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FMX Conference Wraps 2015 Edition

Rounding off four days of speakers and presentations, the 20th Anniversary edition of the FMX Conference on Animation, Effects, Games and Transmedia concludes with a special screening of ‘Avengers: Age of Ultron’ with Marvel VFX Supervisor Christopher Townsend in attendance. 

Rounding off four days of speakers and presentations as well as 3,200 attendees from 55 countries, the 20th Anniversary edition of the FMX Conference on Animation, Effects, Games and Transmedia concluded on Friday with a special screening of Avengers: Age of Ultron with Marvel VFX Supervisor Christopher Townsend in attendance.

FMX celebrated its 20th anniversary with four dedicated events. Twenty renowned industry professionals showcased their personal milestones from the last two decades as part of the “20th Anniversary of FMX” event. In addition, FMX celebrated 20 years of Weta Digital alongside four-time Academy Award-winner Joe Letteri, commemorated more than “40 years of Industrial Light & Magic,” and it paid tribute to “20 years of Toy Story” with Pixar.

As part of the focus on the most relevant developments in Virtual Reality and Immersion, FMX welcomed VR pioneer Mark Bolas and Magic Leap's John Root to Stuttgart. Gaming insights were provided by key people such as Mark deLoura, the former White House Senior Advisor for Digital Media, while Transmedia highlights came from renowned opinion leaders of the like of Alex McDowell or BabyX-inventor Mark Sagar as well as Visual Communication expert Jacquelyn Morie and Disney's Mk Haley.

FMX and its event partner Festival of Animated Film Stuttgart (ITFS) successfully hosted the Animation Production Day (APD).

Facts and Figures: FMX 2015 Speakers and Attendees

Visitor numbers increased again despite the continued use of only two venues, the Haus der Wirtschaft and the Gloria Cinema. Approximately 3,200 attendees flocked to FMX on a daily basis. The percentage of professionals compared to the students amounted to 61 percent. The number of managers and senior managers reached a new high with more than 30 percent, thus reflecting the overall importance for decision makers to participate in FMX. 270 speakers from 22 countries delivered presentations, workshops and panel discussions. Moreover, internationality among all FMX participants reached an all-time high this year, with attendees from 55 countries. While last year's evaluation showed a third of all attendees to be from abroad, the number went up to 40 percent this year, with 10 percent from the U.K.

Facts and Figures: FMX 2015 in the Forum

The FMX Forum turned the Conference content into a hands-on experience with a haptic feel. In 2015, more than 100 Forum Partners contributed their share, and they came from all over the world. The Marketplace accommodated 35 industry innovators that displayed their latest technologies such as 360-degree videos by Kolor and OptiTrack's motion capture system whose precision was demonstrated by agile dancers during all days of FMX. This year's VR focus was reflected by nine companies including the ITA (Immersive Technology Alliance) as part of the VR Experience, and Crytek's popular VR demo Back to Dinosaur Island. In addition, FMX 2015 looks back on as much as five different Company Suites by Autodesk, Clarisse iFX, the EU project DREAMSPACE, Side Effects and Chaos Group, and 34 workshops by 19 different companies, among them the Spain-based rendering company Solid Angle and MAXON.

The Recruiting Hub displayed a similar variety: Booths were booked by 22 regional and international heavyweights, with ILM, Walt Disney Animation Studios and New Zealand's Weta Digital drawing long lines, especially on Thursday. The talent pool gathering at the School Campus complemented the Forum's success: 18 media schools presented themselves and their curricula to future students.

20 years of FMX: Anniversary Celebrations with Weta, ILM and Pixar's Toy Story

Terrence Masson (Building Conversation) and Sebastian Sylwan (Visual Effects and Digital Media Technology Executive) kicked the 2015 jubilee celebrations off with the “20th Anniversary of FMX” event and twenty short presentations on personal milestones. Speakers such as Ludwig van Reiche (NVIDIA) or Eric Roth (VES) revealed their highlights that ranged from impressive student films to digital entertainment topics such as instant feedback and virtualization. Joe Letteri, the Academy Award-winning Senior VFX Supervisor and Director of Weta Digital, hit the stage for an anniversary event commemorating 20 years of Weta Digital. Letteri spoke in front of densely filled König-Karl-Halle about the core principles of Weta Digital's approach, using examples from The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies, bringing the live broadcast areas to the point of near-overflow. Industrial Light & Magic celebrated 2x20 years of ILM with three generations of ILM experts represented by Lorne Peterson, John Knoll and Richard Bluff. Moreover, Ralph Eggleston, William “Bill” Reeves and Eben Fiske Ostby reunited as part of the original film team to look back on “20 Years of Toy Story.” A dedicated “Shelley's Eye Candy” screening and a glass of champagne for all FMX attendees complemented the 20th Anniversary events.

