April 27, 2013. Europe’s most influential conference on digital entertainment was concluded with yesterday’s sold-out preview of the comic action highlight Iron Man 3 – once more, FMX 2013 delivers a positive and successful summary. More than 3,200 attendees flocked to the Haus der Wirtschaft, the Gewerkschaftshaus and the Gloria cinemas on all four conference days this year. Under the slogan “lean, smart and agile,” FMX was again able to draw an international audience of professionals, creatives and innovative talents from 46 countries to Stuttgart. Nearly two thirds of all conference attendees were professionals – a new peak.
Niels Rinke, Managing Director at FMX since 2012, who knows the industry from his own work experience, comments on this year’s success: “Thanks to its interdisciplinary focus, FMX 2013 constituted an ideal platform to bring industry, education and research together. Together with the International Festival of Animated Film Stuttgart and the Animation Production Day, FMX represents the current changes in the media industry as no other event.”
This year’s program highlights included the highly-anticipated keynotes by successful author Cornelia Funkeand Disney Pixar Director Saschka Unseld, several discussions by renowned panelists on the structural change of the animation and VFX industry as well as the expanded games and transmedia series with a focus on Indie Games and World Building. The lively Marketplace reached a new peak in visitor numbers this year thanks to its exciting mixture of traditional company booths, innovative research projects and interactive media installations. The Recruiting Hub and School Campus offered various networking opportunities to specialists, creative talents, professionals and students. The Workshops were often fully booked up. In addition, CEO Summits and Transmedia Labs were brought to life for the very first time: Decision makers exchanged and discussed ideas in an intimate setting without an audience. The Animation Media Cluster Region Stuttgart (AMCRS) and Autodesk were FMX Main Partners this year.
Facts and figures: FMX speakers and attendees
289 speakers from 23 countries – only every fourth of them from Germany – offered 292 presentations, workshops and masterclasses, curated program series and participated in various panels. Nearly two thirds of all attendees were professionals. Approximately one third of all attendees were students. This percentage as well as the slight decrease in visitor numbers is accounted for by the spatial reduction of the School Campus that confirmed the trend of internationalization with 20 schools from three continents – only six of them from Germany. As in the previous year, every third conference attendee came from abroad. Most non-German attendees were from the UK, USA and Canada, Austria and Switzerland, followed by the Benelux countries, France and the Scandinavian countries. Last year’s peak in female attendees was met again: 26% of all attendees were female; the percentage of female participation among students reached 34%. More than 100 journalists were accredited to cover FMX. The live-stream gained in popularity compared to 2012: More than 17,000 viewers from all over the world tuned in to experience the conference. Overall, the live stream reached a total of 200.000 view minutes.
Facts and figures: Marketplace, Recruiting Hub and more
The Forum was comprised of 79 partner companies, schools and research institutions from 13 countries. The Marketplace, which was well attended on all four days, assembled 26 industry partners and research departments, reached a new peak in visitor numbers. This popularity is partly due to the numerous, innovative R & D projects that were given even more space than ever before. The Marketplace featured the impressive camera crane “Technodolly” and current hardware – and software solutions as well as 3D printed models of the popular spheric animals from this year’s Rollin’ Safari FMX trailers. Two interactive student projects, the Digital Forest and the Tesla Arcade, were also featured on the Marketplace. The Concept Art exhibition in the Haus der Wirtschaft foyer displayed 30 pieces of art from more than 15 international Digital Artists. 20 companies including global players such as Crytek, Double Negative, MPC and Walt Disney Animation Studios scouted talent on the Recruiting Hub, among them six companies from the region. 14 schools presented their best projects in no more than five minutes in the newly initiated “Fast Forward Education” track and sparked the interest of talent scouts from renowned companies as well as Animation Production Day participants. 21 Workshops by industry leaders such as Adobe and Autodesk – that were fully booked up – Masterclasses such as Ed Hooks‘ “Acting for Animators” and Doerthe Eickelberg‘s “Improvising Animators” as well as a Company Suite by Autodesk with Workshops and live-demonstrations complemented this year’s Forum.
The paradigm shift: From financial crisis to trade association
This year’s main focus on the ongoing paradigm shift and the continuing debate on the state of the industry as recently seen in the aftermath of the Academy Awards or financial difficulties and complex working conditions struck a chord with attendees and panelists alike. Professionals and celebrities from across the industries discussed the consequences, challenges and opportunities of the increasing demands for flexibility and adaptation for digital media creation, distribution and financing in well-attended panels, keynotes and presentations. Among them Ed Ulbrich, CEO at Digital Domain, whose inspiring “state of the industry” address on new business models received much attention and praise. Other speakers included Jon Peddie (Jon Peddie Research), David Morin (Autodesk), Ludwig von Reiche (NVIDIA ARC), Andy Orrick (The Mill) and Ken Perlin (NYU). While opinions on the best strategies for long-lasting success diverged, many speakers embraced the idea of a global trade association for the definition of best practices – a recurring theme that received a lot of attention audience and press attention.
