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X|Media|Lab Suzhou

X|Media|Lab is a digital media think tank and creative workshop that sponsors a series of global cross-platform, cross-disciplinary, cross-cultural events. From May 8 through 10, a three-day session was held in Suzhou, China that brought together international mentors and Chinese animation studios through educational sessions and networking meetings. “They had amazing people there,” says Heather Kenyon, an animation consultant who works with X|Media|Lab and was a speaker at the event. “It was practical, good, solid advice.”

Day one was devoted to 20-30 minute presentations by two dozen international mentors, who covered subjects such as building animation facilities and pipelines, creating international pitch documents, and global funding models. The mentors come from all regions and all industry segments, from gaming and animation to broadcasting, mobile and design, and from all areas of animation -- business, creative and technology.

Some of the mentors at the Suzhou Lab included Sureth Seetharaman, founder and president, Virgin Comics and Virgin Animation (Bangalore and New York); Duncan Brinsmead, principal scientist, Autodesk (Toronto); Tatiana Kober, founder, Bejuba Studios (Los Angeles and Toronto); Nickson Fong, founder, Egg Story (Singapore); Paul Steed, founder, Exigent Studios (Los Angeles and, soon, China); Dan Scott, head of global production, Nokia Games (Toronto); Dale Herigstad, Schematic (Los Angeles); Michael Johnson, moving pictures group lead, Pixar Animation (San Francisco); and Tim Brooke-Hunt, head of children’s TV, Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

On the second day, the Chinese animation companies introduced themselves -- and showed examples of their work -- in presentations of about 10 minutes each. The Chinese companies involved in the event included Frame Force (Beijing), Shanghai Pop (Shanghai, Burbank and Miami), Sandman Animation Studio and Shiao Animation Co. (both of Suzhou), among many others.

The last day of the Lab was devoted to one-on-one meetings intended to foster deal-making.

Participants have forged working relationships through the event. This year, one of the Chinese studios in attendance agreed to a deal with one of the mentors for a series of 3D shorts, while a previous event led to an agreement, announced this March, between Virgin Comics and Suzhou Golden Cartoon Company.

Kenyon was impressed with both the improving quality of animation and the enthusiasm of the Chinese participants. "I was very surprised by the quality and how much they’re striving to learn," she says. "They really want to make things look the way they look on the international market."