2012 VES Summit
Renee Dunlop
October 17, 2012

2012 VES Summit

A look at the VFX industry from a number of angles
The 2012 VES Summit, held in Marina del Rey, California, had a little bit of everything, starting with a continental breakfast and a nice selection of roundtables that included everything from virtual production to information about the Art Directors Guild.

Then it was downstairs for an inspirational session with keynote speaker George Whitesides, CEO of Virgin Galactic, with an overview of spaceflight. His session was peppered with humorous quips, such as when you reach weightlessness the captain informs you that you are "free to move about the cabin," accompanied by a photo of passengers floating with 360 degrees of freedom.  

The morning roundtables.

This was followed by featured speaker Albert Chang, EVP and chief product officer for Digital Media at Disney, who was a little too focused on marketing, even running three commercials during his session, but provided some interesting information nonetheless. Then a slight shuffle to the schedule brought two surprise speakers from Yekra (www.yekra.com). It is a distributor whose philosophy is the best way to replace an old model is to build a new one, and offers some very interesting alternatives to getting your film projects out to the online viewing public. 

A delicious lunch was served by the pool, included in the cost of the ticket. An hour later we were back inside and greeted by one of the more rousing sessions of the day with second keynote speaker Sean Carroll, senior research associate in physics from Caltech. He spoke about time travel, a common theme running through today’s films,  and how some films fail at logic while others succeed. He then offered a ton of useful tidbits to think about when working on your next time-travel film. He delivered all of it with humor that was uproarious enough to keep the room awake and laughing, even after lunch in the sun. 

Eric Roth and Scott Ross.

The rest of the afternoon was a bit more sobering. Another Disney session on tax incentives was both enlightening and disturbing, and demonstrated the importance of addressing the issue before the US loses its entire industry. A conversation with Ed Ulbrich, CEO of Digital Domain, discussed DD's recent bankruptcy and how he had to lay his entire budget bare to his clients, hopefully finally impressing them with the razor-thin margins this industry is expected to survive and flourish under. Another session covered the possibilities and limitations of whether television VFX is the future of film VFX. The Summit ended with Scott Ross, co-founder and former chairman/CEO of Digital Domain, who shared his thoughts on the state of the industry, unions, and trade associations, and why this industry has to stop being so warm and cuddly if it is going to survive the business of VFX. 

Attendee Laurie George checks out the virtual camera, which was built by Glenn Derry and provided by VideoHawks.

The day ended back by the pool with lively conversation, exchanging business cards, hors d’oeuvres and cocktails, accompanied by the setting sun melting into the ocean. The day’s focus, while not always directly about VFX, seemed to be on inspiration and a view of the topics this industry deals with every day. Judging by attendee enthusiasm, it seemed quite successful. 

Renee Dunlop is a freelance writer based in the Los Angeles area. (All photos by R. Dunlop)