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fmx/08 drew the cg community to Stuttgart's conferences

In its 13th annual appearance, the fmx/08 has once more lived up to its reputation. For four full days, the conference on all things relevant to digital entertainment drew the international cg community to Stuttgart's Haus der Wirtschaft to inform themselves about the latest developments and – more importantly – to exchange ideas and experiences. The comprehensive and first-rate program is decisive in making this event the best of its kind in Europe, but other factors also play a role. Under the Animation Institute's lead, the FMX has been able to garner an atmosphere in which students, companies and world- class speakers engage in heartfelt discussion. The spirit of FMX is entrenched in the participation that the visitors bring with them.

Top-Notch Programming

Guests looking for big names at fmx/08 were well rewarded: Disney, Pixar, Dreamworks, Aardman and other leading studios were present in numerous presentations. The visual effects ivy league was also in attendance with ILM, LucasArts, Framestore and Double Negative. And true global 'players' as well: Electronic Arts, Sony, Ubisoft, Crytek. This year's particularly lush line-up is certainly a reflection of the partnership with VES (Visual Effects Society) who activated their outstanding list of contacts. And the companies weren't the only participants packing excellent credentials. Quite a few of speakers were winners of the Technical Achievement Award (often referred to as the ”Tech-Oscar”) or other renowned awards such as the Emmys. Their work demonstrates what VES chief Eric Roth's panel of experts substantiated: the borders between visual effects and animation are becoming blurred – and the last vestiges of one-dimensional thinking is giving way to holistic approaches. A sizzling hot topic that Alex McDowell addressed in his discussion round is the new ”digital production space” that allows designer, camera man and vfx supervisor to work together intensively from the very beginning of a project. Other participants in this revealing debate were VFX Senior Art Director Alex Laurent from LucasArts, Director of Photography and Lighting Sharon Calahan from Pixar (Ratatouille), VFX Supervisor Chris Watts (300, The Corpse Bride) and VFX Supervisor Sven Martin from Elektrofilm (Die Gustloff).

Young companies operating on the front line of technological developments are at least as important for the FMX program, most visibly in the series Media Future, Echtzeit and Digital Cinema, curated by the Stuttgart Media University, as well as the fmx/artek exhibit. These important contributions offered a fascinating glimpse at what developments the world of cg have in store for us over the next few years. Abundant, thought-provoking and informative assessments that met with evident enthusiasm: Well over 6,000 visitors from 40 countries descended on Stuttgart for fmx/08. In comparison to recent years, the number of visitors from Germany remained solid while the number of international guests continued to rise – by more than 40%. A further indication of the high standards set at FMX: the percentage of decision-makers among the visitors also continued to grow, while maintaining the ideal proportion of two professionals to every one student.

Far-reaching trends; convergence and interactivity

Whether newcomer or conglomerate – two basic trends were undisputed.

Trend No. 1: the segmentation of isolated formats and platforms is a thing of the past. Convergence has become the keyword for the increasing need to make content available on all platforms and at all times. After all, the complete array of media have now migrated to one same, digital basis technology. In the meantime, ideas, characters and stories are much less dependent on a specific medium or genre. The distribution paths they take can be woven seamlessly together. This freedom and simplicity plays into the hands of the creatives in the industry. One example among many was presented by Aardman Animations: the figure Angry Kid was originally intended for television, but first made a splash in the internet before going on to star in mobile content downloads and the digital channel BBC Three. Proof that convergence is rampant in non-creative sectors as well was offered by the series Visual Computing Cluster, curated by MFG Innovation and dedicated to visualization and simulation in scientific or industrial context. The automotive industry with its strong base in the South West of Germany offers a good example of the transfer of animation and 3D technologies to the economic sector: today, design usually relies on computer-assisted visualization. The institutions and high-tech companies in the Cluster presentations included the Universities of Konstanz and Karlsruhe, the German Cancer Research Center, the Fraunhofer Institutes of Mannheim and Darmstadt as well as TRIDELITY and IC:IDO.

Trend No. 2: the passive consumer is giving way to the active user. Prerequisite for the interactive use of digital media is the immediate availability of animation in realtime. This technology is surpassing its roots in computer games, demo-scenes and machinima and is becoming the driving force behind computer animation, even in film. And the aesthetics and narrative of modern gaming worlds are in keeping with the technology... no longer comparable with their often crude beginnings. Serious games have become a means for education and training, casual games are now elaborate time-killers and immersive games offer the empathy and suspense of cinema. Details of gaming diversity and import were presented at great length together with Joseph Olin, president of the Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences.

5D Conference: the way stories will be told

Despite the many achievements that have already been made, we are only at the beginning of the 3D revolution, as new artistic and technical possibilities are becoming visible on the horizon. The renowned production designer Alex McDowell (Minority Report, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Corpse Bride) coined the term ”immersive design” to allude to the increasingly porous quality of story structures. The borders between reality and viruality are blurring, the audience is taking part in a world created via 3D techniques and virtual design – but infused through and through with narrative. fmx/08 was the backdrop before which Alex McDowell discussed a new culture of design with Malcolm Garrett, Creative Director of Applied Information Group and Alex Laurent, VFX Senior Art Director with LucasArts.

Story is Everything: Wrinting for Animation

Whether live-action or animation: no film can be good without a good story. MFG Filmfoerderung's Panel for Writing Animation has become an integral part of the FMX. Susanne Schlosser, most recently Director of EM.TV, led the lively presentation of three current productions: The Cold Heart by Hannes Rall and Martina Doecker (an adaption of the fable by Wilhelm Hauff); the return of Annie & Boo as a feature film and Klaeff and Haxe by Stefan Raiser (Dreamtool Entertainment) and Simon X.Rost.

fmx/forum: a complete success

fmx/forum bridges the industry and young talent, but it is also a hands-on trainings center at an extaordinary level of expertise. A wide array of talks, demos, masterclasses and seminars complement fmx/expo in offering visitors the chance to learn about innovations and polish personal qualifications. In 2008, the impression these offerings had on the audience was almost tangible: parallel series of events were met with a run of enthusiasm, as were the recriuiting sessions. A major indicator of the success of the concept and quality of these events was the participation of practically all leading members of the industry, including Pixar, Disney, Autodesk, Microsoft, Adobe, Softimage, NVIDIA, NaturalMotion, Luxology, weltenbauer., MAXON, Massive Software, Side Effects and Quantel. The feedback at the recruiting desks was particularly noteworthy. Students and new talent had the opportunity to meet the employer of their dreams from Germany, Europe and the USA – which they did in droves. At the same time, most companies of distinction sent recruiters to Stuttgart to build contacts or crew up for upcoming projects. FMX is overjoyed to note: the spark of inspiration infected both applicant and company – even as personal exchange.

Premiere: The Deutsche Telekom Digital Entertainment Awards@fmx/08

The first-ever annual Digital Entertainment Award is the result of a cooperation between the Deutsche Telekom and fmx/08 and targets established companies and research institutions as well as the independent scene and students. An expert jury selected 3 winners from 9 nominees in 3 categories. Each winner received a prize of 5,000 Euros and an individual consultation with experts from the Deutsche Telekom.
The winners were:

Best New Technology in Effects & Animation:
Pro FX by Dr. Sebastien Deguy, Allegorithmic, France

Young Talents Award:
Comino by Jakob Leitner, Fachhochschule Hagenberg, Germany

Best Interactive Design & Usability:
Motionized™ by Philippe J. Dewost, Realeyes3d, France


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