Four hot hopics

Wow! What an amazing week at FMX! I felt very lucky to be at so many great presentations, demos and meetings in Stuttgart. The YellowDog party with Foundry and Chaos Group was pretty awesome too. Here are the four trends that caught my eye over a packed week of discussion for the animation and VFX industry.

The VFX boom continues to challenge even the largest studios

VFX demands are becoming mind blowing-ly big. Framestore’s Head of Film, Fiona Walkinshaw, gave a brilliant presentation that took us through her whirlwind career in production management at Soho’s finest. Starting in the early days of the studio, working on 3D commercials for Terry’s Chocolate Orange, through the spellbinding Harry Potter years and on to today, Fiona said that Framestore is delivering more than ever before. Dominating that unprecedented slate are blockbusters like the visually stunning Marvel franchise.

I was amazed to hear that whilst Thor Ragnorak at first seemed like a big undertaking for the studio, as production went on, and Marvel’s demands for the narrative grew in complexity, Framestore production reached a point where they made the call to bring in help. That is Framestore – global production giant and arguably king of VFX – needing help to deliver shots. VFX demands from the likes of Marvel are really blowing even the most experienced minds. Without this help from other studios, the stunning Asgard sequence and many of the films best VFX shots, might not actually have happened.

Virtual studios are on the rise

One of the highlights of FMX for me was seeing Hugo Guerra, from Fire without Smoke and the man behind the popular Visual Effects Tutorial channel, Hugo’s Desk, talk with unparalleled passion about this industry. Hugo is always testing out the newest technology so the great thing is that we get the inside track in his talks.

Foundry’s Athera platform, which launched at FMX, aims to make virtual production an easier reality for others. Providing access to Virtual Workstations in the cloud, designed especially for VFX with Houdini or Nuke ready to go, Hugo – alongside Patton Tunstall from ATK PLN –  gave positive first reviews of the service. Hugo had even been trying it out by connecting from laptops bought for sub $100; what started as a joke actually worked really well. As this technology become more developed, I think that uptake will be commonplace, particularly with remote workers, freelancers, and pop-up studios, where the benefits of logging on to a virtual machine anywhere in the world, on demand, makes complete sense.

There ain’t no party like a VFX party

YellowDog, Chaos Group, Foundry logos on napkins next to straws and mint ready for making mojitos. Click here or read on to find our reaction to YellowDog's co-hosted Prost! event held at FMX 2018.

It always strikes me how well connected the VFX and animation world is. A studio manager joked to me that they have to keep extra close to the artists that they bring to FMX every year, because they could be poached at any minute in the hallways of the conference. It is funny and true that everyone is connected through the various studios they’ve worked at, productions they’ve collaborated on and connections made at events like FMX.

This makes for a brilliant party, so on the Wednesday evening, YellowDog, Chaos Group and Foundry joined forces in the best bar we could find in Stuttgart. The drinks were on us! It was a cracking evening, made better by all those mutual connections and re-acquaintances made over mojitos. I only hope nobody stole someone else’s artists.

Callum McDonnell sharing mojitos with YellowDog customers and VFX and animation studio delegates

Aardman’s craft still mesmerises

In amongst the specials effects and CGI heavy schedule was a gem of a presentation from Tom Barnes of Aardman. He gave us a behind the scenes look at the incredible craft that went into Aardman’s latest release: ‘Early Man’.

We were shown the painstakingly built sets and hundreds of clay models that made this stop-motion masterpiece possible. Better still, were the hilarious clips of the directors and actors including Tom Hiddleston recording voice for the scenes. The way they pull it all together into a gorgeous, funny and entertaining feature is spell bounding. Traditional and technologically driven production pipelines continue to sit well alongside one another and I hope that the craft that goes into these movies is never lost on audiences. It really is unbelievable what Aardman pull off and it all starts with just a script and a mound of clay.

So that was my week at FMX: a perfect mix of insights, meetings, and parties. I hope that you had a great time if you were there too and if you didn’t make it this year, then hopefully we’ll see you at the next one.

Next in the YellowDog schedule is Total Chaos in Sofia, Bulgaria this month and I’ll be there to catch up with familiar faces and hopefully make new friends too.

Send us a message to meet up at Total Chaos to talk about VFX and animation rendering with YellowDog’s easy to use cloud platform or if you just want to share a drink at a future event.

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