VIEW 2014: An Overview
Barbara Robertson
January 5, 2015

VIEW 2014: An Overview

The annual VIEW conference held in Torino, Italy, is unique in the world of computer graphics conferences. The uniqueness comes from the blend of elements, rather than from any one particular feature.

Torino, Italy

VIEW is a curated conference, with speakers selected from the world of computer graphics by Director Maria Elena Gutierrez. Each speaker presents his or her work in the same auditorium throughout the four days, an auditorium that accommodates approximately 500 people. The audience comes and goes through the day, and there are workshops in other areas of the conference center, which accounts for the total attendance reaching 5,000-plus. But, you could sit in one comfortable theater seat all day and hear all the major talks in a setting that is far, far more intimate than, for example, a large production session at SIGGRAPH. And yet, the presentations are on many of the same topics and of the same high quality. 

The result is dramatic. The speakers are the top professionals in their field. The audience is engaged. The speakers typically finish their talk, return to their seats, and join the audience for the next talk. 

Why do such renowned speakers come to Italy from all over the world to attend VIEW, and then ask to return? 

“It was an unforgettable experience for me,” writes legendary animator Glen Keane, who was a keynote speaker. Keane’s animated film “Duet” is now on the short list for 2015 Oscar nominations. In addition to “Duet,” a hand-drawn short film for mobile devices, Keane shared his inspiration in creating such well-loved animated characters as Ariel in The Little Mermaid and the Beast in Beauty and the Beast.  

Glen Keane

A second keynote speaker, Alvy Ray Smith, award-winning computer graphics pioneer, inventor, Pixar co-founder, artist, and author, gave an eye-opening talk called “Pixels to Pixar.” Smith, who is no stranger to computer graphics conferences, dives deeper into VIEW’s uniqueness in a note sent after the conference: 

“The VIEW conference verified Turin's claim to be a city of magic,” Smith writes. “The brew in this case consisted of toads, mushrooms, and a witch, of course. The toads were us, I suppose – the carefully selected mix of speakers. I've never so enjoyed the speakers at a conference more. I liked them all. I even attended most of their wonderful talks – that's got to be a first for me. I'm saying this after having attended decades of conferences. The mushrooms were the white truffles in season. The elixir was vintage Barbarescos. And the good witch! She was Maria Elena Gutierrez, whose brainchild VIEW is, a tiny sprite of a woman whose quiet grace made us all want to perform at our best. A truly fine celebration of animation that's not to be missed.”

Alvy Ray Smith and Stefen Fangmeier

Also on the short list for a 2015 Oscar nomination is “Feast,” a short animated film that Director Patrick Osborne from Disney Animation Studios presented at VIEW. Both “Duet” and “Feast” have already received Annie award nominations.

Speakers representing films now on the short list for 2015 visual effects Oscar nominations included Industrial Light & Magic’s Scott Farrar (Transformers: Age of Extinction), Weta Digital’s Keith Miller ( Dawn of the Planet of the Apes), Framestore’s Kyle McCulloch, and MPC’s Jo Plaete ( Guardians of the Galaxy).

And, representing animated feature films likely to receive Oscar nominations were Rob Coleman from Animal Logic (The Lego Movie) , Alessandro Jacomini from Disney ( Big Hero 6), Alessandro Carloni from DreamWorks ( How to Train Your Dragon 2), and Nelson Lowry from Laika ( The Boxtrolls).

Rob Coleman

In addition to these speakers, Animation Supervisor David Schaub of Sony Pictures Imageworks returned to VIEW to present the studio’s work on The Amazing Spider-Man 2, and to host a workshop on physics for animators. Character Technical Director Supervisor Lucia Modesto of PDI/DreamWorks returned to offer rigging workshops.  Animation Supervisor Tim Harrington from ILM presented Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles . Stefen Fangmeier gave a talk on the effects in Sin City: A Dame to Kill For. Bill Watral from Pixar Animation Studios brought the charming short film “Lava.” And, Noëlle Triaureau and Marcelo Vignali of Sony Pictures Animation brought cuteness in the form of artwork, production designs, and animation tests for the first fully computer-generated Smurf movie, scheduled for release in 2016. 

Moving into other areas of computer graphics, one of the most heart-warming talks was from David Putrino of Weill-Cornell Medical College who presented Not Impossible Labs’ groundbreaking “Project Daniel,” which utilizes 3D printers to make prosthetic arms for children of war in south Sudan. There were also talks on immersive virtual reality for storytelling (Kim Baumann Larsen), on game pipelines from Blizzard’s R&D Lead Parag Havaldar, a workshop on improvisational acting given by the inimitable Brenda Bakker Harger, theater director and professor at the Carnegie Mellon University’s Entertainment Technology Center, and many others.  

