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A Closing Report from fmx/09

fmx/09 ran from May 05 through May 08, 2009

In the early hours of Saturday morning, fmx/09 drew to a close as the most persevering guests finally left the closing party. Once again, the 14th International Conference for Animation, Effects, Games and Digital Media gathered an international community of CGI enthusiasts in Stuttgart. Animation has long become a key technology shared across a wide range of media, going beyond animated films to live-action films and television shows as well as computer games and mobile content. This English- language conference addresses aesthetic and technical trends with a structured series of specialized programs. The desired side-effect: these parallel offerings encourage participants to cast an eye beyond the immediate scope of their own profession – to exchange and compare. ”Immersive Design”, for example, was one of the most-used concepts uniting the many disciplines at fmx/09. This year, more than 7,000 visitors from 41 countries participated in discussions, encounters and of course lots of exciting content and new-won knowledge.

The Program Choices – a Land of Plenty

A record-breaking 350 speakers from 25 countries took part this year – in up to 10 rooms at the same time. By far, the most widely expressed view of the fmx program was the Qual der Wahl – the torture of choice when faced with so many simultaneous top-of-the-bill offerings. Despite the decision of presenting quality talks in parallel sessions, fmx/09 was stretched to capacity on a number of occasions resulting in halls filled to the last seat and beyond. A sure sign that the event organizers of the Institute of Animation at the Filmakademie Baden- Wuerttemberg once more laid their capable fingers on the pulse of the times. The team surrounding Professor Thomas Haegele reaped ample praise not just for the high quality of individual talks, but also for the curation and thematic relevance evident within each series. Specialist visitors were also attracted by one central aspect: the relaxed, open atmosphere at the FMX is prerequisite to making business connections and exchanges that matter, not to speak of targeted networking. No wonder that participants showed themselves to be happy in feedback to the organizers. All of these factors contributed to the continued upward trend at FMX, as if there were no economic crisis. Over 7,000 registered visitors from 41 countries – 61% professionals, 39% students – underscores FMX's standing as the prime European specialist conference for digital entertainment.

New Horizons and a Look Back

Faster, more international, more tightly integrated: the way CGI creatives work together today would have been unthinkable even only a few years ago. Crossmedia and transmedia applications set the tone in the digital day-to-day workings within production and design. The borders between animation and visual effects, between film and games are dissolving. And yet all these computer-generated images only represent an age-old cultural technique in new form – which continues to be primarily in service of a captivating story. Fmx/09 revealed many aspects of these new technologies and evolved workflows:

Previsualisation has become an essential part of film and games production, as well as applications for scientific and economical purposes. The possibilities are endless – from precise and thus cost-effective scheduling for live shoots to the playful exploration, testing and polishing of desired sets. So its only natural that ”previs” played a leading role at fmx/09, including numerous talks by recognized kings of the trade such as Ron Frankel or his fmx/conference colleagues Kevin Tod Haug (Quantum of Solace, Kite Runner) and John Scheele (Oliver Stone's World Trade Center) – but it also took center stage within the specialist series on automotive design.

Nonlinear animation, as experienced in computer games every day, is also advancing in large strides. Realtime was a much-used term this year, of course in series addressing games and interactive design, or the flasconference event. The scene's playful, anarchistic approach has developed into an exciting, increasingly mainstream field in which the responsibilities of designers, programmers and creatives are experiencing a true melting pot.

Alex McDowell, renowned production designer (Watchmen, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Minority Report) and long-standing FMX partner, has coined the term ”immersive design”. He even founded the 5D Conference to explore and discuss not just the new, globalized teamwork within a virtual workspace, but also the creation of contributive virtual worlds to further the visual opportunities and habits. This year in Stuttgart was the premiere of the European division of the 5D Conference. The top-class panel stressed their ambitious goals even in the title: Imagination, Creation, Construction, Perception and Interaction.

