Carolyn Giardina reports on DI, honoring Phil Tippett and other panels at the recently concluded eDIT 8. Filmmakers Festival in Frankfurt, Germany.
Frankfurt am Main, the sixth largest city in Germany, is a center for international commerce and transportation. It boasts the second largest airport in Europe, one of its busiest train stations and it also hosts one of the fastest growing filmmaking festivals in Europe.
The eDIT Festival which was held for the eighth consecutive year from Oct. 8-11 is a project of the Hessian Ministry of Science and the Arts, the regional initiative hessen-media, the Hessian Institute of Private-Sector Broadcasting (LPR Hessen) and the city of Frankfurt am Main under the patronage of Udo Corts, Hessian minister of science and the arts. Prime Minister Roland Koch estimates that there are some 80,000 working in media in the state, and one of the festivals goals is to develop the sector and make it fit for the future.
It was here, eight years ago, that the eDIT Festival was born with a focus on storytelling in the digital age; it steadily grew in size and scope, and this year it was renamed eDIT Filmmakers Festival.
The art and science of creating moving images have continued to change and grow providing todays filmmakers with new tools which have altered the filmmaking landscape, explained festival directors Sebastian Popp, Rolf Kramer and Tom Atkin. And so our new name, The Filmmakers Festival, is designed to reflect both the new artistry and digital technology of storytelling, while at the same time acknowledging and discussing traditional production elements that have always served as the foundation of filmmaking.
eDIT is also staged in conjunction with the Visual Effects Society (VES), thanks to a strong working relationship that VES founder Atkin established roughly five years ago with Popp and Kramer. Visual effects are still a primary focus of the festival, Atkin said. But we are dealing with storytelling so we are covering the collaborative process with a focus on visual effects.
Today eDIT is poised to become a leading industry event not only in Europe, but also in the global market. This year, the event enjoyed an increased participation of almost 50% compared to last year. In addition to the 2,300 professional visitors, there were 350 guests from the media industry, politics and business, along with roughly 130 international speakers and 120 journalists. An estimated 800 attended the Festival Honors gala.
Meanwhile, eDIT:eDucation, the information market for newcomers to the industry, attracted many young people. The track drew around 350 visitors, and a further 100 took part in the practical workshops that were integrated into the program for the first time.
We have the impression that in its eighth year eDIT has reached its goal, Popp suggested. We had two aims: on the one hand we wanted to attract more and above all more international participants, and, on the other, to reach out to a wider target group from the entire film industry, in addition to the visual effects and post-production specialists. Im very pleased that we have succeeded in both.
eDIT 8. filled three-days with screenings, presentations, panel discussions and special events that reached topics, including feature film, television, advertising, short films and computer game development and production. The program was divided into sections, including film & storytelling, creation & arts, production & technology, advertising & trends, TV & broadcasting, and business & politics. The majority of the sessions were held in English, but translation headsets were available, meaning that German or English-speaking attendees could participate.
Storytelling was the running theme across the sessions, and, as in past years, the dissecting of the latest visual effects and animation projects were extremely popular. As for new and emerging technologies, a series of sessions on the Digital Intermediate (DI) process proved that this is an area to watch as the industry proceeds forward.
The Festival was highlighted with the awarding of eDITs highest honor: Festival Honors, which where bestowed this year on animation pioneer Phil Tippett and distinguished actor Armin Mueller Stahl. Festival Honors were presented at a gala celebration on the evening of opening day. Attendees received a red carpet welcome and champagne reception during which opening remarks were made by aforementioned minister oaf arts and science Udo Corts.
Attendees then moved into the theater, where the ceremony began with a welcome from Prime Minister Koch, followed by a choreography by Germanys William Foresythe.
Then Festival Honors were bestowed on Phil Tippett, the award-winning visual effects supervisor, animation pioneer, director and founder of Tippett Studio, which produces animation and visual effects for feature and commercial projects. Tippett has earned two Academy Awards for the visual effects on Return of the Jedi and Jurassic Park and two Emmys during a career that has spanned more than 25 years. The audience was taken through a recap of Tippetts career through a series of clips of his work, including The Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi, Robocop, Jurassic Park and Starship Troopers.
Tippetts direction began at the age of seven when he first watched visual effects legend Ray Harryhausens stop motion classic, The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad.
In a truly emotional moment during the Festival Honors presentation, Harryhausen appeared in a surprise video clip during which he congratulated Tippett on receiving Festival Honors. The clip concluded with one of the memorable stop motion skeletons that battled in Harryhausens Sinbad and Jason and the Argonauts, who also offered congratulations, generating cheers from the packed theater.
