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fmx 09: Information Overload

The fmx may not be as big as SIGGRAPH, but like an American professional stated, it is superbly organized, which makes it a truly wonderful event throughout the world of Visual Effects, Animation, Games and Digital Media.

Richard Edlund was a superstar at fmx.

written by Johannes Wolters

Where to begin? Information overload. Day 2. Fmx09.

The fmx may not be as big as SIGGRAPH, but like an American professional stated, it is superbly organized, which makes it a truly wonderful event throughout the world of Visual Effects, Animation, Games and Digital Media. Steffen Wild presented the work and the developments inside the beloved World of Jim Henson Muppets today. The famous creature shop made it bold steps into the digital realm, carefully keeping the original muppet touch alive. Like Jim Henson told his staff “Have an Idea? We try it out. Never be afraid of failure”. The successful use of digital puppeteering was successful used on the TV-show “Sid the Science Kid”. 40 episodes, together 20 hours had to be put together within only one year. Key to the success: strong characters, the excellent collaboration between the puppeteers, the use of live action disciplines, the clever utilization of new technology and a perfect real-world-compatibility. Just doing digital puppets the muppet way. On the live stage up to six characters can now be handled at the same time datawise. All to create webisodes, commercials, Television shows and direct-to-dvd material at the moment. And of course at some point in the future creating a feature film with a hybrid approach. More... Standing ovations for Richard Edlund, multiple Academy Award winner, who worked on the initial Star Wars-Trilogy, Raiders of the Lost Ark and many, many, many other wonderful films, who shaped our common popular culture in the last 35 years. Edlund gave a touching insight into his life and career. Being a working hippie in the early seventies, he already had worked on the initial Star Trek Television series. But then John Dykstra called him, asking, if he wanted to join George Lucas and ILM for Star Wars. He immediately took the job, just hesitating a few seconds. At that time ILM was nothing more than a room with a big table and phone on it. Later during the production, during a coffebreak he already had the foresight to tell his fellow workers to keep this moment in mind and remember this very time as “the good old times”. Edlund fells himself lucky to live through two revolutions. One to have made Star Wars and to get control over all the 24 frames per seconds running through the projector, using optical printers and motion control cameras, inventing a whole industry through the process. The public reactions were absolutely wonderful. “There were times, when people actually apologized for not having seen the movie! People felt bad having seen it only five times, when somebody told them, he had seen it up to ten times.” The second revolution came with the digital world. Now Edlund not only had control over 24 frames per second, now he had control over al the millions of tiny pixels on every and each frame. “That makes you feel like god!”

Having worked with directors like Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, Harold Ramis, Wolfgang Petersen or John McTiernan, Richard Edlund is now a vital keyplayer of the ASC-ADG-VES Previs 2020 Workgroup, where creative people can exchange ideas about better collaboration, communication and efficiency in modern and future filmmaking. You could catch a glimpse of this wonderful future later on, when you joined Edlund, Alex McDowell, John Scheele and Kevin Tod Haug for an absolute mindboggling talk about the future of digital visualization in film production. Richard Edlund told about his visit to James Cameron just a week ago, where Cameron showed him “Avatar” and the technique behind it, McDowell told the audience about his visit to Steven Spielberg's “Tintin”-set. It seems that our traditional understanding of filmmaking will be a thing of the past in only a few years from now. Again information overload. By then the fmx audience had already learned about the brilliant art direction and the lighting of Disney´s academy-award nominated “Bolt” Paul Felix and Adolph Lusinsky told about the problems and tasks of the 3D-journey of the studio and his remarkable dog. And afterwards director Chris Williams talked about the difficulties and the joys he and his bold team experienced while creating the story of “Bolt”. Meanwhile Brian Van´T Hul from Laika did the same a few metres away at the Metropol cinema, talking about Henry Selick´s “Coraline” and the stereoscopic process. If you were ready to miss the panels about the creation of the absolute stunning “River God” from “The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian” by famous german studio Scanline VFX, if you dared to avoid Pixar´s presentation of the career gears at this studio presented by Robin McDonald, then you could go to meet Syd Mead and be blown away by his boundless imagination and his ability to put it down in beautiful artwork. His concepts, ideas and designs inspired cineastic milestones like Ridley Scotts “Blade Runner”, Steven Lisbergers “Tron”, Kathryn Bigelow´s “Strange Days” or James Cameron´s “Aliens”. Syd Mead freely explained his working methods, spoke about his approach how to carefully construct his wonderful paintings and the brief moments, when he can be available for himself.

After that you only had one choice, you had to see Harrison Ellenshaw´s talk about Visual Storytelling in Computer Graphics. Did I mention “information overload”?

Wonderful Shelley Page concluded the day´s event with her own unique presentation of “Shelley´s Eye Candy”. Her actual favorites from festivals and graduation shows around the world included “Ex-Et” from Esma and “Dix” from BIF. Who could possibly ask for anything more.

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Dan Sarto is Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of Animation World Network.