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FMX Chronicles: Part II


"Where are you now?"
Nothing like a bit of Tron to start the day. I love watching the process of digitising a person's face, the scans of Jeff Bridges, from plaster casts, digital scans, all combined to create old CG Jeff, and from there they 'youthenized' him. Taking his jaw up, removing wrinkles, working from reference footage of him as a young man in his earlier films they crafted a Jeff that could play Clu in a convincing manner. When you see some of the side by side comparisons of the motion capture performance and the rendered Clu its spot on, I think its just the impossibility of a young Jeff Bridges that leads us to find flaws in the CG work when really- there aren't any. Or maybe there should be human imperfections and that's the problem?

Our luncheon spot
I left this talk very slightly early in order to secure a seat for the Rango presentation and panel. Rango is unusual because, on being queried, only a small portion of the audience had actually seen Rango in the cinema, yet this is the first animated feature from ILM: the mother of all visual effects studios. This film is devastatingly gorgeous and to hear some of the anecdotes and techniques used to achieve the very specific photographic look of an over exposed cinema-scope western was inspiring. Ed Brooks, a speaker who happened to be in the audience, claimed that after seeing the clips shown he felt like he'd just had sex; I can only imagine the people seated either side of him edging away. He compared Rango's importance in animation to that of Mickey Mouse, Toy Story and stated it pushed the bar so high that the major studios of CG feature animation were going to struggle to compete.

It was nice to hear about the directors insistence on keeping the story between him, the production director (who designed all the exquisitely “nasty” sets and creatures), and the writer; this meant that there was no corporate influence or producers giving the 'ok'. Just some guys working in a house for 3 years to craft a quirky story on a personal level- whose visual component was simultaneously hideous and utterly captivating. It was also good to hear that the whole sequence that was apparently cut from the end would probably appear on the director's cut of the Blu Rah!

So after leaving this fantastic talk on what is perhaps my favourite film so far this year, I attended 'Illumination in Renderman'. I won't even go into how dull this talk was suffice to say, there were algorithms on the screen. But the worst part was he then proceeded to explain what the algorithms meant. All I ask is that the speaker has the decency to put pictures in, for my sake.

The inside of the smaller conference building
Then, in the same room, was a talk on Katana, a piece of middle-ware that seems to function as a way to make work flow and scene assembly more efficient and less renderer dependent. Otherwise it seemed pretty unnecessary.

At the last minute I decided to catch a talk on the The King's Speech, a film whose effects are all 'invisible' meaning they wouldn't appear obvious to an audience, unless they knew what they were looking for. Things like crowd population, replacing backgrounds with historical venues, or removing crew from shots. Dayne Cowan was probably one of my favourite speakers, from Australia he moved to England in 1997 making his past strangely similar to that of Geoffrey Rush's character in The King's Speech.

Making Stereoscopic 3D on the Playstation 3: dull and full of graphical compromise. This presentation could have been so cool as well...

Being a TD in the Games Industry. Alan nudged me awake in this one and I jumped out of my skin. While it was a brilliant overview of a technical director's role in a games studio, it was more aimed at people in managerial positions (2% of the audience) rather than students looking to make this their career position (98% of the audience).

Shelley's Eye Candy was a presentation by Dreamworks' international recruitment head, comprising mostly student graduate films that she felt were of interest. It was a great selection, a couple of which I'd seen before. A couple of noteworthy films were Blackwater Gospel (fantastic visual style) and Aardman's Fly. The film that I really loved was entitled The Eagleman Stag. This film is a stop motion animation that is unusual in a number of ways, it uses a very pacey editing style that is uncommon in animation, its character's and sets are made solely from polystyrene or something similar and makes everything glow with the light shone through it. Above this it's story is layered and profound, and ponders questions that far exceed the scope of it's brief run time.
Outside the venue. Balloons? Check.

Another evening event, held at an old looking mansion decorated in ivy and graffiti. Inside the walls and floors are black, dirty, and beg the question why would anyone intentionally set foot in here? Between the drinks and music there was laughter, so it didn't matter.


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