Friday 26th October
The last day of the @VIEWconference2018 is upon us. But first, a few important announcements from the director of the VIEW2018 conference about the VIEW AWARDS.
The 2018 VIEW Award for Best Short Film has been won by La Noria, the 12-minute horror film written and directed by Carlos Baena and produced by Sasha Korelis. The jury praised the film’s cohesive narrative, flawless production, gorgeous character and production design, and music, all of which have perfectly helped tell the story. Director Carlos Baena will receive the VIEW Award’s 2000 Euros prize.
Best Friend, a 2018 graduation short film from Gobelins, l’École de l’Image has won the Jury Award for Best Student Film. This production was directed by David Feliu, Varun Nair, Juliana de Lucca, Nicholas Olivieri, and YI Shen. The jury honors this nearly six-minute long 2.5D animated film for exploring timely issues with a well-supported story and a beautiful design aesthetic.
The jury would also like to acknowledge the film Wild Love, a 2018 graduation film directed by ENSI students Paul Autric, Quentin Camus, Maryka Laudet, Léa Georges, Zoé Sottiaux, and Corentin. This well-directed 3D short made everyone on the jury laugh out loud all the way through the film’s seven minutes.
Another glorious day in Turin and I’m up before sunrise. Might have something to do with jet lag, or inspiration, or the magnificent food out here. Any way it is, I know I just want to get to the OGR for more mental trips, devouring the presentations these amazing people have prepared.
By the way, yesterday I took a brilliant ride over in the VR Gallery. It’s a bit tucked away at the venue, but when you get through the black curtain, the recruiters and VR Gallery booths are all there to check out. I ran through a forest in a mixed media VR called A-Way-To-Go, by Vincent Morisset and another one, DREAM, put together by Philippe Lambert and the National Film Board of Canada. Quite bizarre really.
Then I escaped, splashing a painted sweeping landscape in space. I later walked around the OGR seemingly before the renovations began. Then I stood back as time was brought back up to today. A phenomenal visual experience yet demonstrated so simply.
Back in the Sala Fucine, the Director of Photography and Lighting at Pixar, one very switched-on Danielle Feinberg showed her work on Coco, even harking back to references in Wall*E as well. Using computer science to generate a real lighting experience was her dream job. First in Monsters Inc., then Toy Story 3, Wall*E and, the subject of this talk, Coco. The Tower City in the Land of the Dead in the Coco journey of creation were referenced through several trips to Mexico and the formation of the towers have so many hidden meanings I’m going to have to watch the BluRay again when I get home. The Aztec/Mayan temple base is astonishingly complex. Gee, though I really wanted to see more. She was gone from the stage far too quickly, but she had her hour up there. I must have enjoyed it.
At the #VIEWConference2018 the Visionary Award was given this afternoon to Nora Twomey for her magnificent work on The Breadwinner and others. Twomey had some amazing advice for people who feel they are losing focus, because she says she feels the same way as well. Ms Twomey rolled through the story concepts of several of her amazing short films. The collections are especially gorgeous, bringing alive many folklore and rune stories of ancient Irish people. Her Breadwinner short film speaks of Afghanistan and the way of life through Taliban rule in a very unique way.
Twomey discussed the team’s approach to adapting the Ellis novel for the screen, the challenges, and advantages of making an animated film with challenging subject matter. Along the way, she showed how the film includes the long history of the strong people from the region and their deep culture of arts. The result is such a colorful and rich tapestry for the screen. There are two mirrored animation styles in The Breadwinner. One is the dusty, brown reality of Afghanistan, the other is the very vibrant, fantastical world in the young hero’s dreams, designed in the cut-paper animation style.
“The story doesn’t talk down to young adults; I wanted to give a sense of the chaos of life when you live in a place where there is so much conflict,” says Nora. “This is a film that finds hope, but is respectful for the complicated situation that exists in places, like Afghanistan.”
This afternoon’s run of speakers is an absolute blast. Dan Glass, VFX Supervisor on Deadpool 2 came to the stage.