Immersion & Virtual Realities - From Changed Storytelling to Holographic Platforms

Pioneers and trailblazing innovators shared the FMX stage to introduce immersive technologies and opportunities to an eager audience from scientific aspects to the application of VR in theme parks as demonstrated by DreamWorks and Walt Disney Imagineering. FMX was proud to welcome VR pioneer Mark Bolas to FMX. Bolas and Ken Perlin dove into a conversation that covered Bolas' legacy including his vast influence on the development of the Oculus Rift. Bolas outlined his ideas on virtual reality - a place that he calls “elsewhere” - and showcased his first VR attempts from more than 20 years ago that included a digitization glove. Other highlights came from Magic Leap's John Root who looked into the future of immersive entertainment and George Borshukov and his predictions about the use of VR/AR for apparel shopping. Borshukov had vastly contributed to the bullet time sequence that has defined our understanding of VR even beyond the Matrix Trilogy. VR entertainment such as VR headsets and simulators were as much part of FMX as holographic platforms (Microsoft's HoloLens) and wireless VR experiences.

Business Strategies at ExitMercato@FMX, Studio Insights and CEO Summits

With its APD Conference and Closed Door Summits for decision makers from the VFX and the advertising industry, FMX continues to put an emphasis on business and the importance for the communities to keep in step with the times. The dedicated “ExitMercato@FMX” track, which was curated by Thierry Baujard (President of Media Deals), constituted a forum for start-ups and early-stage investors to present their investment portfolio to larger investors and corporations with regard to exit investment strategies. In addition, the “Studio Insights” (hosted by Dave Gougé, Weta Digital) brought together Chris deFaria (Warner Bros. Pictures), Marc Weigert (Method Studios) and Scott Ross who were offering rare insights into the business side of the films we see on screen.

Visual Effects: TV Series, Commercials, Virtual Production and The Avengers: Age of Ultron

Visual Effects were featured extensively, ranging from home cinema to the big screen. While industry leaders such as MPC Advertising, GlassWorks and The Mill showcased their latest commercials for television and the web, TV favorites such as Game of Thrones (Mackevision) also moved into the spotlight. Case Studies offered in-depth analyses of current blockbuster hits, with Avengers: Age of Ultron at the forefront. Interstellar constituted a particular highlight this year: Paul Franklin (Dneg) shed light on the sci-fi epic. For the fourth year in a row, David Morin (Autodesk) brought the latest innovations in the field of Virtual Production to FMX that included Guardians of the Galaxy and Transformers: Age of Extinction.

Animation from Minions to Wild 'n Strange

Jacques Bled's and Kyle Balda's exclusive insights into the Despicable Me spin-off Minions more than two months before its theatrical release constituted one of the undoubted highlights this year: Anticipation was running so high that two hundred attendees had to miss out on this exclusive glimpse, because the venue filled to capacity. In addition, Academy Award-winner Big Hero 6 and nominee Song of the Sea moved into the limelight as did the family feature Shaun the Sheep Movie. The independent talent that peopled the Animation Wild 'n Strange track featured prolific artists such as Alison Schulnik and Akinori Oishi. In addition, three concept artists brought their vision to FMX, among them Terryl Whitlatch, the creative mind behind creatures such as Jar Jar Binks from Star Wars Episode 1. The rooms were crowded as the concept artists presented snippets from their work.

Games: Mark deLoura and his Focus on Games Beyond entertainment and Assassin's Creed 4

This year's most prominent advocate for games was Mark deLoura, the former Senior Advisor for Digital Media in the White House Office for Science and Technology as he filled everyone in on his perspective of the use of games to address societal challenges. DeLoura headlined the Games for Change Track that convened games on the Peace of Westphalia, children in civil war or unique Inupiaq cultures. The high visual and artistic quality of games also proved to be a recurring theme at FMX: Ubisoft's Raphael Lacoste immersed himself in the Art Direction and Image Composition of the open world videogame Assassin's Creed 4.

Transmedia Experiences: BabyX, World Builds and more

The Transmedia focus assembled acclaimed opinion leaders in Virtual Humans and World Building at FMX. For one, there was Associate Professor Mark Sagar (Laboratory for Animate Technologies, Auckland Bioengineering Institute) who brought the latest revolutionary experiment in autonomous learning, BabyX, to an eager crowd of people. Sagar's talk was part of the Virtual Humans Track, curated by Mike Seymour (FXGuide), which was a prime example of technical innovation this year. Transmedia thinker Alex McDowell curated a track named “Traversing Reality: Storytelling in Brave New Worlds” that explored the future of storytelling beyond traditional platforms in AR, VR and Mixed Reality contexts. What's more, he co-hosted the Rilao Workshop - a fictional, collaborative world build designed to create new story universes. Tracks on Animation as Fine Art, the Demoscene and Visual Communication complemented the Transmedia Experiences.

Technology from Hardware to Lighting & Rendering

Technology constituted an essential part of FMX. Tracks explored, among others, Lighting & Rendering, Pipelines, Virtualization, Future Hardware (the two latter tracks were curated by Jon Peddie, Jon Peddie Research) and included the diverse Tech Talks and Highlights of SIGGRAPH. Christophe Hery from Pixar curated the Lighting & Rendering presentations featuring an impressive line-up of films that were dissected with regard to their technical specifics and characteristics - among them the upcoming Finding Nemo sequel Finding Dory that comes to the theatres in 2016 as well as Interstellar, Big Hero 6 and Planet of the Apes.

The 21st edition of FMX takes place April 26-29, 2016.

Source: FMX 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.