Stuttgart, Germany -- Less than five weeks before Europe's most influential conference on digital entertainment opens, FMX 2013  reveals a first preview of its daily program including illustrious names, high-quality presentations and workshops.
The conference slogan “lean, smart and agile” connects all program highlights and sums up the paradigm shift that continues to shape the industry. Taking into account the various pressures on the traditional visual effects business model, Ed Ulbrich, CEO at Digital Domain, gives a “state of the industry” address together with Visual Effects Society Executive Director Eric Roth, followed by a Q&A session. New ways of financing like Crowdfunding take center stage at FMX, as well as “World Building” and other “Transmedia Experiences” tracks, including a special presentation by author Cornelia Funke and Andy Merkin about the Mirrorworld app. In addition to Oscar winners such as Life of Pi and Brave, the most recent Bond adventure Skyfall, Guillermo del Toro's highly anticipated Pacific Rim, the zombie romantic comedy Warm Bodies, Indie Games, gaming hits such as Crysis 3 and Tomb Raider rank among this year's presentations. Moreover, technical talks complement the program with “SIGGRAPH Papers” as well as a series on “Cloud Computing,” “Cloud Gaming,” “Open Source” and “3D Printing.”
A first glimpse of the schedule can already be had at www.fmx.de . The conference program is being continuously updated - further highlights are disclosed in the coming weeks!
New Business Models in the VFX Industry
Globalization, the changing risks/rewards of tent-pole VFX movies for studios, subsidies and incentives, low-cost labor markets and other factors have come together to create a perfect storm of pressures on the traditional visual effects business model. Ed Ulbrich, CEO of Digital Domain, gives a “state of the industry” address on the many complex factors at work and potential opportunities that can arise when digital production companies approach filmmaking from an entrepreneurial perspective. A producer on the upcoming feature film Ender's Game as well the executive producer of the Academy Award-winning VFX for Titanic and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, the virtual likeness of Tupac Shakur and hundreds of commercials, Ulbrich sits down with Visual Effects Society Executive Director Eric Roth to discuss the opportunities of co-production, diversification and the changing reality and role of digital production companies. Part presentation, part discussion, and part open Q&A, Ulbrich's session promises to be a provocative, informative look at the VFX business from within the eye of the storm.
Paradigm Shift: Workflows and Crowdfunding
Established companies and young talents share their accounts of the ongoing paradigm shift at FMX. Hannes Ricklefs, Head of Pipeline at MPC, which has created visually impressive VFX for over 25 years, elaborates on what the company has learned about technology, business processes and production workflows that have allowed MPC to become a sustainable company and continuously adapt to change. Shifting the view to another established innovator, The Mill's Digital Development Director Andy Orrick outlines key lessons that have helped the British company to tackle creative and technical challenges in advertising. In contrast, Alex Schwartz, Chief Scientist at Owlchemy Labs (LLC), approaches the subject of adaptive workflows with a project-based perspective: In his talk, he discusses how the high fidelity 3D video game Shoot Many Robots was adapted for mobile devices without 3D model optimizations. The paradigm shift is also visible in new ways of financing, such as Crowdfunding. Kai Bodensiek (Attorney-at-law at Brehm & v. Moers) illustrates the opportunities, legal obligations and risks connected with Crowdfunding platforms such as Kickstarter with his presentation. Moreover, Corey Rosen, Head of Creative Marketing at Tippett Studio, who conducted several Crowdfunding campaigns himself, explains the road to successful Crowdfunding that doesn't only challenge the status quo or encourage change, but also pays off for all the parties involved.
Pacific Rim, Skyfall, Warm Bodies and more
FMX 2013 covers aspects of VFX from concept art at MPC over preproduction, art for the entertainment industry, concept design to postproduction. In that vein, Set Designer William Cheng sheds light on Guillermo del Toro's highly-anticipated Pacific Rim (release date: July 12) and the Jaegers, the massive robots that fight extraterrestrial monsters called Kaiju. Cheng discusses the art department process from conceptual design over 3D modeling to the final physical set construction of the Jaeger Conn-Pod control interiors. Weapons also played a significant role in Sam Mendes' James Bond installment Skyfall: Diarmid Harrison-Murray, VFX Supervisor at Framestore, delivers valuable insights into the creation of Skyfall's title sequence, where Bond sinks lifelessly into murky water accompanied by Adele's Academy Award-winning title song. Yet another “VES Special” is dedicated to Jonathan Levine's zombie romantic comedy Warm Bodies: Digital Supervisor Mathew Krentz demonstrates how Look Effects took charge of the character animation of “the Boneys,” an evolved form of zombies, and the creation of a digital city based on Montreal, delivering around 350 shots in total. Moreover, Chris Kenny, Compositing Supervisor at Rhythm & Hues, talks about the work on Oscar-winning Life of Pi and Florian Gellinger, VFX Supervisor at Rise FX, speaks about the challenges involved in creating Cloud Atlas.