Dan Glass describes then plays a trailer prepared for Deadpool 2 which was sweet, down-home and set to the song, ‘Thank you for being a friend’. In fact, the director David Leech has an edit of the movie arranged for the Chinese market which is PG-13. All swearing, blood and nudity have been removed. Apparently, it will be in the BluRay release. You could invariably stay watching the Deadpool 2 movie in different versions for as long as you like.
Flames play such a part in Deadpool 2, together and around the huge orphanage fire sequence. Characters FireFist, Metal Man and the others were all part of this fixation with flame. Cable was the time-traveling character played by Josh Brolin with the Terminator eye and cables visible from his shoulder injury. He had a body scan so the shoulder build could be completed in CG. He’d been working out for months and on a high energy diet to muscle up. That afternoon, he chowed down on a whole plate of donuts, cos he’d missed them so much. Dan Glass is more than happy to not call Deadpool 2 a superhero film because he sees it as a comedy.
Next on the bill was John Gaeta. He’d been busy generating content at the Magic Leap company after working at ILMxLAB for a couple of years. This guy is a visionary and an innovator in the truest sense of the word. He described the Multiverse concept he is working on. This is a system of systems. Of course, Gaeta honored Stanley Kubrick, Douglas Trumbull, and cinematographer Jim Dixon, which only made me enjoy the presentation even more. If you know me, you know I geek out on that even more than Star Wars stuff.
Gaeta spoke of when Trumbull left and gave the studio over to the team. They worked on What Dreams May Come and then John moved on to do the Matrix shows with the Wachowski siblings. The whole premise was ‘cheating time and space’, which excited John immensely. Thinking of future IPs and generating imagery afterwards for SpeedRacer, Gaeta saw a lot of the icons he generated as ‘PhotoAnime’; he saw, “a lot of blockbuster movies just globalising, but not innovating at all,” he said, “In the Lab Culture, we were obsessed with sensor-based navigation a’la Minority Report.” He wanted to change the paradigm of Interface. Working also with Kim Libreri with his work at Epic, then DD, he was invited to come and hang around ILM and develop the new ILMxLAB. This was a brilliant presentation, and I had the chance to sit and dine with John Gaeta and his wife later in the evening.
Dennis Muren had some great advice in his talk. In this, the final session for the day and the week, he suggested putting a little bit of real life into the shots. But these days that 5% is built in already because the industry is doing such a great job.
“We’ve still got to look deeper at the real world and using it in the movies we make,” he says. “The missing 5% could be from the product at the beginning.” He also said it was important to do as little as possible. All of this should be easy for the VFX crew because the more you need to add, the worse it is going to look. The more complex the added part is, the less real it will look.
Thursday 25th October
Kickstarting a day can sometimes be harder than it needs to be. There are always going to be these mornings though. The time was 9:01, we’d arrived at the venue. Bill Watral was there and the stage was set. But security wasn’t letting the audience in. I went out and asked. Clearly only in English. So Maria-Elena went out and the torrent of interested fans rolled in. She always knows what buttons to press. All good. Then Bill’s laptop began a restart without notice. After a couple of minutes though, the drama was averted and we were all back on track and I introduced him. Everything went perfectly. It was Incredible.
Note to self: you’re in Italy, drink more coffee.
Overall VFX Supervisor Karl Herbst from Imageworks and the Production Designer from Warner Bros Animation Ron Kurniawan took on the Smallfoot production design and told us about the chopping and changing of the concepts of characters. They also told us about the time the whole show was put on hold. Quite the kick in the guts after years of creative development too. When they finally got back to work, the creativity was cranked up to an entirely different level. They built a snow system for all the environments that could be turned as different builds were put together.
“For the icy cliffs, the procedurals were created for layers of snow cover and ice,” says Karl. “There was also a dusting of cloud and drifting snowfall during each scene. There are chunks, clumps and grains of snow that are there but not as heroes. Snow is a volume, each point is a part of a dense cloud.” I’m going to promise myself to see Smallfoot. It looks like a real hoot.
