‘CG Futures: The Art of Entertainment’— Melbourne, March 2018

‘CG Futures: The Art of Entertainment’ was held from the 2–4 March 2018 at the Abbotsford Convent in Melbourne. Presented by Ideas on Design, and curated by Gnomon‘s Alex Alvarez, this live event featured acclaimed speakers from across the local and international digital arts industry.

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The CG Futures event recently took place in Melbourne, Australia, and it was a great weekend of insightful presentations by leading artists in digital design, animation, and visual effects, including industry networking with masters, students, and the digital arts industry community together in one place.

My interest in attending the CG Futures event was academic. For the past year I have been working on a research project that examines the contributions of Australian-located visual effects work to Hollywood productions. So far, this project has focused on work created in Melbourne, with specific attention directed at Luma Pictures and Iloura (now operating under the name Method Studios, since its merge earlier this year), and this project is in the early stages of extending out to include the work of Australian VFX studios located in other states.

My research in visual effects has so-far been primarily focused on industrial dynamics, creative production processes, and the cultural significance of local work, so CG Futures was a great opportunity to learn about creative practice and the digital production industry from artists, as well as gain insight into the specific technical and practical processes involved in digital production. This was also aided by the scheduling format of the event, which incorporated both masterclasses and live demonstrations that appealed to different types of interest and engagement between speakers and attendees.

The three-day event kicked off with a welcoming introduction by Kristin McCourtie, the Director and Manager of the Design Foundation at Ideas on Design, and a statement that really captivated my attention and set the dynamic tone of the event to come: “a small ecosystem does not inhibit global success.” This was such a succinct reflection on just how impactful our local industry has been to the global VFX industry, over the past few years and it also highlights the value of supporting and nurturing local digital production.

“a small ecosystem does not inhibit global success”

— Kristin McCourtie, Director at Ideas on Design

The speaker line-up reflected this sentiment with a balanced representation of local and international artists:

Alex Alvarez: Founder, Gnomon School of VFX, Los Angeles.

Aaron Sims: Founder/CEO, ASC, Los Angeles.

Andrew Price: Creator, Blender Guru and Poliigon, Brisbane.

Dean Wood: Lead Modeller, Plastic Wax, Sydney.

EA FireMonkeys Team: Game Developer and Publisher, Melbourne.

Furio Tedeschi: Concept Artist, Johannesburg.

Jessica Dru Johnson: 3D Character Artist, California.

Josh Simmonds: VFX Supervisor, Method Studios (f.k.a Iloura), Melbourne.

Luma Pictures: Specialised Supervisors, Melbourne.

Noah Vice: Head of Look Development and Lighting, Rising Sun Pictures, Adelaide.

Playside Studios: Game Development, Melbourne.

Seth Thompson: Art Department Supervisor, Blizzard Animation, California.

Alwyn Hunt and Andrew McDonald: Founders, The Rookies.

Zach Mandt: VFX Generalist, Los Angeles.

There were several highlights for me across the event, including:

Noah Vice, Rising Sun Pictures

Noah Vice is the Head of Look Development at Rising Sun Pictures and spoke in great detail about the processes involved in bringing Hela (Cate Blanchett) and the Hel/Valkyries sequence to life in Thor: Ragnarok (2017). His presentation provided an insightful look at the creative development processes involved in working on a Marvel Studios production in Adelaide

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Thor: Ragnarok (2017) — Rising Sun Pictures
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Thor: Ragnarok (2017) — Rising Sun Pictures
Aaron Sims, Aaron Sims Creative

Aaron Sims has a lot of experience in the entertainment industry, having worked in make-up effects with Rick Baker and now heading his own creative development process, Sketch-2-Screen, at his studio ASC in Los Angeles. Sims’ presentation provided a run-down of this creative process, sharing material from projects such as Wonder Woman (2017), Stranger Things (2016–), It (2017), and, one I have a particular love for, the Planet of the Apes franchise (2011, 2014, 2017). Also a highlight for me in this session was that Sims discussed his work in the context of the developing history of effects in the Hollywood industry.

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War for the Planet of the Apes (2017)—Aaron Sims Creative
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Stranger Things (2016–)—Aaron Sims Creative
‘Speed Dating’ with Luma Pictures

Luma Pictures ran a ‘speed networking’ event with a range of producers across various specialities. I took the opportunity to sit down with Digital I/O Producer, Timothy Bond, and we had a chat about the Melbourne influences in their recent contributions to Marvel Studios productions.

Josh Simmonds, Method Studios (f.k.a Iloura)

Josh Simmonds is a VFX Supervisor at Method Studios, Australia (formerly Iloura) and presented a detailed breakdown of their work on the “Spoils of War” episode in Game of Thrones.

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“Spoils of War” Game of Thrones (2017)—Method Studios, Australia
Zach Mandt

Zack Mandt is a VFX generalist with extensive experience in digital matte painting and environments. Like with Aaron Sims’ presentation, a highlight for me in Mandt’s presentation was that he discussed his work and experience in relation to the shifts in technologies and processes over the years and how this has also characterised the history of matte painting and art direction.

Networking

In addition to the great presentations, the event afforded a lot of opportunity for networking, where speakers and attendees could mingle together with a drink (or several). During this time it was great to meet local working artists and students, and the social environment was filled with open laptops and showreel previews.

A couple of networking highlights for me included Matthew Packwood from the Masters of Motion podcast series. It was also great to meet Anna Hodge from the Education programme at Rising Sun Pictures in Adelaide. RSP have an exciting training and certification programme in collaboration with The University of South Australia.

Last but never least, it’s always a highlight speaking with Peter Daly, who is CEO, Co-Founder, and Producer at TeePee Studios in Melbourne. TeePee Studios is an independent digital animation studio and an emerging game-changer in the local VFX scene, with in-house creative development and commissioned digital projects across film and video gaming.

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