A surprised Tippett was visibly moved to get this message from his mentor. In accepting the award, he simply said, It was Ray whose Seventh Voyage of Sinbad sent me on this life in cinema nearly 50 years ago, on the way to receiving this great honor. (Afterwards, Tippett said the message from Harryhausen was the pinnacle for me it was going to the full route, it was really moving.)
As part of their recognition, Tippett and Mueller-Stahl each received a place of honor on the Wall of Fame, a permanent installation in the foyer of the German Film Museum in Frankfurt, which represents the Festival Honors awarded annually by eDIT. This marks the first time that an animator and actor have been honored. In the display, they join previous prizewinners director Peter Greenaway, the cinematographers Michael Ballhaus, ASC and Vilmos Zsigmond, ASC; visual effects supervisor Dennis Muren, ASC; editor Tom Rolf, ACE; production designer Dante Ferretti and legendary filmmaker Stanley Kubrick.
The actual display features items donated by the awardees as symbolic of their work, which are exhibited in glass cases on concrete columns. The two new columns were unveiled at the museum in conjunction with the eDIT Festival.
Later, a special eDIT session featured Tippett in a conversation with a fellow Academy Award winner, Chris Landreth, who was honored with an Oscar earlier this year for the animated short Ryan.
During this session, Landreth walked the famed animator through his inspirations, career highlights and screening of Tippetts film work, as well as those of his inspirations, such as the aforementioned Sinbad. Landreth emphasized Tippetts unique role in vfxs history, through his survivability from stop motion to digital.
Discussion included Tippetts start at George Lucass ILM, where he developed the animation technique known as Go-Motion in 1982 and earned his first Academy Award nomination for Dragonslayer. In 1983, he began work on The Return of the Jedi, for which he received his first Oscar.
Tippett Studio was founded in 1984 when Tippett left ILM to create a 10-minute experimental film called Prehistoric Beast. The realism of the dinosaurs led to his work on the 1985 CBS animated documentary Dinosaur!, for which Tippett Studio won its first Emmy.
Tippett explained that based on his dinosaur experience, he was contacted by Steven Spielberg in 1991 and asked to supervise the dinosaur animation for Jurassic Park. It was this project that was responsible for Tippett Studios transition from stop-motion to computer-generated animation and for which Tippett earned his second Oscar.
More recently, the animator took an interest in directing. A few years ago, he partnered with longtime associate, writer Ed Neumeier (with whom he worked on Starship Troopers and Robocop); the two wrote the story for Starship Troopers 2: Hero of the Federation, which Tippett directed. He is currently developing several new directing projects, and Tippett Studio remains busy.
Looking ahead, Tippett said he believes that visual effects will just fall into the nomenclature of filmmaking. And when asked about techniques he will use going forward, he said that he expects to be working in an all-digital realm, although he would return to stop motion if it was appropriate in the context of a film.
Star Wars: Episode III Revenge of the Sith, presented by Hilmar Koch, CG supervisor, ILM, resulted in a sea of attendees waiting outside the theater long before the doors opened. Visitors in the packed screening room were they treated to 90 minutes of the making of Episode III.
Koch reported that the telling of Anakin Skywalkers decent to the dark side encompassed nearly 6.6 million rendering hours, a significant amount of R&D and a wide range of digital and practical effects. Emphasis was placed on digital doubles, which began with scanning the key actors in the film. Koch broke down sequences where Ewan McGregor as Obi-Wan Kenobi rides a CG beast, and where the face of actor Ian McDiarmid (Palpatine) is placed on a stunt persons body for a lightsaber duel.
On the practical side, Koch described the making of immense sets, and how an estimated 36,000 gallons of thick liquid-like substances were used on set to create lava for Anakin and Obi-Wans climactic duel sequence. These practical shots were of course significantly enhanced by CGI.
eDIT 8. also featured sessions on the making of War of the Worlds, presented by Marshall Krasser, compositing supervisor, ILM; Brothers Grimm, presented by Paul Docherty, vfx supervisor, Peerless Camera; Kingdom of Heaven, presented by Gary Brozenich, CG supervisor, The Moving Picture Co. (MPC); Sin City, presented by David Evner, co-founder of the ComputerCafe Group and director of CafeFXs creative team; Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, presented by Chas Jarret, CG supervisor at MPC, and vfx supervisor Nick Davis. As well, Batman Begins was dissected by Rudi Holzapfel, vfx supervisor at MPC; Oliver Hames, R&D supervisor at Double Negative; and Stephane Ceretti, digital artist and vfx supervisor, BUF Compangnie.
Screenings are also a big part of the festival. This year, eDIT hosted the European debut of AWNs popular Animation Show of Shows, presented by AWN/VFXWorld publisher Dan Sarto, who also moderated Great Animation and Storytelling, which featured Landreth and Ryan. Also on the screening schedule was Edge Codes.com: The Art of Motion Picture Editing, which traced the history and development of film editing, and featured the likes of editor Thelma Schoonmaker and Lucas.