Glen McIntosh loves dinosaurs. His brief was to generate direct his team to recreate these ancient lizards for the Jurassic: Fallen Kingdom movie. He was able to do such research into the real creatures for colors, shapes, ambulation style, movement, and skin folds. The design of the Indoraptor had so many elements from real excavated examples, studies of possible eye styles, even a photograph of a soldier from WW1 who was suffering from PTSD.
Reference was taken from the skin of Iggy Pop. (I’m sure I heard that correctly). And an old leather jacket. Glen’s fascination with this subject is well founded as there are so many totally surprising facts in the presentation about dinosaurs. He is indeed very much a Dino-fan.
This afternoon was full of treats and the most thought-provoking was Professor Don Greenberg’s inventive talk which asked where virtual reality is going, how we’re going to get there and how is that going to happen.
Professor Don Greenberg is an iconic figure and I feel so honored to know him and to hear him live on stage. He had some hard advice on the advance of technology. It’s not the technology that will slow the advance. It will be economic. But despite this, the advancement is going to continue. The 20,480 CUDA cores in the latest NVIDIA graphics card is 400 million times faster than those used by Greenberg only 35 years ago. And why wouldn’t the advance continue?
On to the human visual system though. Professor Greenberg then described the extent of the signaling from the back of the eye to the brain. Matching this completely in a faster CPU is not quite there yet and how long it will take is open to conjecture.
After a long day, there was David Vickery up on stage, continuing the talk of the close relationship between real-world dinosaur research and the clear use of practical effects where they were warranted. Talking about the iconic shots in Jurassic Park: Lost Kingdom, there were so many mixes of puppetry and CG bits of dinosaurs. Even into the juggle of small velociraptors. Even after 7pm, the crowd was as sharp and interested as ever. A huge day. Tomorrow is the final day and promises to be even bigger.
Wednesday 24th October
Out into a particularly crisp sunny morning in Turin. The first presentation I introduced today was for Sucker Punch Productions Creative Director Nate Fox. He spoke about the open world of the Sony Interactive games like Infamous and Sly Raccoon. The Spider-Man franchise they demoed and played through was impressive as well, bringing across the most hysterical efforts to make the suit and the web look just right, but also making the city streets and buildings around the action.
But, in the Ghost of Tsushima game, the sword is the center of the onion if you will. Because this is an open game, a wandering Samurai in these cutscenes is the vehicle for the story. Set around the Mongol invasion in 1274, and from there the story spreads. These worlds are incredible. The windy environments of the clouds and pampas grass and even birds and bugs in the air, all bring such fresh reality to the scenes.
Mud, blood, and steel are important elements in the fight scenes of course. The katana sword is the ‘point of social contact’ and the motion capture of the swordsmanship is some of the most impressive I’ve seen in game action.
After lunch, the Overall VFX Supervisor at HBO on Westworld, Jay Worth spoke about his journey into television being via a spot of acting. He spoke from the heart about not really knowing how to get into that part of the industry, until one day he and suddenly put it on himself to call a friend and before the following week was out, he was standing in a field with Jennifer Garner on the set of Alias. He stayed with Bad Robot, on many of those productions that have made them the name they are today. Fringe, Cloverfield, Alias, Believe, Person of Interest, 11.22.63 and Westworld. He never went to film school but instead stayed close to JJ Abrams and as Jay said, “JJ was my film school.” He told of using the Swedish VFX house Important Looking Pirates (ILP) on many occasions because they could do absolutely anything. Including getting a hat back onto James Franco’s head after the sequence set in the early sixties (when everybody wore a hat) was shot without one. They also de-ages Anthony Hopkins and built various robots for the Westworld show. Note to self: This Jay Worth fella is not only a talented people person and VFX Supervisor, Producer, and director. He is a performer. Excellent presentation!