Animation: Wild and Epic
In addition to Pixar's latest short film The Blue Umbrella that is featured at FMX two months before its official release, Oscar-winning Brave and DreamWorks brand-new stone age adventure The Croods, FMX attendees can look forward to another animation highlight: The artists at Blue Sky Studios talk about their latest film, Epic, hitting cinemas in May 2013. Senior Camera & Staging Technical Lead, Karyn Monschein, illuminates the challenges involved with the cinematography of Epic and how the camera and staging artists made specific cinematic choices that will greatly influence the audience's perception of action and story. Keith Stichweh, Character Simulation Supervisor, talks about real world verse non-real world physics simulation. Epic continues to be in the spotlight with Senior Animator Scott Carroll's presentation on how acting reference can vastly improve the results of one's animation, making the characters more relatable and the story stronger. He analyzes how the animators of Epic interpreted their reference for the final animation. “Acting for Animators” is a recurring theme at FMX: As in previous years, Ed Hooks offers his much-loved Masterclasses under the same title. Moreover, Andreas Hykade (Filmakademie Baden-Wuerttemberg) curates the successful “Wild 'n' Strange” series that puts the focus on indie highlights far from the mainstream: Spanish director Kote Camacho (Txintxua Films) presents his black-and-white film La Gran Carrera, Canada-born Patrick Bouchard introduces his claymation short Bydlo and British director Paul Nicholls (Factory Fifteen) explains his fantasy short Jonah. Moreover, the French film makers Flavie Darchen and Reno Armanet (tigobo Animation) describe their formula of success for their experimental film OA that was awarded in Cannes for its music and script.
Current game favorites: Crysis 3, Tomb Raider and much more
What do game players expect when it comes to character animation - and how do artists and game designers meet these expectations? James Zachary, Animation Director and Lead Animator at LucasArts, provides answers with his presentation “The Future of Character Animation in Games.” This year's extended game program includes topics such as “Real-time Rendering,” “Visual Arts” and “Game Cinematics.” FMX features the most famous game heroine of all times: Stephen Hodes (AMD) devotes his presentation to Lara Croft and her hair rendering in the reboot Tomb Raider. Matt Aldridge, Lead Character, Weapon and Vehicle Artist at Microsoft, discusses animation in Halo 4, while R&D Principal Graphics Engineer Tiago Sousa and Lighting Artist Pierre-Yves Donzallaz illuminate Lighting, Rendering Pipeline, High Dynamic Range Usage, Anti-Aliasing and Post-Processing issues in Crytek's popular game Crysis 3. In a second presentation on Crysis 3, Hannes Appell, Cinematic Artist at Crytek, explores the game's cinematics in detail. What's more, further renowned professionals complement the “Game Cinematics” series: Cinematic Director Dominic Ciancolo (NetherRealm Studios) imparts practical knowledge taking the production of the brand-new fighting game Injustice: Gods Among Us as an example (release: April 16), and Cinematic Director Greg Mitchell (Epic Games) spotlights current and past cinematic pipelines from the Gears of War series.
Indie Games: Innovation triumphs
“Indie Games” perfectly correspond to the FMX slogan “lean, smart and agile,” because they constantly come up with new ideas, dare to be different in style and design, perform on thin platforms and much more. FMX cherishes this fact with a dedicated program series powered by Swiss Game Culture. Eddo Stern, Award-winning Game Designer and Director of the UCLA Game Lab, explains why art is a better innovation driver than mere business. Design Researcher Matthias Loewe and Game Designer Lea Schoenfelder give an overview over current highlights from a rather heterogeneous scene. Moreover, studios from Switzerland, Denmark and Germany present their innovative approaches to design, technology and business models. In this context Chris Solarski (Solarski Studio) introduces his latest mobile game Little Paper Boat. What's more, Steffen Grønning reveals inside information to future business founders: Speaking from his position as CEO at Beta Dwarf, he discloses how it took him and his colleagues only few months to transform a small, penniless Danish start-up without any substantial business experience into an ambitious game developing company. In a further “Indie Games” presentation, Caspar Strandbygaard (Kogama) talks about community building, while Adrian Goersch elucidates how a small studio from the Schwarzwald region financed the Giana Project via the Crowdfunding platform Kickstarter. Mario von Rickenbach showcases impressive design based on procedural animation and Tobias Neukom demonstrates why he received an Indie Games Festival Award for his technological innovation. The “Indie Games” track at FMX takes place in cooperation with the Indie Games Festival A Maze in Berlin, which is a parallel event to FMX.
Getting technical: The Cloud, Open Source and 3D Printing
FMX offers a large program on technical talks and presentations for all of those interested in the latest technologies. The ever-popular “SIGGRAPH papers” are complemented by a high-quality series on “Cloud Computing,” “Cloud Gaming”, “Open Source” and “3D Printing.” VFX Supervisor Ryan Tudhope explains how Atomic Fiction entered heretofore unknown territory with Robert Zemeckis' action movie Flight by rendering over 400 shots in the Amazon EC2 cloud. In his presentation, Tudhope is accompanied by Todd Prives, Vice President of Business bei Zync. Moreover, Ron Stinson, Director of IT and Operations at Rainmaker Entertainment, demonstrates the building of a multi-studio cloud environment and Franck Diard, Chief Software Architect at NVIDIA, looks at “Cloud Gaming.” CTO & Visual Effects Supervisor Rob Bredow elucidates the use of Open Source technology at Sony Pictures Imageworks. What's more, he's one of several experts that discuss current trends in the VFX industry in a panel moderated by Marc Petit (Ex-Senior Vice President at Autodesk). In a further presentation on the hot topic, Bill Polson, Director of Industry Strategy, unfolds Pixar's decision to go Open Source. Research Scientist Bernd Bickel (Disney Research Zuerich), Steffen Reichert and Moritz Doerstelmann (both Institute of Computational Design, University of Stuttgart), Christoph Voelcker and Technical Director Michael Laubach (Laika) turn their attention to another exciting technology: 3D Printing. Laubach analyzes the advantages 3D Printing holds for the production of feature films. The FMX Marketplace offers FMX attendees the possibility to experience 3D printed products live and on-site when the much-loved Rollin' Safari animals from the FMX and ITFS trailers are turned into 3D models.
Source: FMX 2013 Conference on Animation, Effects, Games and Transmedia