Monday

A whole day of travel. Pretty exhausting despite the fact the majority of it is spent sitting down and gazing out of a window. Trains and planes all went according to plan and by late evening we were arriving at our hotel thanks to a taxi driver with a pretty suspicious German accent, a piece of paper adorned with an address, and 40 freshly exchanged Euros. The lateness of the day didn't stop us going next door for an enormous German beer, the 80's rock and nicotine saturated atmosphere making the experience feel all the more genuine.

FMX is a pretty big deal it turns out. Just looking at the schedule gave me some idea; but you start attending these events with 199 other people and the scope of these projects, and skill of their execution is the best in the industry, the only major VFX company I can think of that aren't there is Weta. Everyone else, they're here, and its epic.


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Tuesday
The view from our hotel door to the tram stop on a crisp Germanic morning

This morning we negotiated breakfast and the tram system before taking a massively circuitous route to the venue itself. Unfortunately “Acting for Animators” was full and already under way, while this sounded like a great event, I'm secretly glad I got to miss out on any kind of real acting. This meant I was able to catch the Image Metrics talk on facial animation in Crysis 2. It was dry, but informative, and set the tone for what a few of the more corporate talks would be like: 'here’s our software and how to use it correctly, its awesome'. Which is fine but doesn't provide me with many general skills that I can utilise outside of that software. I could barely keep my eyes open, something to do with lack of sleep, warmth, and semi-darkness.

After chatting briefly with the woman at the Animal Logic recruitment booth (they're looking for lighters), I decided the 'look development for lighting and effects' on their latest feature Owls of Ga'Hoole was exactly what I needed to see. It was a fantastic talk, pristine active shutter 3D (its such a cohesive stereoscopic experience compared to the normal cinema 3D), emphasis on the enhancement of storytelling through the lighting of scene, or the characterization of the owls themselves. Some of the technology behind that film is the shiniest the industry has to offer, I now greatly regret not seeing it in the cinema, should've trusted that gut feeling that usually betrays me when it comes to cheesy trailers.

As we went to find lunch I had a weird sense of deja vu, after commenting on how familiar Stuttgart felt I recognised a Chinese restaurant and suddenly remembered I'd come here as part of a 'history of art' class trip when I was 15/16 years old. We ate there later that evening and it was exactly the same.
The Conference Hall

Three hours of lighting and rendering talks is like having your brain polished with chrome and then cooked in a lens flare furnace. I have a theory that too much digital realism can turn into an out-of-body experience if you're not careful, not in a spiritual way either. Rio is a film I haven't seen but the lighting supervisor from Blue Sky stressed the radiosity (don't ask, I don't know) of their rendering engine, the procedural nature of their pipeline, and how character's eyes had to have dings. Yes dings. Along with zings and stuff had to pop too.

Tangled had some neat stuff about its look, specifically the lack of hard shadows on Rapunzel, the volume scattering in the hair, and the curve based tree building tools they made. Oh, and the guy seemed to like pointing out how much they cheated by adding lights that shouldn't have existed in reality. He got a few laughs.

The length of my paragraphs is correlating to the complexity of the talks/waning stamina of myself. So ILM did some interesting stuff about shaders in Iron Man 2, except then there were algorithms... That was when I left.
Alan rides the Tram, he loves algorithms

Lastly was a talk on Black Swan I accidentally saw (it wasn't timetabled), covering stuff I'd read about their nightmare tracking, face replacing, and cleaning up Darren Aronofsky's film. A masterclass in 'invisible effects', the kind of stuff you'll never notice in the film but is crucial to specific plot points that help it reach perfection.

Then this evening there was a party in a nearby bar that gave us a free cocktail and left us to mingle, which I failed at spectacularly, but aim to be a pro at by the end of the week. This isn't something I'll make an effort to do I'm just kind of hoping it'll happen of its own accord. Though I did recognise the recruitment woman from Double Negative from when they visited Falmouth.

Feeling slightly blessed. Hopefully I can make the rest of these posts more concise, just so much to say about first impressions of everything.

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