DNEG worked on another VFX treasure trove called Venom starring Tom Hardy. Troy Saliba is the Animation Supervisor at the studio and Ahron Bourland is the DFX Supervisor. Their film history runs back through Oz the Great and Powerful, Alice through the Looking Glass, as well as later productions like Avengers: Infinity War, Life, and Baby Driver. In Venom, they had what they called a digital mess to design. There were so many iterations and changes. Through the design stage, they used Houdini in their simulations and Maya in animation. They were having fun up on stage, digging around in their folders to bring out yet another short clip and tasty study of their nasty looking character. The hero had a lot of iterations. Especially in the gaping mouth, which was all about the goo, which left the mouth wet and real. As for expressions, there were challenges in that Venom had no cheeks, no nose and the eyebrows were the entire flat skullcap.
Later, Weta VFX Supervisor Mat Aitken went through a long list of shots in Avengers: Infinity War set on Titan, where Thanos was included. They shot on a huge sound stage in Atlanta. He also had the most complex facial rig of any of the Avengers movies, because it was a designed, disfigured digital double of the face of Josh Brolin. There was that extra step. The digital Josh. The motivation for this was a fully-digital face, driven by the data taken by the facial rig.
I don’t know how you could possibly top the range and depth of the presentations we had today. But gosh it is late now, and everyone wants to grab a feed and got back to their accommodation.
Tuesday 23rd October
A sunny warm morning and already a lot of the speakers have stories of independent ventures around the city of Turin, which positively glows at the moment. Some attendees are cycling from their hotel to the OGR venue on either [TO]Bikes or rentals, or on their own bikes.
At the start of the day at the OGR, the main stage was ready to go into Hyperspace.
Rob Bredow, the Head of ILM, the SVP, Executive Creative Director and Overall VFX Supervisor of Solo: A Star Wars Movie, began the day with a punch. (He didn’t cycle.)
It was great to see the elements of the same presentation he’d done in at SIGGRAPH this year, yet bringing something extra as well to the European crowd. They lapped it up.
The use of practical lighting effects during the SOLO production in the Millennial Falcon stage with the rear projecting screen has been written about here before. Rob is the kind of spirit to give credit to those around him, bringing that great story to life.
Bredow also detailed the formation of a massive explosion for a battle sequence. Research into ultra-high speed capture allowed ILM to replicate an airblast and repurpose this into the mountain crevasse. This produced what was the most realistic referenced mother of a blast, without any mountains being sacrificed at all. The camera was able to wind up to 25,000fps, the light was so bright everyone had to block their eyes. (for the record, it was 99Kw)
Bredow admits the best way to create a movie like SOLO was to ‘Just Start’. Bring in the best for each task. And as long as everyone is running in the same direction creatively, the results will surprise. ‘Know the Theme’. In the end, he says, it’s most important to ‘Share’. This beautifully segued into a talk about the many Open Source standards being brought into the industry. Standards like OpenEXR, Alembic, and MaterialX at ILM. The drive by the Academy Software Foundation (ASWF) is really about democratising Open Source. This will open up huge opportunities for collaboration and production cooperation. And isn’t that what we are here for?
There’s a whole lot of science blended into the visual effects shown at VIEW. There’s where I really get excited. Granted, some of the speakers only speak about their creative passion, but it’s only when the tiny electronic cogs behind the stylus match up with the creative juices that movie and game magic are produced.
So, what makes VIEW so special in its place in the creative arts scene? Aside from the stories of work at the coalface of entertainment, generally there is a camaraderie among the troops. This is a chance to work among the generals. To rub shoulders with their commanders and the heroes of a battle fought over the last few years. The flash points of invention are very close to the surface when these groups come together.
I sat at a table with Rob Bredow, Weta’s Matt Aitken, ILM’s David Vickery and HBO’s VFX Supervisor Jay Worth the other day. It was the first time they’d all met together ever, and the ideas and deals they spoke of I won’t go into. Yet, this was a particularly rare and insightful exchange which will most probably generate a recipe for producing tomorrow’s productions; something that probably wouldn’t have happened, if it wasn’t for VIEW.
