VIEW Conference Reflections
By Barbara Robertson
March 25, 2014

VIEW Conference Reflections

Usually, I report on the annual VIEW conference soon after returning home from Italy. This year, I wanted to wait until the first flush of excitement had mellowed and I had time to reflect. The conference season 2014 has begun. Reflection time is done.

It’s fitting that Italy’s premier computer graphics conference has a permanent home in Torino, Italy, where two major museums celebrate the birth of cinema and the history of the automobile. Torino has historically played a major role in both industries. Today, the VIEW conference plays homage to that history and propels the city into the future by bringing together leading figures in filmmaking, game development, and design. That will be as true this year when the conference rolls into full swing October 14 to 17 as it has been for the past 15 years.

If you were to boil down the major computer graphics, digital media, and design conferences to a core and surround it with the nurturing sense of family so important in Italian culture you would have the recipe that VIEW Director Maria Elena Gutierrez has perfected over the years.

Last October, for example, the 8,000 attendees learned from John Knoll, the creative director of Industrial Light & Magic, Kris Pearn, and Cody Cameron, who directed the animated feature Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2, and David Misch, stand-up comedian, screenwriter (“Saturday Night Live”), and author of “Funny: The Book/Everything you Always Wanted to Know About Comedy.”

Conference Director Maria Elena Gutierrez and ILM's John Knoll

Two Oscar nominees, ILM’s Roger Guyett, who was visual effects supervisor and second unit director for “Star Trek into Darkness,” and Christopher Townsend, visual effect supervisor for “Iron Man 3” showed audiences how their teams created award-winning visual effects for those films, as did Max Solomon, animation supervisor at Framestore for “Gravity,” which won the Oscar for best visual effects.

Artists on teams from Pixar, PDI/Dreamworks, The Moving Picture Company, MacGuff, Image-Engine, and Sony Pictures Imageworks also presented their work. And this is VIEW’s secret sauce: Joining these artists from the feature-film world were top artists from interactive media (Andrew Merkin from Mirada Studios, Adam Volker from Moonbot), independent game developers, as well as pioneering computer graphics scientists.

Computer graphics legend Paul Debevec from the USC Institute for Creative Technologies offered a full-day workshop on advances in achieving photoreal digital actors, and who better than the man who introduced HDRI and image-based lighting to filmmakers? David Salesin surprisingly convinced everyone that there is, indeed, a connection between tango and CG research that can lead to sublime user experiences, and he left magic in the air.

Tony Saliba from Imageworks walked the audience through the making of “Oz,” Christopher Burrows splashed the screens with Pixar’s “Blue Umbrella,” Sandra Karpman revealed the secret camera rules of Pixar, Lucia Modesto from PDI/DreamWorks rigged animated characters’ faces, Henrik Fett, co-founder of LOOK Effects showed “Warm Bodies,” Stephan Franck, director of “The Smurfs: The Legend of Smurfy Hollow,” gave the audience a lesson in the value of friendship and animated features.  And, the remarkable Glenn Entis, who co-founded PDI, was CEO of DreamWorks Interactive, chief visual and technical officer of Electronic Arts, and a founding partner of Vanedge Capital, shared lessons he’s learned about believing in yourself and making lemons into lemonade. 

There were many more great speakers complemented by many in-depth workshops. More than I can mention in a short blog. But, not too many. And therein lies the genius of the VIEW conference. 

I’ve attended conferences that seem to try to include everything possible, and the multiple tracks are so overwhelming that I end up running from one end of a convention center to someplace else. Sometimes I throw my hands up in the air, spend time in the hallways instead, and completely miss a talk. Conferences like those can be exciting, but more often I find myself frustrated by what I can’t accomplish.

For the VIEW conference, Director Gutierrez carefully selects speakers at the top of their game – their games – and she and her team provide a schedule that allows the attendees to hear all the speakers if they choose. And the other speakers are in the audience, too, listening, asking questions at the end. So, there is a lot of interaction and collaboration. Speakers refer to earlier talks, noting how those talks inspired new thoughts, and the energy rises. At a closing-night dinner, many of the speakers created “thank you” drawings for Gutierrez, which she shared with me. All this – the talks, the practical workshops, the enthusiasm among speakers – benefit the attendees. And everyone enjoys being in Torino.

Thank you drawing to Maria Elena from Cody Cameron and Kris Pearn

Surrounding the conference building is a beautiful baroque city with the river Po a few blocks in one direction and the city center with its arcaded streets, café culture, piazzas, and palaces a short distance in the other. Torino is known today for its chocolatiers, and the city is proud of its position as the center of the delicious Slow Food movement, something to which every attendee can attest when they step on the scales back home.

OK. I’m done trying to put into words how special this conference is. You will have to see for yourself. In 2014, the VIEW conference will be October 14 to 17. Learn. Enjoy. Be inspired. Go.