learning opportunity.
I managed to ask some quick questions to Valenza who introduced me to Gianluca Faletti and Fabrizio Valpreda, teachers and advocates of Blender and open source in the context of Italian universities.
Enrico, an old-school illustrator, switched to Blender years ago because it's free and open-source. He was able to create his work while learning a new CG tool. Recently, this way of working brought him to collaborate with one of the most important open-source film-making initiative, the Blender Movie Project. Thanks to this, he eventually landed in a commercial company where he now works as a CG artist.
Gianluca Faletti explained the importance of the next release of Blender, the software, which will see substantial improvements in usability thanks to the contribution of a professional User Interface designer. This should be the milestone to make Blender an accessible tool for the independent artist and the industry as well.
Links related to opensource for Computer Graphics and learning, filmmaking, online communities:
Session which I sadly lost: “Faster than Google, Better than NASA” by Ultramundum Foundation.
Let's discover more together on:
In “Companies that Changed the World”, Davide Tromba of Animoka Studio told his story of starting a business in Italy and his collaboration with the Virtual Reality and Multimedia Park, a VFX and animation school in Turin which has been a partner of VIEW in the past editions and I had the pleasure to visit.
Then the stage was conquered by a jumping spring in a perfect entertaining and noisy Italian style: Guidon Polcan of Big.Rock, an Italian CG, video and photography school with about 150 students per year. They managed to find employment for 90% of them. The curricula are strictly tied to the profession, for each course there is an exam and for each exam there is a specific production project. “Class X” is the extreme implementation of this concept and the best students are organized to make a real project commissioned by a real company.
The session was very informal and dynamic. I always liked their fresh approach to communication, direct, open and entertaining. I've heard a lot of rumors from students about one-week, day-and-night, Maya training sessions...
Besides the weird things one may think about them, their training methods are really effective. People get to learn and have fun and this is good. Guido really drove the audience through an interactive discussion which became almost a real lecture on the basics of the CG production process. Bel lavoro.
Between a panino, a writing session and a Caffè I quickly visited these sessions: “Microcinema: The New Satellite Route for Cinema and Culture”, Roberto Bassano and “Maga Animation Studios: An Overview” by Massimo Carrier Ragazzi. “GoldTooth Creative Agency” and “Enanimation: An Overview of the Studio” with Stefania Raimondi and Stefano Cieri.
And in spite of trying hard to be ubiquitous, I missed, sadly and badly, the Musical Workshop with Michael Giacchino. Will I ever forgive myself for this? (and will I keep my job?)
Since in one of my many past lives I also taught computer graphics to American architecture students in Rome, I have quite an interest in 3D applications for modeling and visualization. So, with another coffee, I attended the Workshop: “Using Google SketchUp for Design and Geo-Modeling: A Beginner's Course” with Mike Springer, Software Engineer at that small, un-known, provincial company named Google. The latest version of Google SketchUP got some nice improvements. I appreciated the two-way interaction with Google Earth: users can download and stitch together maps of any place in the World; and they can upload and share their buildings once they get approved by moderators. Mike showed the immediacy of creating a house with openings, windows and rooves. Now you can grab images from Google Maps Street View and project them as texture on top of your model. Nice, easy and straightforward. I had the pleasure of having some practical questions replied by Mike about 3D geometry complexity and file format translations.
Fernando Luceri, even without my lively presence, proceeded with his TOP-IX WORKSHOP, Open source for the Creativity, Blender Advanced, “Character Animations”. That hall is really inspirational. Reminds me of an old university room where you could study anatomy.
Jumping around like a crazy spring I found Travis Hathaway for the second time at VIEW. Now he is talking from the stage of the main hall and telling how he is working at Pixar. It's always fascinating to re-discover the philosophy of this company. Spaces, in the architectural sense of the term, are built around artists and animators. They have to feel, not only at home, but in a creativity-inducing environment where they can do their job in the best possible way.
Travis showed another scene from UP explaining step-by-step how they went from the drawings of the storyboard to the final animated and rendered scene. I didn't realize I have a room completely full behind my back. Everybody is captured by the presentation and they are almost holding their breath.
Discussing scenes of a Pixar movie means having all key drawings and references hung on the wall so that the creative team can see, comment and react. It's crucial to have a space where you can access all the material related to a production.
Here we are again down the animation production pipeline. I can feel the slow flowing of the process from step to step, from department to department. Animation is, really a re-doing process. Do it and re-do it until it matches the set goals.
Use References, Luke! There they are: images and sensations captured in Tepui, Venezuela, where they got inspiration for the Rainbow waterfall. After that I could only remain astounded by beautiful Ricky Nierva, Lou Romano, and Dominique Louis' pre-production drawings.
Pixar films are unique. How do you make a unique film? For instance you create a character as Kevin: you make a bird which does not exist and nobody could say they have already seen it. But, you make it believable.
Great session. Great success. Long queue of people wanting to talk to Travis.
Time is flying. I don't like this sensation. Maybe it's only by writing these words that I will really distill the essence of this place and these people.
It was time for the “Last but not least”. Time for the session “I LOVE INTERNET,” Award Ceremony with Wired Italia, Telecom Italia and Zooppa. Riccardo Luna, Editor-in-Chief of Wired Italia introduced a crowd-sourcing contest to tell the Italian government why you love Internet so they could call back their evil intentions of restrictive laws. Salvo Mizzi of Telecom Italia and Will Merrit of Zooppa.com supported the session with their contributions. Awards are given to the winners. Strangely, only now I realize that this is one of the best application of independent filmmaking to save our poor, one-of-a-kind World. I want to see more of this. My personal thanks to Riccardo. I am sadly discovering today that the proposed 800 millions Euros of investment to bring a fast Internet connection to any place in Italy has just been dismissed. What a sad country am I living in?
Then the night came. How could I summarize the aperitivo with Ballistic Publishing's VIP Artists, or meeting living legend Barbara Robertson of Computer Graphics World Fame? Or having seen again la signora Pam Hogarth of Gnomon School. Or finally remembering the name of Dave “The Book Guy” Hemsath of BreakPoint Books  [LINK http://www.breakpointbooks.com/] who treated us with traditional Pizza Napoletana, Gavi and Dolcetto D'Alba?
Signing-off from a second, intense, beautiful second day at VIEW CONFERENCE 2009. And it's only the second one.
View my photos on VIEW: http://tinyurl.com/maxview2009photos 
Massimo Curatella has been involved in Computer Graphics in many ways during the last fifteen years. Some of them: writing, publishing, teaching, designing, visualizing, programming, producing, presenting.