At Midday, a very special presentation was at the Sala Fucine, the large dark hall at OGR. Hans Zimmer gave an inspiring talk about the direction he took in composing music. He spoke about the secret language of music and of not trying to tell the audience what to think. But the best advice was to target your offering to a person he recognized from this past. A fictional character but an icon of the type of person who needed the journey of his music the most. He called her Doris from Bradford. His advice to other composers, working and budding in the audience was to never take no for an answer when getting knockbacks. His job was was to convey the emotion of the script, to entertain and transform the audience. In doing so he revealed all the same weaknesses and paranoia every creative might face. Including that favorite one, procrastination. Hans said ‘were it not for the last second, nothing would be completed’.
He also recognized the time it took to finalize the right music. Sure, he said, he ‘may have done three Batman movies, but there go 12 years of your life.’ In that, I’m sure he meant you need to get out and live a little in order to maximize creative inspiration. There was a special surprise performance for Zimmer and the audience. Ten-year-old students from a local music school played several of Zimmer’s signature pieces and the reaction was priceless.
Movie / Game Convergence
There are two major flavors of Entertainment Media, in Movies and Games, that have closely related background stories. Popular theories expound that movies will be gamified and games will include the image quality of movies. Jan Bart van Beek took the audience through a journey where he revealed the backstory of the struggle to introduce multilinear storylines into Guerrilla Games products.
Oh, by the way, this is part of the highlights of my tram ride to the venue this morning in Turin. Truly chocolate box beauty in the traffic.
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Monday 22nd October
In one of the first Masterclass workshops for VIEW 2018, Bill Watral from Pixar acknowledged the production gymnastics of ‘walking a tightrope between visual style and visual effects.’ He straight away opened the Duomo room to extract audience experiences. What were their fears of landing on a particular style, a look which did not take advantage of the story arc. The mismatch begins where the effects may be brought in at a later stage, yet they will have to be part of a production design, which has been completed earlier on. Chicken and the Egg. Catch-22. He brought up an example of the space dance between Wall•E and Eve. Their dance in space near the end of the Wall*E movie added sparkling dust from the fire extinguisher. Watral feels this worked for the story and brought astonishing beauty to a fairly dark empty sequence.
Also, moving to Pixar shorts, the ocean surf in Piper was created after watching reference from an iPhone video. The bubbles in the surf and even the waves themselves weren’t physically accurate but they didn’t really need to be. They told the story. The visuals were enough. Danielle Feinberg is the Director of Photography and Lighting and an Annie Award winner. In Wall*E, she was up against truly enormous restrictions because there were so many assets, and no dialogue to help the story for the first half hour or so. She had to use lighting and her composition skills to convey the rich story and make Wall*E’s eye-language, expressions and body language tell the story clearly.
Like Nemo, there had to be a balance between the caustics of lighting, being realistic and being artistically pleasing.
Carlos Baena from Animation Mentor loves to talk about mentoring young industry guns in their animation projects. For Baena, his pet-project is La Noira, a short film he has been working infer some time. Built on a DAM system called Artella he and his team designed, Baena worked seven years and the short is quickly approaching completion. “Changing software halfway through a production isn’t recommended,” says Baena. “Neither is having a car crash during the production is also not a good investment for the future.” This was the part of an ongoing education the students and young crew. But Artella shows more than its worth and brought on those creative milestones at a quick rate. This online project collaboration toolkit is showing that it can bring the studio to the artist as opposed to the other way around.
The most distracting element of these presentations is the environment in and around the stage. The venue is the best I’ve witnessed in many years. And the Turin turned on its deep colours of Autumn (Fall) today. Taking it easy though today, because tomorrow is wall to wall Keynotes. If you are going to VIEW, do not miss anything from tomorrow.
Hmm, 2:35am. Time to post this and sleep.