Despite the rapid pace of innovation, FMX finds it important to take the time to reflect upon the technical and artistic conditions in which we advance. The audience seemed to agree as the greatest interest was given to the pioneers of animation – first and foremost the four-time Oscar winner Richard Edlund, the VFX veteran Harrison Ellenshaw (Tron, Star Wars, Superman) and the equally ironic and impressive speakers of the series Early Days in France.

fmx/forum: the right concept for moving times

The fmx/forum can be described as FMX's high-traffic market place. Workshops, demos and masterclasses transfer in-depth knowledge and education. Visitors could inform themselves about innovations in hardware and software at the booths. fmx/recruiting drew talents together with international companies on the lookout for capable teams while schools, students and alumni presented their work at the fmx/talents.

The durability of this talents concept proved itself, despite the first year of the global financial crisis. Thanks to the expanded cooperational model School Campus, for example, approximately 1,000 students from 32 European schools became a future-bound element of fmx/09. Further circles were drawn by the School Offerings with partner institutions from as far away as California, China and New Zealand.

Further good news can be reported from Recruiting: unbroken engagement of companies such as Sony Pictures, Lucasfilm/LucasArts, Aardman Animations and Crytek, long lines leading to the Recruiting Desks and – most important of all – smiles everywhere. Whoever was searching for new team members was definitely at the right place. And in light of economic hard times, many companies confirm that highly qualified personnel is their greatest capital.

Strong Partners, strong Input

Many renowned institutions have contributed their input, ideas and contacts into the fmx/09 program – both internationally and regionally. First and foremost, FMX collaborated with its oldest and most trusted partner, the International Festival of Animated Film (ITFS) as well as its newest partner pop open within the new Kreativraum Stuttgart. The parallel offerings had both an inspiring and overwhelming effect – so much so that even die-hard animation fans were driven to their limits. The combi-ticket for both ITFS and FMX turned out to be the secret star of both shows.

The FMX shares deep roots with the MFG Baden-Wuerttemberg. MFG Innovation dedicated its energies on Visual Computing with two full series of talks highlighting the Visual Computing Cluster, which it also founded, and the Symposium Best of Eurographics, dedicated to the European academic association of the same name. MFG Film Funding contributed to the series Financing & Brands.

The Medienboard Berlin-Brandenburg, the film fund from Germany's capital, launched a brand-new series. The talks presented the vibrant, young production and service scene located in Berlin and Potsdam.

Animation Production Day (APD 2009) – In Tune with the Industry

Feedback from the participants of the Animation Production Day, a mutual event by FMX and ITFS in cooperation with Michael Schmetz Mediaconsult, was overwhelmingly positive. The third edition of this financing platform had been considerably expanded in comparison with previous years and now included games, TV series and mobile content in addition to animated movies. The key to the event's unique success is that creatives meet with potential investors in pre-arranged individual discussions instead of public pitchings. At APD in Stuttgart this year, 60 European companies discussed a production volume of 140 million Euro. The organizers chose to focus on exclusiveness and concentration – class instead of mass. And the concept is proving itself. Even in critical times, the difficult search for financers has lead to a disproportionately high number of happy endings. The mutual interest and openness on both sides of the business tables was tangible: ”The discussions began at the Animation Production Day and will be continued. The producers here were excellently prepared with business plans and very professional. We encountered only win-win situations,” commented for example the representative of the Commerzbank. Thanks to the overwhelming presence shown by the industry in Stuttgart, the founding of the newly created Alliance of German Producers could be announced at the APD's kickoff in the presence of Dr. Christoph E. Palmer.

fmx/09 is an event by Filmakademie Baden-Wuerttemberg in cooperation with VES Visual Effects Society, AIAS Academy of Interactive Arts and Sciences, ACM Siggraph and 5D Conference. It is funded by the Ministry of State Baden-Wuerttemberg, the Ministry of Economic Affairs Baden-Wuerttemberg, MFG Baden-Wuerttemberg Public Film Fund & Public Innovation Agency for Information Technology and Media, the FFA German Federal Film Board, and the Medienboard Berlin-Brandenburg. It is organized by the Institute of Animation, Visual Effects and Digital Postproduction at Filmakademie Baden-Wuerttemberg, and NX Publishing.
For more information visit www.fmx.de

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