Blue GFX Expo is the annual London showcase for the visual effects industry and the software that drives it, sponsored by (among many others) the software-wizards Autodesk - who make Maya and 3DStudioMax, and much of the other software that we use in the VFX industry.
Housed slightly incongruously in the vast and rambling Edwardian County Hall building on London’s South Bank, the Expo was marvelously hard to find, but highly rewarding to attend.
Visual Effects Artists aren’t generally the best speakers. Most of us talk in a strange form of jargon that is only intelligible to fellow sufferers of the VFX virus. How many digital artists can explain what they do to their Mum before her eyes glaze over and she says "that's nice, dear" before changing the subject?
Demonstrating software can be a dry business at the best of times. It isn’t a recipe for crowd-pleasing speeches. Still, with so much of our industry being technology-led, it’s essential to keep up with the newest releases, lest you get left behind in the race for pipeline efficiency and a speedy workflow.
|Yesterday's river View. Earth hath nothing to show more fair...|
The Expo was housed in the magnificent County Hall building on London's South Bank. It was built between 1911 and 1922 in the Edwardian Baroque style, the last gasp of high imperial self-confidence before architecture fell under the spell of modernism.
|Grand staircase at County Hall|
|Lady Liberty is in the house|
A number of the presenters were showcasing VRay, a relatively new rendering system that aims to render everything you need - faster better and cheaper than ever before. We saw amazing clips from the Elder Scrolls. We ogled at beautiful breakdown reels showing how CG elements were combined with live action to produce stunning visual effects work. Digital doubles, CG environments, smoke, hair simulation. Everything is faster, cheaper, quicker, bringing film-quality visual effects to episodic TV and games.
|IKEA Chair - real, or CGI? Who can tell?|
|The UK's largest TV animation studio|
And what an incredible opportunity for our students to meet the founders of one of London's leading animation studios. How often do you get the chance to talk in person with the people who - a few years from now - will be looking at your demo reel and deciding whether or not to offer you a job?
We also heard a fabulous talk by Framestore's Diarmid Harrison-Murray who directed the excellent title sequence for Skyfall. It took me back to some not-so-happy memories of Soho VFX work as he explained having to work 3 days without sleep in order to get the job done on time.
|So secret even the artists weren't allowed to know|
When he was asked what was the biggest lesson he had learned in visual effects, he said this:
"You have to get used working with clients. They will routinely mess up your beautiful work, make stupid changes. Being able to do this - and not scream into a pillow - is a vital skill to learn. And that goes for all client work".
Amen to that.