On day two I headed back up to the Leicester Square Vue Cinema, it was a moody day to say the least and of course, the trains to get there were a nightmare! Still, arriving and seeing the crowd of VFX enthusiasts, I completely forgot about that. They were all smiling and excitedly sharing ideas, their fluency with all things visual effects translating to little puffs of condensation while they rubbed their hands in anticipation.
It was then that I thought myself, this is far more than just a hobby or a career choice. This a community.
Heading up to the Exhibition Hub, I pulled out my little VFX programme to see that BAFTA award winning Blue Zoo were first with an Animation Showcase. I had heard of Blue Zoo before but I didn’t know much so I was really excited to see what they had to share with us. They started us by showing us their reel, which included 2D, 3D, Mixed Media and Motion Graphic work. They also worked on a number of children’s TV shows and having a younger sister I was familiar with a few of them, most notably Blue Cow from Cebeebies! After sharing their work with us, they then decided to show us their Christmas short, ‘Daddy Christmas’. I won’t ruin it for you, I’ll leave it up to you find it on YouTube but I can tell you now, it didn’t leave me feeling festive!
After all of this, we spilled back into the exhibition hub talking about everything we had just seen, wondering what could be next. It was a busy day at the festival again! Next up we had The Mill and they gave us an absolutely fascinating talk on making Maya, the ridiculously realistic orang-utan from the SSE advert. They showed us the beautiful orang-utan she was based on and the resemblance was amazing. This talk really showed me the beauty of having such advanced technology and creative people. This advert really captured the hearts of people and I think that is completely down to the humanistic, photo-real oranguatan that The Mill created. VFX is far more than flashy imagery and skill, VFX can inspire conversation and debate and the best part is that the VFX community welcomes all discussions with open arms.
Now it seemed fitting after inspiring everyone with both Blue Zoo and The Mill, it was time to have a look at some past Escapee’s and see how they were doing, navigating a fascinating but tricky industry. We were lucky enough to have three members of the Escape Studios Alumni – Alastair Cross, Taran Spear and Caroline Pires. They all shared their showreels with us and spoke in general about the industry. They all said that the courses they did at Escape Studios greatly helped them in moving forward and Caroline Pires has now started her own platform to allow artists to collaborate called Nerdeo. We were roughly halfway through the day after this and you could visibly see that this talk had reenergised people, making their hopes and ambitions seem more possible. Then from this talk by past students we moved onto a careers talk from the potential employers! We had a great industry panel composed of Creative Skillset, The Mill, Bleed VFX, Double Negative, Territory, Nvizible and ILM. They imparted a lot of great advice and knowledge and left behind a really important message.
To summarise all the advice given to one sentence I would say they encouraged people to never stop developing their skills, always network, and just keep trying.
After all of this serious talk, people needed the mood lifted slightly and State of Play came in to do just that as part of the Games Showcase! State of Play previously made a puzzle adventure game called Lume, telling the story of a girl trying to restore power in her grandfather’s house.
After the initial success of this, Lumino City was the next logical step, going from telling the story of one house to letting the player explore the whole city. Now, what makes the animation style so unique is the fact that the whole game environment was drawn, printed and made by hand! The playable character was added in much later through computer animation. The creation of Lumino City was a huge task and it was all filmed in one day! It was really nice to see a balance from big productions to a small group of people, working independently.
Finally we all came to the greatly anticipated showcase from Framestore detailing the work that went into the big hit Guardians of The Galaxy. Framestore did a lot of work on characters as well as environments and showed us a full breakdown on how the film was composed, giving a rare insight to such a huge production! First they showed us one of the most iconic characters, Rocket. They started by showing us the real raccoon he was based on and of course, he was adorable and insanely fluffy. The also showed us how they built Groot but interestingly both Rocket and Groot were completely hand animated, with the fur simuation system on Rocket simulating every single hair. There were audible gasps in the audience when this was said! There were even more gasps when they said that every single light in ‘Knowhere’ was placed by hand. In just once shot there were 26,000 lights and 1.6 billion polys. If you don’t know what that means, don’t worry. Just know that it’s a lot of really tricky ground-breaking stuff!
After throughly blowing our minds, Framestore wrapped up day 2 in a spectacular way. We all spilled out into the exhibition hub and filtered back into the real world, some of us inspired and motivated and some of us, new to this whole other world – incredibly moved. I knew that being in VFX must take hours of hard work but I had no idea of the extreme passion and determination that goes into it every day. Everyone works so hard to turn visions into reality and the overwhelming sense of community helps individuals to do just that. If you’re new to all of this, I implore you to go online and do some research. Scratch the surface and take a look at what goes into making the films you love, the adverts you watch and the clever little characters that stay with you for a while.
You never know, you could end up being the next Escapee…
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