January 30th, 2015

Last week saw the annual VFX Festival take place in London’s Leicester Square.

The festival, run by Escape Studios, celebrates the world of visual effects with a host of showcase screenings, presentations and industry panel debates aimed at students of all ages and established VFX professionals.

CG lead, Alex Hammond, gave a behind the scenes look at the intricacies of SSE’s 'Maya' during Tuesday’s showcase session, going into detail about the techniques, software and pipelines used to create a fully CG orangutan.

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The team had to build the skeleton from scratch, before developing a fully functional muscle system, as well as going into an incredible level of detail, sculpting each wrinkle by hand. They then seamlessly comped the CG character onto live action plates of a busy city-scape, proving once again that quality is not dependent on the use of real animals in commercials, TV and film. See the behind the scenes footage here.

Group head of talent Simon Wright also took to the stage as part of the careers panel, offering advise to young VFX professionals and students on what recruitment teams are looking for in a show reel and application. The panel focused on the notion that not just qualifications and show reels are appealing to recruiters, but passion, an aptitude to continue learning and a drive to work hard.

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On Thursday evening’s industry panel, with panelists including Mill London’s MD Darren O’Kelly, Tim Webber, Paul Franklin, Courteney Vanderslice, Aaron Allport, Hector Macleod, Will Cohen and Ian Livingstone, the speakers discussed the success of the UK creative digital industry, and what the education system could be doing to support it.

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There was an overriding sentiment across the panel that our industry is not solely reliant on digital qualifications and that all elements of VFX pivot on the same core artistic disciplines. What use is an in-depth knowledge of computer programs, if artists don’t understand the concept of hand drawn animation, weight and movement?

It was suggested that in order to aid the creative industry, students should be exposed to traditional disciplines such as sculpting, life drawing and acting, and that the narrowing of subject choice at an early age could hinder development, as it often pushes students down either a scientific or artistic route. However, in the VFX industry, artists are often walking the line between creativity and science.

For the full program see the VFX Festival website.