Film, Phd

BFX festival in Bournemouth – VFX, VR, films, animation and gaming

I attended the BFX festival today in Bournemouth. It runs from 2nd-8th October but unfortunately I could only go today, which is a real shame as it was fascinating! The annual festival delivers talks, workshops and film screenings from some of the industry’s leading studios in VRX and VR, animation and gaming.

Jordan Walsh of Double Negative gave an in-depth talk on the animation process for creating the alien Calvin in the recent Hollywood blockbuster, Life.  This talk was fascinating, but I do not have an animation background so some of the terminology was going straight over by head! But as this festival is aimed at animators, I was expecting this. He showed us how the character developed, from model conceptions to the final product, layering up as they went. He explained that the film being set in space was significant when developing Calvin, as a creature growing in zero gravity will be very different to what we are used to. We got to see a few sequences that didn’t make the final cut of the film, something I always love to see!

Callum Welsh and Leon Cavaletti of Random 42 gave a talk about scientific communication through animation. They create animations of scientific processes, such as the images of cells dividing and multiplying that we often see in films or TV programmes. They demonstrated a VR programme they have created which shows users sophisticated 3D images of cells/ bacteria and the human body, with the user able to manipulate what to focus on. The programme also contains detailed descriptions by each part of the cell to help users identify them. Leon put on the VR headset and live streamed it onto the screen so we could see what he was seeing. I’d not seen a presentation given this way before, but it was very engaging.

Tom Box of Blue Zoo Animation studio gave a talk about the film shorts and children’s TV programmes that their studio makes, either on behalf of clients or from their own internal brief. Tom showed us stills from a variety of their shorts, demonstrating the wide range of animation types that they create, as he stressed that they do not want to be pigeon-holed to a particular “style”.

They showed us their latest short film, Mamoon. The film is an animation that was projected onto a polystyrene set, relying predominantly on lighting, and then filmed traditionally with a DSLR, with no post-production. The short took them over a year to film on-and-off, but the result is truly worth it.

Mamoon is an excellent and emotional film about a refugee fleeing from danger. Without any dialogue or narration, the film relies entirely on the lighting and music to convey emotion. Although certainly abstract and open to a degree of interpretation as to precisely what is happening to the characters, everyone watching the film was clearly moved by the character. I am going to look for more work from this studio!

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