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Award Season Musings

Posted by Area Editor, 8 February 2011 7:00 pm

 Awards season is upon us. It’s been an interesting year for animation and visual effects. We’ve seen the maturation of the industry as a whole. There has been evidence in this year’s visual effects nominations of a more artful use of visual effects in service to a story, and animation is being recognized in the Best Picture category with Toy Story 3—these are all exciting developments for digital artists and for readers of our AREA blog.

This year’s five Academy VFX nominees are wide-ranging in subject matter, visual style and use of visual effects.

Inception gave us fantastical dreamscapes and physics-bending sequences that blended live-action with CG. Iron Man 2 once again showed that digital effects make the impossible possible. The Harry Potter franchise always nails VFX, and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows was no exception. Alice in Wonderland bore the unmistakable mark of director Tim Burton, with a 3D conversion that yielded quite impressive results. Hereafter’s tsunami sequence demonstrated amazing fluid simulations plunging viewers into an experience that felt frighteningly real and immersive.

This year’s nominees reflect interesting developments in visual effects, in particular the use of VFX in service of the story. We saw this most clearly in the nomination of Hereafter, but also in films like Black Swan, in which the VFX added flourish to the story, but didn’t drive the film. Yet Darren Aronofsky’s tale couldn’t be told without the VFX.

And while Black Swan isn’t competing for a VFX Academy Award, it’s in contention for several other Oscars and a BAFTA Award in the visual effects category, and the film’s effects are getting praise for their beautiful and effective subtlety. Black Swan also points to the pervasiveness of visual effects, which touches so much of what we see in cinema today, visual effects-driven tentpoles and indie arthouse movies alike.

VES Student Awards

One of the highlights of awards season for us is the VES Awards, where so many of our longtime customers -- true artistic innovators -- are honored by their peers. This year marks the ninth annual VES Awards and the third time Autodesk has sponsored the VES Student Award, which recognizes outstanding achievement in visual effects on any project that was created by a student or group of students while attending an accredited school.

This year the VES received entries from around the globe, and the final selected nominees hailed from universities in New Zealand, Germany and France. While not a requirement for submission, each of the four finalist nominees used Autodesk tools to create their short films.

This year’s winning student entry was “LOOM” created by Jan Bitzer, Ilija Brunck, Csaba Letay, Fabian Pross and Regina Welker of Film Akademie in Stuttgart, Germany. Using Softimage they filmmakers created a beautiful short of featuring a photo-real moth stuck in a tangled web as it meets a menacing spider.

Nominees included “Time for Change” and “Das Tub”; both entries were created by Rupert Ashton, Priyan Jayamaha, Junying Xu and Kristen Dale Pretorious, students from the Media Design School in Auckland, New Zealand using Maya. “Nuisible(s)” by Erick Hupin, Baptiste Ode, Phillippe Puech and Pierre Nahoum of the Artfx School in France also used Maya in their nominated short. We congratulate all of these very talented filmmakers and look forward to seeing what’s to come from them as they enter the professional market.

This year’s Academy Awards and VES Student Award nominees represent the coming together of artistry, tools, techniques and passion. It’s been a fascinating year, what with an animated film being nominated for Best Picture, and the presence of a non-VFX movie in the VFX Oscar category. These examples point to the further democratization of the VFX industry with visual effects talent in ever part of the world. We see this especially in the incredible breadth of student work. Just a few copies of Maya and a handful of artists is all it takes to achieve visual effects and animation work on par with what is being pumped out by top creative talent in the film industry today.

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