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FMX 2015 to Host Virtual Reality Pioneer Mark Bolas

FMX 2015 conference on animation, effects, games and transmedia to spotlight ‘Minions’ and ‘Assassin's Creed 4.’

Ludwigsburg, Germany -- FMX 2015, running May 5-8 in Stuttgart, Germany, has announced that this year’s edition of the conference on animation, effects, games and transmedia will be hosting virtual reality pioneer Mark Bolas. Bolas, whose work has influenced virtual reality innovations such as the Oculus Rift, will provide insights into the vast world of virtual reality that is among the most relevant topics of this year's anniversary edition.

In addition, Jacques Bled and Kyle Balda of Illumination Mac Guff are set to give a presentation on the highly anticipated Despicable Me spin-off Minions, two months before it is officially released. Further additions to the program include the gaming highlight Assassin's Creed 4, big-screen hits such as Taken 3 and Exodus as well as European animated feature films such as Asterix, Yellowbird and Manou the Swift. Moreover, SIGGRAPH highlights complement the technological part of this year's program.

Virtual Reality Pioneer Mark Bolas Comes to Stuttgart

Virtual reality pioneer Mark Bolas.

With its 2015 focus on immersion and virtual reality, FMX is more than happy to welcome virtual reality pioneer Mark Bolas to Stuttgart. Bolas, who is the Director of the Mixed Reality Lab at the Institute for Creative Technologies and an Associate Professor at the USC School of Cinematic Arts, has been exploring presence and immersive experiences for over three decades, putting forward his thoughts on the medium of virtual reality as early as 1989.

Bolas' decision to open-source his seminal work and research has helped to usher in the current VR revolution. The influence of his lab's DIY VR projects (FOV2GO, VR2GO, MxR Unity Package) can be seen in current commercial products like the Samsung GearVR, the Oculus Rift and Google Cardboard.

Bolas co-founded Fakespace Labs, Inc. in 1988 and developed and sold VR hardware and systems for dozens of major research labs over the decades. Mark Bolas brings this expertise to FMX when he strikes up a conversation with Ken Perlin on immersion and virtual reality. Ken Perlin, who is among the Associates of FMX, is a Professor in the Department of Computer Science at New York University and directs the NYU Games For Learning Institute.

Minions, Asterix and Manou the Swift: Highlights in European Animation

More than two months before the Despicable Me spin-off Minions celebrates its theatrical release in July, its genesis moves into focus. Jacques Bled and Kyle Balda (Illumination Mac Guff) describe how they developed three distinct characters out of a multitude of similar creatures who have managed to acquire a huge following among cinemagoers worldwide. Furthermore, Simon Thomas and Nicolas Trout disclose the artistic challenges and technical pitfalls they experienced during the production of their first animated feature film Asterix: The Mansion of Gods.

The European Animation track is further complemented by a multitude of animals. First of all, there is Christian De Vita's 3D stereo action adventure tale Yellowbird, which was released at the end of 2014. The ambitious film was produced by the French studio TeamTO; Yellowbird is their first CG animated feature film. Veteran French producer Guillaume Hellouin enlightens FMX attendees on the production of the feature that sought to stay true to the life of birds when it came to modeling and movement.

Moreover, Andrea Block and Christian Haas (both LUXX Studios Stuttgart) return to FMX to shed light on the European production Manou the Swift and its mammals and avian creatures with regard to the R&D innovations that were introduced to successfully realize fur and feathers.

VFX Case Studies feature Interstellar, Taken 3 and Exodus

The VFX Case Studies spotlight impressive visual effects for successful films. In 2015, two sequels are examined. Rodolphe Chabrier (Illumination Mac Guff), who worked as VFX Supervisor on the box-office hit Taken 3, delivers a talk dedicated to the third and final installment of the franchise.

In addition, Paul Franklin (Double Negative) delivers insights into the creation of stunning visual effects for the Academy-Award-winning Interstellar from development to post-production, revealing how his long-standing working relationship with Nolan informed the film's design and working progress.

Moreover, Adam Davis, who works as Global Head of Crowd Simulation & Motion Capture at MPC, illuminates the artistic and technical challenges that had to be tackled to build the massive armies needed to fulfill Ridley Scott's vision in Exodus: Gods and Kings.

Photorealistic Characters and Art Direction in Games such as Assassin's Creed 4

The high visual and artistic quality of games is a recurring theme at FMX. Ubisoft's Raphael Lacoste immerses himself in the Art Direction and Image Composition of the open world videogame Assassin's Creed 4. He details the creation of immersive and interactive environments that give the player great freedom to move through the virtual world - an aspect that received high critical acclaim when the game was released.

His presentation is complemented by Javier Nicolai von der Pahlen (Activision Blizzard) who presents his current research that concentrates on the creation of photorealistic characters with gaming hardware in real time, explaining how this research can be applied on a large scale for every single character in a game. Moreover, Pierre Raymond who founded Hybride Technologies (now a division of Ubisoft) showcases the latest projects and developments that currently take shape at Hybride.

SIGGRAPH Papers feature mechanical characters and self-refining games

Adam Finkelstein curates four presentations on the future of graphics technology with his "Highlights of SIGGRAPH" track. Stelian Coros (Carnegie Mellon University) starts off his presentation with an emphasis on the "Computational Design of Mechanical Characters" that will allow animated virtual characters to be brought to the real world.

Further insights come from the Carnegie Mellon University when Matt Stanton talks about self-refining games - interactive and cinematic games that are based on a specific pre-rendering technique that learns from players. In contrast, Pierre Bénard (Université de Bordeaux) presents his findings with regard to the techniques used to produce stylized depictions of 3D animations. From France to the Czech Republic: Daniel Sýkora introduces his revolutionary Ink-and-Ray technique that adds global illumination effects to hand-drawn characters, thus making the 3D look feasible for traditional animation.

Source: FMX 2015 Conference on Animation, Effects, Games and Transmedia 

Jennifer Wolfe's picture

Formerly Editor-in-Chief of Animation World Network, Jennifer Wolfe has worked in the Media & Entertainment industry as a writer and PR professional since 2003.