Visual Effects: Crowning conclusion to cinematic earthquake
The preview of the latest Marvel comic adaptation Iron Man 3, that will be released on May 3 (US release date), was the undoubted crowning and concluding event of this year’s VFX series that covered Case Studies, Concept Art, Concept Design, VFX in Commercials as well as Pre- and Postproduction: 500 speakers, attendees and FMX Partners as well as ITFS invitees flocked to the Gloria cinema Friday night. Prior to this preview, VFX Supervisor Guy Williams and Animation Supervisor Aaron Gilman discussed Weta Digital’s approach to handling the impressive harbor battle sequence. Andrea Block (Luxx Studios) elaborated on the effects for Roland Emmerich’s White House Down that is set to be released at the end of June (US release date). Also in the spotlight: the latest Tom Cruise movie Oblivion, zombie romance Warm Bodies, Guillermo del Toro’s highly-anticipated sci-fi action film Pacific Rim, the breath-taking title sequence of the most recent James Bond adventure Skyfall and Ang Lee’s visual extravaganza Life of Pi, that won an Oscar for Best Visual Effects this February. Kim Libreri, Chief Strategy Officer at Lucasfilm, was one of this year’s most famous speakers: Libreri, who was responsible for the creation of VFX for the three Matrix films, was interviewed by Visual Effects Society Executive Director Eric Roth as part of the “VES Specials” series.
Animated crowd-pleasers from The Blue Umbrella to Animation Wild ‘n Strange
Friday’s rainy April weather could not have been more appropriate: Saschka Unseld‘s The Blue Umbrella was undoubtedly the greatest crowd-pleaser at this year’s FMX. The largest venue, the Koenig-Karl-Halle, and the streaming foyers were overcrowded as Director and Script-Writer Unseld explained his idea for the Disney Pixar Short two months before its release; his talk was followed by a half-hour autograph signing. His colleague at Pixar, Alexander Nehls, Character TD, dedicated his presentation to
simulation in Bravethat won an Academy Award for “Best Animated Picture” this year. Other animation highlights included Blue Sky Studios’ Epic that is released three weeks from now, the animation adventure The Croods as well as stop-motion animation highlight Frankenweenie and Disney Animation’s Wreck-it Ralph. Moreover, the focus on animation featured highly-anticipated Despicable Me 2. Two months before its release, Mac Guff Illumination’s CEO Jacques Bledand Animation Director Pierre Leduc analyzed the challenges involved in the creation of the animated film and the popular Minions. Overall, the animation program series struck a right balance between box-office hits and indie pearls that fascinated audiences as part of the “Wild ‘n Strange Animation” series curated by Andreas Hykade (Filmakademie Baden-Wuerttemberg).
Indie Games and Games for Change Europe draw fascinated audiences
The decision to further expand the games focus bore fruit this year: In addition to game favorites such as Crysis 3, Tomb Raider, the Gears of War series, Halo 4 and Assassin’s Creed, the Indie Games track, which was powered by the Swiss Arts Council Pro Helvetia, was very well received. Indie Games’ innovative edge was first spotlighted with Eddo Stern‘s keynote “The Perversity of Games”: The artist and game designer spoke about the importance of independent game development and the potential of game design as a medium for cultural impact. Other Indie Game highlights focused on motion control, crowd funding and selected indie game pearls. Furthermore, the newly-initiated Europe chapter of Games for Change proved to be an attraction for numerous FMX attendees: Rooms were fully booked up as Games for Change focused on bringing entertainment and social commitment together. Supported by FMX Main Partner Autodesk, presentations featured games that address female genital mutilation and child prostitution or bipolar disorders and other sociocultural issues.
Cornelia Funke and the World beyond the Mirror:
Germany’s most successful and internationally renowned children’s book author Cornelia Funke was this year’s most sought-after interview guest: Together with Producer Andy Merkin, Cornelia Funke presented theMirrorWorld app to her latest Reckless book series. Funke’s highly-anticipated keynote opened the “Transmedia Experiences” track curated by Inga von Staden (Filmakademie Baden-Wuerttemberg). Funke dissociated herself from the film adaptation of her books that were unable to live up the imagery she had in mind. In contrast, the app invites the user into “a living, breathing world” that allows Cornelia Funke to demonstrate her readers the story world she originally thought up. Funke compared the app to a “travel guide” that could be used if the reader wanted to gather more information on the world beyond the mirror. Cornelia Funke and Mirada have announced that they will take their cooperation one step further by forming a company together. This exemplifies the potential of successful transmedia work: The collaboration between creators, artists and technicians throughout development and production can open up new dimensions in world design and play out into innovative formats.
FMX 2014 takes place April 22 to April 25 in Stuttgart, Germany
Photos by Reiner Pfisterer