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FMX 2024 recap

A quick summary of FMX 2024 by Zoltan Batho G, producer at DIGIC Pictures:

DAY 1:

Yanick Dusseault and Sylvain Theroux from Raynault VFX showcased their amazing world building VFX work on Percy Jackson and the Olympians. Besides the standard Clarisse, Maya, Houdini toolsets they also added hashtag#unrealengine to the lot and provided fantastic backgrounds for ILM’s Stagecraft. Also learned, that as Clarisse is discontinued, they are planning to move to Houdini Solaris.

– MAX-R – Mixed Augmented and Extended Reality Media Pipeline. I was very happy to hear about this great European collaboration, which is trying to define, develop, validate and demonstrate a complete pipeline of tools for creating, processing and delivering maximum-quality XR content. Sara Coppola-Nicholson and Johannes Steurer provided great insight of the project and its bright future. I’ll definitely keep an eye on this consortium!

Andy McNamara from Cinesite showcased two exciting immersive art projects, a Rembrandt seascape at Frameless, and FORSAKEN at Outernet London. The latter one was not just astonishing, but was also for a good cause, which made it even more intriguing. A great message from Greenpeace with an absolutely mind-blowing end result!

Jonas Ussing pushed the “viral” button with his “NO CGI is really just INVISIBLE CGI” series on Youtube (https://lnkd.in/dUJ93-aC), and he well deserved to be one of the key presenters with industry veterans Nancy Ward and Kim Davidson . We did have a chance to watch the 4th and last part of series and then the whole room got into a heated debate about this major issue of lying about CGI / no CGI. I hope Studios and Productions will stop talking nonsense and they will be proud of their VFX providers spectacular works again!

– This year, I did have an opportunity to be a panelist on the “Innovating in Creative Education and Industry” fishbowl event (recorded in 360!!) and talk about the PANEURAMA initiative, which is basically trying to help the animation industry and institutions to close the requirement and expectation gaps for students coming out of education. Joey Relouw , Tuki Clavero , Chris Ebeling , Morten Thorning , Roberta Jablonskyte , Christian Müller, Rémy Sohier and Damien Byrne it was a pleasure sharing insights with you all!

– At the ZEISS Cinematography booth I was proud to watch the Unreal scene we created at Digic Pictures. It was showcased together with Zeiss’s fantastic camera tracking solution. If you get a chance, go and see it for yourself! Benjamin Hagen and Marius Jerschke will be more than happy to show you how the setup is working!

– The 1st presentation was a killer one: Paul Debevec, the recently Charles F. Jenkins Lifetime Achievement Awarded industry hero had a fantastic talk about his Eyeline Studios – Powered by Netflix and the hybrid VolCap solution there, plus about an old, but exciting technology called Sodium Vapor Matting. This technique was used by Disney up until about the 1980’s, but then it disappeared. Just recently, the Corridor Digital guys and Paul made it come back: https://lnkd.in/dm84FCRR

DAY 2:

David Van Dyke got us into the VP backstage of the Our Flag Means Death TV series shot in New Zealand. David shared some great insights about how he and his team managed to reduce the number of VFX shots for the second season mainly by using the practical elements and the VP volume in a smart way. This show is definitely punching above its weight in terms of look!

Jonathan Rawlinson & James C. from REALTIME showcased Doctor Who: Wild Blue Yonder, which was a special episode to commemorate the show’s 60th anniversary. Their original pain point was the short production timeline and long render times, so they made a brave decision of using Unreal Engine (4.27 at that time) for the CG environments. This meant 4 minutes per frame render time instead of 5 hours, thus delivering the project on time!

Christina Caspers-Römer, Nils Pauwels, Tobias Stärk & Markus Trautmann did a great job introducing VP for those, who were not entirely familiar with this technology, and promoting the great VES VP handbook, which should be on everyone’s bookshelves, who is even a tiny bit interested in VP: https://lnkd.in/gKfghDYh

– And then we had the privilege to watch and listen one of the most influential sci-fi writers in the world, Neal Stephenson, the writer of Snow Crash (https://lnkd.in/dVhbfMvp). To be honest, it is almost impossible to say anything about his presentation, it was heavy, dense and showed that Neal is still of the most switched-on visionaries of our current time, now experimenting a lot with AI. It was a true pleasure having him at FMX!

David Anastácio, Oliver Markowski and Bob White had an interesting discussion about the current industry standards like USD, Material-X and real-time technologies, and while they all agreed, that Pixar Animation Studios did a huge favor to the industry with open sourcing USD, they also emphasized, that it is still not a plug and play solution: studios wanting to change their pipelines should spend a lot of time developing their tools for it first.

– Last, but not least Matias Turkulainen tried to explain the differences between NeRFs and Gaussian Splatting. He had an absolutely mind-blowing knowledge of these solutions, it was extremely interesting to listen to him!

DAY 3:

Keith Miller from Wētā FX shared absolutely fantastic insights about their Oscar winner, Unreal Engine 5 rendered short animation film, War is Over! Their experience with EU at Weta was overwhelmingly positive, although they had to develop a ton of new tools. Flexible, iterative art direction and fast render times were among the many advantages of using Unreal Engine. Unfortunately, this talk was not recorded, I hope Keith will be able to share the production process with more people in the industry soon, it’s was extremely valuable to see how they tackled such a big take on.

Dave Gougé had 1 on 1 discussions with Anne Kolbe, Kim Davidson, Franck Lambertz and they all shared some great stories about how they became such influential in their fields, plus gave some valuable pieces of advice: listen to your instincts, let good people work as they prefer, give back to the community as much as you can, don’t stress about a carrier path too much. And the most important: be passionate in what you are doing! I guess we can all relate to this last one in the animation / VFX / entertainment industry.

Hanno Basse introduced Digital Domain‘s new Masquerade3 marker-less facial performance technology with some astonishing demo videos. Hanno also shared his positive, but rational view on AI and believes that we’ll have completely indistinguishable digital humans within a decade… exciting and scary at the same time!

Kay Delventhal shared his semi-fun, semi-professional project journey with us in a very entertaining way: he wanted to see how an AI pipeline can help a VFX Supervisor to analyze scripts and get proper VFX breakdown tables with reference images! The result: promising, helpful, but obviously not perfect, you still need an experienced VFX supervisor, like Kay to double check the items and remove the typical AI hallucinations or inconsistencies. This presentation will be “video on demand” later, I urge you to check it out.

Erasmus Brosdau introduced us to “Gundam: Requiem For Vengeance”, which is one of the first fully real-time (Unreal) rendered animated series for Netflix. The teams working on 6 episodes were surprisingly small, and Erasmus was a true Swiss Army Knife in the production. Looking forward to seeing the end result!

DAY 4:

Esteban Chacin from Moment Factory showed us how they created their absolutely mind blowing immersive experience in Paris, at the Invalides, called Aura. 26 projectors, 3500 m2 and about 126 million projected pixels. put of this world!

Ric Turner was very enthusiastic (for a good reason!) about showing us the production of the latest Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance theme park world. It was absolutely stunning how Ric and team used different tricks to make everyone believe that the wrold they are seeing is real. Real-life VFX at its highest!

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