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Author Topic: Event Review - VES Vancouver 2010 Celebration of Animation & Visual Effects  (Read 2895 times)
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Jill Pearson
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« on: December 02, 2010, 05:20:47 PM »

Event Review - 4th Annual Vancouver Visual Effects Society Celebration

On November 20th, 2010, the Vancouver Chapter of the Visual Effects Society hosted their 4th Annual Celebration of Animation and Visual Effects at the District 319 theatre and lounge in Vancouver, BC.

The evening began with a catered cocktail party, with guests flowing back and forth between the bar & lounge and the gallery room, which featured demos by Annex Pro and Lost Boys Learning: School of Visual Effects.   After guests took their seats in the theatre, VES Vancouver Chair Nancy Mott welcomed everyone to celebrate yet another year of great achievements.   The recently renovated heritage building, formerly an abandoned Asian movie house, features oversized chairs and spotlit sculptures of the Terracotta Army lining the walls.

Master of Ceremonies, Jon Cowley (Eclipse, District 9, Watchmen, Smallville) kicked off the evening with a positive commendation to all the artists and people involved in the Vancouver industry, noting that Vancouver has reached a "critical mass", with solid growth and first-run projects.   He spoke of new companies coming to Vancouver in the past year, including Digital Domain, Sony Pictures Imageworks, Pixar and Microsoft Game Studios. 

Jon also emphasized calibre and quality; as the Oscar nominations for District 9 confirmed what we already knew, there is no lack of talent in Vancouver.  He welcomed artists, supervisors, producers, HR talent and more at every level from all over the world, thanking them for blending their knowledge with ours, and in return, we introduced them to snowboarding and apparently, the back room at the Morrissey Pub.

After watching the Houdini demo reel from event sponsor Side Effects Software, featuring shots from feature films, commercials, student projects and videogame cinematics, Jon introduced Harry Mukhopadhyay, Lead FX Technical Director at MPC Vancouver.  Harry led us through the making of Hades, a giant 12 foot tall fire demon from Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief

Once the concept work was translated into a 3D model, facial movement and expression became paramount.  The team used the ‘Mova CONTOUR Reality Capture’ system and integrated the data into MPC’s in-house motion blending tools and motion clips manager. Harry explained that it was important to stay as true as possible to the performance of actor Steve Coogan. 

He also demonstrated the making of the layers of high resolution photo-realistic fire simulations that envelop the character.  The team used Scanline's Flowline software to simulate the fire, and then plugged into MPC’s rendering system to generate accurate illumination onto the character.

Next at the podium were Tom Cowland & Nigel Denton-Howes from Image Engine, leading us through their  research and development process for the propietary Fur and Hair systems that were developed for the wolves and the character Victoria in Twilight: Eclipse.  As their timeline permitted, they decided to design their own fur system to maintain more control and ability for modifications in the pipeline at any stage during production.

Tom and Nigel introduced us to their Cortex Project, an open source set of high quality C++ libraries and Python modules tailored for software development in the visual effects industry, available at http://code.google.com/p/cortex-vfx/.   Image Engine uses many open source projects as part of their  research and development efforts and in return are pleased to be releasing key components of their internal toolset back to the community.

One of the biggest changes in pipeline in visual effects over the past few years has been the re-emergence of stereoscopic presentation and the development of a number of different processes to work with live action and animation, on-set and in post.  Project Manager for Stereoscopic Conversion Sean Konrad demonstrated the configurations for stereoscopic production used by Prime Focus on shows such as Clash of the Titans.   

When Warner Brothers challenged Prime Focus to convert the feature to 3D in just eight weeks, they were quick to accept the challenge and set up a system using Fusion-io Drives and their propietary View-D process.   Sean explained,  “With typical VFX projects, we complete about 20-30 shots per day. The ioDrives scaled our data load capabilities by about twenty times. This improved our productivity about 2-4x."

In Vancouver there is a strong triad of the three sectors of visual effects, animation and videogames, and with such a tight community, many friends and associates across the board.  Invited to join the Celebration from the animation sector was director Wilson Tang from Rainmaker Entertainment, presenting their short film for the Shanghai Expo Cooper and Zinka.   Although the project was produced with a commercial client (Teck) and various stakeholders from industry and government, Wilson succeeded in creating a visually stunning story using multiple animation techniques.  He emphasized the creativity and teamwork in problem solving and look development, and demonstrated the use of practical elements such as cotton ball clouds and tin foil prairies to create a very Canadian landscape for the film. 

Wrapping up the presentations was Paul Amer, Head of Art from BigPark (Microsoft Game Studios).  Paul's humorous presentation took us through the making of the interactive tiger character in Xbox 360's new release Kinectimals.  The game invites the player to build a friendship with some of the world’s most exotic creatures, such as the tiger cub in the demo.  Paul showed a blooper reel of trial renders and their various errors to commands such as “jump,” “roll over” and “play dead”.  Microsoft acquired Yaletown's  BigPark last year to focus on Xbox 360 and Kinect controller-free games.

More information about the Visual Effects Society and how to become a member is available on their website.

Sponsors for the 4th Annual Event included: Side Effects Software, Autodesk, Annex Pro, Compugen, Microsoft Game Studios, MPC, Image Engine, Prime Focus, Rainmaker, Digital Domain, Vidcom, Oceana, CIS Vancouver, Lost Boys Learning, DGC, EdgeCeptional Catering and BC Film Commission.


Jill Pearson
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