Sunday 21st October
This is a beautiful day to arrive in Turin for the VIEW Conference. I even had a distant glimpse of the Italian Alps from the air before grabbing a ride into town and getting settled.
While Turin was waking up on this warm Sunday, over at the new venue for VIEW, OGR, there are Tech-checks in the big room. This whole venue needs to be seen to be believed. Such an incredible scale and richness here. These guys are ready for a big week.
Everything has already begun in the deep dark Sala Duomo room. First up at VIEW was a special presentation, where young game developers learn, live, how to pitch their project to a couple of venture capitalists. The pressure was on for some game startups from various parts of the game developer industry. Games veteran David Molyneux from the Games Co. in London, and Shelley LK the Managing Partner at Affiniti Ventures were running a group of small game developers through their paces (pictured above).
Rather like an intense episode of Shark Tank they were grilled about the various stages of production. Under Games, Karman Productions, Born Frustrated studio, and 3rd Round Studios and a bunch of others were showing their latest projects. How they generate funding, keep good developers, split the workload, pay them and keep the ideas flowing. Each have had their successes and failures. Giving them an idea to how to better run their small empires was the crux of today. Not disqualify or crush anyone’s dreams, which is a lot of what has happened in the dog-eat-dog world of the industry.
“While people make games, we find a lot of toxic feedback,” says Jami Salati, game designer at Born Frustrated Studios. “We want to leave a mark and bring fun into the making of games. An idea without developers is nothing. So there has to be fun in the making or it won’t get done.”
MY PERSONAL VIEW
Read along above this text of my week of VFX and Computer Graphics in Europe, a week completely full of presentations and workshops, master classes and production reports from all areas of that industry. This is the VIEW Conference in Turin, ITALY.
It’s been a while since I’ve been across to Turin. The last time was when I was the editor at CGSociety and I was invited to cover the event in 2009. I met a lot of wonderful people on that Italian job. Now, as a freelancer, I truly feel like I can write about anything I want to. This will be my blog of the 2018 event, with a new chapter every day, down-page, all on this post.
This time, the field of attractions covered is so much more focused. Having said that, there are classes in acting, pitching, and a focused panel on improving your media business.
An old friend, Carlos Baena is coming as well, and will be showing off the behind-the-scenes detail of La Noria during the VIEWFEST, which starts over the weekend before the conference. There are even sessions for game developers on the Sunday prior to the conference and a panel featuring women in animation on the last day of the conference. In 2018, VIEW brings new meaning to ‘refined and complete’.
Media has converged to a point, but it seems to me there are more forms of visual effects than there were before. Virtual Reality and AR, are now in the mainstream, or near to the mainstream. VIEW covers all of these new forms and no doubt suggests more for the future. The VIEW conference is now also being held in the newly restored Officine Grandi Riparazioni (OGR), a late-19th Century industrial building that now houses a 20,000 square meter Innovation Hub and Arts Center. As mentioned before, right in the middle of town and very close to the main rail hub.
Joining the list of previously announced speakers at VIEW 2018 are VFX Supervisor Thomas Hullin presenting Rodeo FX’s work on Game of Thrones, Rise Visual Effects’ Executive VFX Producer Florian Gellinger, showing that studio’s work on Ant-Man and the Wasp, and Weta Digital’s Head of R&D Paolo Emilio Selva discussing technology innovations at Weta Digital. In addition, Animation Director Troy Saliba and Digital Effects Supervisor Aharon Bourland from Double Negative will present their work on Venom.
There’s only one thing left to do really. If you haven’t already, go to the Registration page and get on board. Check the Program and work out your program for the week. And get the opportunity to meet the best in the business. The Job Fair is happening as well. If you see someone over by the sidelines looking a little lost, this is the place to network. He/She may be your next mentor or connection to a great project.
He might also be me. Come over and say hi. I’m looking forward to seeing everyone as well. See you next week. Leave a comment and let’s catch up.
There’s even an App for the VIEW Conference. DOWNLOAD here.