The Festival concluded with a highly anticipated preview of Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit, with an introduction from Merlin Crossingham of Aardman Animations.
eDIT also placed emphasis on advertising production; in fact, Frankfurt boasts a sizable number of Germanys ad agencies and commercial production and post houses. A session on high-end visual effects in commercials included Darren Price, head of 3D at Londons Nexus Prods., who showed and discuss the making of Honda Diesels Grr via Wieden & Kennedy in London, which is one of the most honored commercials in recent years. This past award season, the animated Grrr from Nexus directing team Smith & Foulkes was showered with accolades, including the Grand Prix from Cannes, the Grand Clio, Best of Show at The One Show, the Grandy from the Andys and the Best of Show at the Shark Awards.
Grrr tells a story through an original song and colorful animation of a Honda engineer who hated standard diesel engines so he developed something quieter and more efficient. The spot features the old standard diesels flying through an animated world populated with rainbows and bunnies, who try to eliminate the noisy engines. The spot asks, Can Hate Be Good? In the case of Honda, the spot concludes, the answer is yes.
Frank Petzold, visual effects supervisor at Tippett Studio, showcased some of the character work on commercials that is coming out of the studio, including Blockbusters well known Carl & Ray campaign, which features a rabbit and a guinea pig in a pet shop located within eye shot of a Blockbuster store. Petzold also featured these characters in a second session, devoted to digital actors.
In The Next Generation of Computer Games, Electronic Arts studio art director Henry LaBounta took his audience through some of the latest advancements in computer games for Xbox and PlayStation, featuring realtime animation, interactivity and heightened realism. He showcased EAs Need for Speed: Most Wanted, a car chase featuring a BMW; NBA Live 06, which puts players in startlingly realistic recreations of different NBA arenas around the country; and FIFA 06, featuring recreations of some of the worlds largest soccer stadiums. In the sports clips, LaBounta pointed to things that bring these characters to life, starting with MoCap and moving to on to sweat simulation, skin shading, as well as cloth simulation for the uniforms.
LaBounta, an ILM alumnus, also credited key talents in these productions, many of whom come from the features world, demonstrating the continuing crossover between feature film and game development.
eDIT also placed emphasis on emerging digital techniques, notably the DI process, with information for interested participants from beginners to experienced professionals. Speakers included director of photography Gavin Finney, vp of the British Society of Cinematographers (BSC); Ted Gagliano, president of feature post-production at Fox; Alex Ho, producer of such films as Hotel Rwanda, JFK, Born on the Fourth of July and Platoon; Michael Underwood, colorist on Hotel Rwanda and of Hollywood-based post house Post Logic; and Henning Raedlein, director of DI at Munichs Arri TV post facility.
Immediately following the discussion, Post Logics Mary Reardon chaired a case study on Hotel Rwanda, narrated by Ho and Underwood. Underwoods presentation included an explanation of the Post Logic workflow, and the importance of being able to move data around a facility. It is necessary to be able to move the data as quickly as possible to the different workstations that need access to it; for instance, sending the scans to conforming and later to color grading, he said. It always seems that filmmakers like to make changes to the edit during the final grading, so data moves back and forth between confirming and color correction many times. At the same time all this is happening, another data copy of the film is being used to clean up the dirt and scratches. In our work flow we will sometimes have three copies of the data in use and moving around the facility though our SAN [Storage Area Network].
Artificial Humans was the subject of the sixth newcomer film awards, eDward 2005. The worldwide competition aims to give a stage to young filmmakers and to open up career opportunities, organizers explained. It calls upon young creatives under 30 to enter a 30 second piece. This year for the first time entries came from all over the world, including Poland, England, France and India.
The winners were selected by an international jury comprised of U.S.-based animator Bill Plympton, Japan-based production designer Yohei Taneda, Denmark-based animator Thorbjørn Christoffersen, Sarto and Tippett, who served as president.
First prize was awarded to Domestic Droids by Horst Da Luz of Germany, who was presented 2500, the eDward trophy and the opportunity to take part in a training program on digital film and animation at the worldwide SAE institute.
Second prize was awarded to Life inc., created by Michele Busiello, also of Germany, who received 800 and the Adobe video collection 2.5 worth 1500. Busiello may also take part in an SAE training program. The Perfect Weapon by Jean-Claude Rozec of France earned third prize, which consists of 400 and the AVID XPress pro HD software worth 2000.
The winning spots can be viewed at www.ed-ward.de. The next eDIT Filmmakers Festival will take place in Frankfurt from Sept. 24-26 2006.
Carolyn Giardina has been covering production, post-production and visual effects for more than 12 years, both stateside and abroad.