Most of these speakers have attended and presented their work at various conferences over the years, so after VIEW, I asked a few of them to help me understand what makes this conference unique. Here are their voices:

Keith Miller of Weta Digital writes, “I had the pleasure of attending my first VIEW conference in Turin this year where I was able to present Weta Digital's work on Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. Even ignoring the beauty of what the city itself has to offer, I have to say that I was really impressed with the conference in a way that I've not experienced at other, much larger and perhaps more extensively funded events even. What VIEW is truly able to achieve is a sense of a community – not only amongst the attendees – but the organizers and presenters as a whole. I have never participated in a conference or event like this where one is able to establish such close ties in such a short time (over many beautiful Italian dinners of course!). VIEW is not one to be missed.”

Scott Farrar

Scott Farrar made his second appearance at VIEW after presenting Transformers: Dark of the Moon in 2011. This year, the senior visual effects supervisor and second unit director brought some on-location footage and showed the massive amount of visual effects in Transformers: The Age of Extinction.

“Most venues I have attended are large conventions where I give a presentation with my team, go to some talks, and visit the booths in search of the newest ideas,” says Farrar, who has received an Oscar for best visual effects and has a long list of Oscar nominations. “I run into people I know, and I may get introduced to some new folks, which I enjoy. The VIEW Conference is very different. It is smaller, more intimate since the venue is mainly one theater, and more personal. At this year's conference, I got to hear and meet almost every speaker. I got to spend time with them and learn more about them and their work. All the guest speakers are experts in their fields. Most of them were in animated films and games, branches of the entertainment business that are quite different than mine: live-action visual effects. So the real joy of this conference is to learn about other people and their careers and passions completely outside of what I know, in a very personal way. It was great.”

Lucia Modesto of PDI/DreamWorks, who has spoken and given workshops at previous VIEW conferences, is another VIEW alum. 

“I had the pleasure this year to give a few workshops to adults and children about rigging,” she says, “and they exceeded my expectations about what I would get from doing them. Seeing the kids’ faces light up when they realized they had built a character was a fantastic reward for me.

“VIEW Conference is very special for me,” Modesto continues, “because it is not just a conference where you go, give a talk, and maybe meet some people you know when walking from one presentation to another. For a presenter, the conference offers a completely different experience, from the opportunity to meet the other presenters to the hospitality extended to us. For five days, there is a community of speakers who interact and have fun together, making it the perfect venue to get to know one another and make new friends. We also have the opportunity to see the amazing work being done all over the world, and to meet the people doing it, which is a treat. Another big difference from other conferences is the personal touch that Maria Elena Gutierrez gives to the whole experience. Due to her efforts, this conference happens. Due to her efforts, this conference is such a pleasure to attend. I will keep coming back as long as they invite me to come.”

As for me…I enjoyed moderating a two-hour panel that included many of these speakers who imagined the future of storytelling and answered questions from a lively audience in the packed room. Of course, the talks were amazing. But, I want to single out three small moments I will always remember: 

Hello from Giulia Ciappina

First, I often found myself sitting next to a young woman who I would discover is a graphic designer and illustrator named Giulia Ciappina from Torino. I swear that Giulia attended every talk, often leaning forward in her seat as if to absorb the content even more closely. On the fourth day, she gave me a drawing, a cartoon caricature of herself that says, “Nice to meet you! Thanks for your art.” 

Second, keynote speaker DreamWorks’ Tom McGrath, who directed all three Madagascar films, produced the Penguins of Madagascar, and is the voice of Skipper, gave a wonderful talk about creating animated characters. The first question he took after his talk was from a child sitting in the front row: “Can you talk like Skipper for me?” Of course, McGrath did. 

Tom McGrath, Maria Elena Gutierrez, Glen Keane

And third, the tears filling Linda Keane’s eyes after her husband’s presentation of “Duet.”

These small moments don’t illustrate the depth of the talks given by the speakers at the conference, or how exciting those talks were, but they can, perhaps, give people a hint of the familial feeling that VIEW inspires and that makes VIEW unique. And that is, of course, thanks to Maria Elena Gutierrez.

Farrar again. “The glue that holds the VIEW Conference together is Maria Elena Gutierrez, director of the VIEW Conference & VIEW Fest. Maria organizes all of it, makes sure everyone is happy, has what they need, and makes sure we socialize together (we eat amazing Italian meals together everyday). She is the heart and soul of this event, she truly loves this conference and the artists, and it shows. I can honestly say it's an honor to be invited by Maria Elena to VIEW, there's nothing quite like it.”

Like these speakers, I, too, will keep coming back to this unique and special conference. I hope to see you in beautiful Torino in October 2016.

Barbara Robertson is an award-winning writer and a contributing editor for Computer Graphics World . She can be reached at .