Growing the Community: Participants applaud the 13th annual VIEW conference.
Beautiful Turin, Italy.
It isn’t easy to put your finger on why the VIEW conference is so special, and I’m one of many who try. “Each year VIEW gets better,” says Pam Hogarth, director of Marketing for LOOK Effects and vice-chair Visual Effects Society. “The quality of the speakers and the content this year was exceptional.”
This year, director Maria Elena Gutierrez brought a remarkable group of speakers to Turin, Italy, for the 13th annual conference, introduced an imaginative two-day workshop on creativity and innovation led by Autodesk fellow Tom Wujec, and broadened the reach of the conference into the community.
Held each year in mid- to late October, the computer graphics conference, the largest in Italy, gathers top professionals into a four-day, close-knit community to share their expertise with each other and with conference attendees. This year, speakers also gave presentations at various schools in Turin, and student interns from local universities helped document the presentations through photographs and films.
Speakers gather outside the conference.
“Last year was such a valuable experience that I vowed I would return,” says Henrik Fett, LOOK effects founder. “I am so glad I did. The amazing way in which this event combines the exposure to the student community with the opportunity to mingle with your fellow industry veterans is exceptional.”
This year’s speaker list included directors Eric Darnell (Madagascar 3) from PDI/DreamWorks, Genndy Tartakovsky (Hotel Transylvania) from Sony Pictures Animation, Dan Attias (Lost, The Sopranos, Homeland, Deadwood, and more), and Mark Walsh (“Partysaurus Rex”) from Pixar Animation Studios. Altogether, directors, visual effects supervisors, cinematographers, and sound designers who worked on 10 feature films presented their work at the conference.
“I loved the fact that the conference wasn’t just focused on computer imagery,” says Darnell. “There were filmmakers and artists with a range of backgrounds and expertise, from the great sound designer Gary Rydstrom to the amazing puppeteer Erminio Pinque of Rhode Island’s Big Nazo Lab.”
Seven-time Oscar winner Rydstrom from Skywalker Sound, who most recently designed sound for Brave and Wreck-it-Ralph, offered a master class and gave the closing keynote address. Pinque presented his work through documentaries and character creation workshops at VIEW, in local schools, and in performances at odd moments during the conference. You never knew when Pinque might show up inside one of his huge cartoon-like creations, a giant dog wearing a suit and tie, a green alien, an indefinable creature. But, each time he did, he evoked joy and laughter.
Visual effects supervisors Paul Franklin from Double Negative (Dark Knight Rises), Jason Smith from Industrial Light & Magic (Avengers), Dan Glass from Method Studios (Cloud Atlas), and Sirio Quintavalle from Framestore (Sherlock Holmes II) gave presentations and participated in workshops, as did head of matte painting Marco Genovesi from The Moving Picture Company (Prometheus), and animation supervisors Rex Grignon (Madagascar trilogy) from PDI/DreamWorks and David Schaub from Sony Pictures Imageworks (The Amazing Spider-Man).
Creative director Habib Zargapour from Microsoft Studios brought filmic visual effects into games. Halo designer Josh Holmes provided a glimpse into Halo 4 and a reminder of why storytelling is so important.
Says Holmes, “VIEW was an incredible event featuring transformative talks from creative leaders at the top of their craft in film and interactive media. I felt humbled to be included in that company and found myself constantly inspired by the ideas and observations being shared and fascinated to discover the commonalities in each individual’s approach to the creative process despite distinctly different methods of expression. It was a reaffirmation of why I do what I do. That was an amazing gift.”
“VIEW was a wonderful experience,” says ILM’s Smith. “It’s not often you get to be surrounded by extremely creative people that work in very different areas of media who also happen to be very nice people. The atmosphere at VIEW lends itself to conversation and collaboration. I found myself picking up ideas from stop motion, games, directing, creature and sound design that I can apply in visual effects.”
The conference seemed more festive this year than before, and even more participatory. Most of the speakers stayed for the entire conference, and, in addition to giving their presentations, many offered master classes, took part in workshops, and contributed to panels including one that I moderated.
When Maria Elena asked me to lead the two-hour roundtable, I blanched. “That’s too long,” I thought. But, on the panel were Gary Rydstrom, Eric Darnell, Genndy Tartakovsky, Chris Perry (founder of Bit Films, professor of media arts and sciences at Hampshire College), Tristan Oliver (cinematographer for ParaNorman), and Dan Attias. I needn’t have worried. It was amazing.
The auditorium was packed; every seat filled. For two hours, the conference attendees asked the panelists questions. Other speakers sitting in the audience asked the panelists questions and answered questions from audience members. The panelists asked each other questions, responded to each other. It was interactive. The conference attendees not only had their questions answered, they discovered what the other speakers, top professionals in their fields who weren’t on the panel, wanted to learn from their peers. No one left. It could have gone on longer. Finally, I had to say, “This is the last question.” And then relented when Jon Peddie, who had spoken earlier on CG trends, raised his hand to offer one more comment. The session was, in a way, I believe, symbolic of the conference as a whole.
“The VIEW conference is inspiring to be a part of because it combines an eager, educated audience with an impressive array of top-of-their-profession presenters,” says Rydstrom. “As one of those presenters, I’m sure I learned as much as any audience member. It is a rich experience for everyone.”
“VIEW was unlike any other event I’ve attended,” agrees Oliver. “The quality and experience of the speakers from all branches of the profession was exceptional, but probably the best thing was the collegiate atmosphere.”
“It was an incredible event,” adds Perry. “It was an intimate setting without being exclusive. For every presentation that celebrated the combined work of hundreds, there seemed to be a talk featuring the work of only a few. In the same room, we had representatives from the Avengers and Tears of Steel. From Halo 4 and Papa & Yo. It brought young people together with long-time and much-celebrated industry veterans to listen, talk, present, and learn about the latest and greatest in CG, VFX, film, gaming, design, and more.”
Perhaps the most intriguing and interactive sessions were those led by Autodesk’s Tom Wujec. Billed as a “Creative Bootcamp,” the two-day workshop designed and led by Wujec, with help from PDI co-founder and venture capitalist Glenn Entis, encouraged students and professionals who attended from several countries to imagine the future and design innovative products. Working with the bootcamp attendees were many of the speakers. The walls filled with notes scribbled on Post-its as the participants worked through hundreds of ideas and inspirations.
Students from Lo Steiner photographed the bootcamp and sessions throughout the conference, creative writing students from Scuola Holden and filmmakers from ITS of La Piazza Dei Mesteri documented the events, and those from the Vittoria linguistics school provided translation services. Some of their work by the student interns is already on the VIEW conference Facebook page.
Gutierrez also plans to put videos of various sessions recorded by the student interns on the VIEW conference website. It’s one way in which she is extending the conference beyond the four days in October. Another is through ongoing workshops planned throughout the year. Already scheduled is a camera mapping workshop in early December offered by Dan Shutt of Escape Studios.
But to enjoy the full VIEW magic, you’ll need to plan a trip to Turin, Italy next year, October 15 to 18. And, you should.
“VIEW is a rare event indeed,” says Dan Glass. “Not only for its situation in one of the more beautiful regions of the world, but the gathering of unusual and inspiring minds that keep your thoughts whirring well beyond the conference close. It leaves great memories and the motivation to keep involved in interesting work that might entice another invite!”
Barbara Robertson is an award-winning writer and a contributing editor for Computer Graphics World. She can be reached at BarbaraRR@comcast.net.