As the sun went down over the Abbotsford convent the blue sky turned to red and orange. A small army of visual effects and gaming industry professionals started to take their seats in front of a large outdoor cinema screen. The red wine flowed as Kristin McCourtie of the Ideas on Design walked casually onto the stage and introduced some of the world's best 3-D, gaming and visual effects artists.
The amazing panel included: Alex Alvarez, the charismatic founder of the acclaimed Gnomon Visual Effects School in Hollywood, who mesmerised the crowd with his passion for his craft; Dylan Ekren, the light-hearted and fun modelling supervisor at Walt Disney who brings characters to life; Alexandre Lopes Cancado, the 2D Supervisor at Luma Pictures LA with his cool Brazilian style and buckets of energy; Brandon Fayette, the extremely approachable and friendly CG Supervisor on The Force awakens; Jonathan Berube, Art Director at Blizzard Entertainment, who added a sense of style to the eventwith his French-Canadian accent and stylish clothes; Devon Fay, the amazingly talented Senior Environment Artist from Infinity Ward; and the intriguing Joy Lea, 3D Artist from DICE LA.
Kristin McCourtie asked the panel to talk about what Star Wars meant to them. Brandon from Bad Robot, the production company behind The Force Awakens, described his feelings of apprehension mixed with excitement and fear of taking on such an epic, cultural and important visual effects project.
He went on to explain how the Star Wars movie influenced him as a kid and had led him to a career in visual effects and animation. The audience knew they were in the right place and were lapping it up.
The light-hearted discussion continued, centred around how Star Wars culture had affected the panel in meaningful ways and there was a sense in the audience of mutual understanding and love for the sci-fi tale.
As the sun was almost set, a large flock of fruit bats flew over the convent halting the conversation, jokes were a plenty as panellists described how they were a little freaked out, and how Australia must be a wild country. The bantering and teasing continued on stage and gave the audience the sense that the panel had known each other well for years and they probably have as all were graduates of the GNoman school.
The Force Awakens commencedto cheers on the big screen and it was a surreal atmosphere watching such state-of-the-art visual effects, in an eclectic Victorian style convent.
The visitors today knew this was going to be an interesting weekend.
Over the two days 13 speakers showed beautiful animations and amazing 3-D images and discussed the techniques involved in creating technically and visually high-quality work. They also discussed the challenges around building production pipelines. There was also much discussion on the best render out to use from the V-Ray to RenderMan.
The keynote speaker Brandon from Bad Robot delivered a talk about his journey from being a student to becoming a CG visual supervisor. Brandon then explained how they delivered so many high quality visual effects shots with just a small team. His technique focused on working the hardest on the areas that the audience focuses on within the shot, and not wasting any time perfecting areas that were not focused on by the viewer. He also discussed how Bad Robot had a diverse cultural team and had the largest female workforce of any production company in LA. He was confident that this had positive effects on the success of both the creative work and company. His take-home message was: he was just an ordinary guy who worked hard and got to the top of his field, and that any student who worked hard and had a bit of luck along the way could succeed too.
Alexandre from Luma Pictures LA and Melbourne, gave tips for students on how to create and present your work to visual effects companies. The main tip was to design your work to match the style of the work of the company you are applying for. For example if it’s a photo realistic shot, you should create your own photo realistic shot to match the style. If the shots are stylised, you should create your own stylised shot. Another tip was to find a piece of work that you like and recreate it to show that you can match the continuity of another shot.
Running side-by-side with the talks were amazingly detailed and clearly communicated demos. The demos ran for three hours and included topics such as lighting and concept art techniques, bringing characters to life from 2D to 3D, techniques to rapidly create hair and grass. The artists had superior knowledge of the software and use program such as Z Brush to sculpt characters, Photoscan to turn pictures into 3D objects, as well as Maya, xNormal, Photoshop and RenderMan. The demos were interesting insights for the professionals and inspiring demonstrations of skill for the students.
The Australian contingent were equally as inspiring with Emily Harridge from Visual Playground, a pioneer in broadcast design and a leading woman in the industry. Emily outlined the changing face of motion graphics and her boutique animation studio, an interesting contrast from the big budget gaming and visual effects companies.
The founders of Zero Latency VR, Scott Vandonkelaar and James De Colling, have created a much talked about cutting edge technology product offering with their virtual reality gaming facility. The guys discussed what they are presently working on in Melbourne and have big plans to roll their product out nationally.
Aaron Grove, Co-Founder and Creative Director of Blowfish Studios, discussed how they have been growing their start-up to a full-service game developer in Sydney. He also talked about the importance of culture and getting the creative team balance right. He highlighted the challenges of competing on a global scale and a lack of government industry support in New South Wales. He had praise for the work done to create the arcade, a co-working space for game developers in Melbourne.
Simon Rosenthal from Iloura discussed the challenges of making Mad Max, over two studios in Melbourne / Sydney and how to manage different team cultures within one company. Simon then kicked off a discussion about higher education training and the best way to deliver industry-ready students to work in the visual effects industry. There was much positive discussions on this topic in between sessions with ideas from both industry and educators.
Rising Sun pictures also attended with both their creative director and manager of training and education. Rising Sun were promoting their short courses to try and further equip graduates and help them into the industry. Swinburne University had their key 3-D / 2D animation and gaming lecturers in attendance.
Art station also had a presence, explaining their product offering which allows students to post their portfolios and show reels online.
This was a mind blowing event both for its content and its access to the speakers. With 300 people attending there was ample opportunity to chat and network.
Ideas on Designs Kristin McCourtie, Elise Bufton and their a team delivered, a well-organised, awesome event, that inspired students and industry professionals.
For more info on the speakers or the conference check out : www.ideasondesign.net