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May 15
2019

ISSUE

Web Exclusive

FMX 2019 Brings the VFX Community Together

By IAN FAILES

An attendee tries out a VR installation at FMX 2019. (Images courtesy FMX. Photographers: Dominique Brewing and Luzie Marquardt.)

If you didn’t make it to FMX this year, don’t worry, we’ve wrapped up all the major presentations and events from the week. The conference, which hails from Stuttgart’s Filmakademie Baden-Wuerttemberg and Animationsinstitut, seems to go from strength to strength each edition. It reached 4,000 visitors during the week, and continues to be a destination that professionals and studios from not just Europe but all over the world attend.

Watch FMX’s highlights video from the conference.

It’s not an academic conference, but with major drawcard speakers and sessions, FMX always offers up new insights into computer graphics and visual effects. There was a special track this year on light fields, for example, plus sessions on ray tracing and stylized lighting and rendering. You don’t really get to see talks curated like this anywhere else.

Getting a fix on the major releases

Audiences were hungry to catch the big presentations at FMX on the latest films and animated releases. This meant the rooms were full for talks on Avengers: Endgame, Captain Marvel, Alita: Battle Angel, The Meg, Hellboy, Christopher Robin, Dumbo, Mortal Engines, Solo: A Star Wars Story, First Man, Bird Box, Spies in Disguise, How to Train Your Dragon, and many other films and television shows.

The rooms were also full for special insights on digital humans, virtual production, ‘old-school’ visual effects chats, concept art, and pretty much anything on Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. Indeed, if there’s one challenge FMX faces, it’s having enough space to host eager attendees. This was dealt with well, however, with overflow areas, and screens and an app that tell you which rooms are filling up.

The new ‘Get Together’ space at FMX was a popular end-of-day activity.

The theme for this year at FMX was ‘Bridging the Gap.’ This represented both areas of technology and access to the industry. Diversity has become an important part of the FMX conference.

New and cutting edge

It’s not an academic conference, but with major drawcard speakers and sessions, FMX always offers up new insights into computer graphics and visual effects. There was a special track this year on light fields, for example, plus sessions on ray tracing and stylized lighting and rendering. You don’t really get to see talks curated like this anywhere else. One other benefit was a very relaxed atmosphere to go up to the speakers afterwards to keep the conversation going.

In the immersive media (VR/AR/XR) space, several speakers and exhibitors showed off projects, with attendees able to don headsets or glasses to view them. Both Unreal and Unity each had a presence at the event, and real-time rendering was one of the topics discussed regularly all week. Magic Leap’s John Gaeta also offered up his thoughts on the future in this area, with a discussion of ‘the Magicverse.’

ILM’s Rob Bredow presented on Solo: A Star Wars Story and was part of several other talks and panels during the week.

For students and new entrants into the industry, FMX 2019 was a conference that offered a lot of access to professionals and companies. That came from the 28 companies involved in the job fair, from the 19 universities with booths there, and from several software vendors and VFX studios themselves having individual rooms with presentations.

Access and diversity

The theme for this year at FMX was ‘Bridging the Gap.’ This represented both areas of technology and access to the industry. Diversity has become an important part of the FMX conference. This year, Women in Animation presented a panel talk called ‘Focusing Female Firepower: The Path to Inclusivity’ with LEGO Movie 2 co-director Trisha Gum, Animal Logic’s Sharon Taylor Hahn Film AG’s Imke Fehrmann and Adventure Lab’s Kim Adams.

For students and new entrants into the industry, FMX 2019 was a conference that offered a lot of access to professionals and companies. That came from the 28 companies involved in the job fair, from the 19 universities with booths there, and from several software vendors and VFX studios themselves having individual rooms with presentations. This is one of the big changes in events like FMX and SIGGRAPH – where companies speak directly to artists. It seemed like a good way to find out exactly what actually happens inside a VFX or animation studio.

The ‘Focusing Female Firepower: The Path to Inclusivity’ panel.

Beyond the presentations

There was a lot to do at the conference this year, and also a lot to do away from it. Companies such as Maxon and Foundry had parties, while a major innovation turned out to be the ‘Get Together’ space, right out in front of the venue at the Haus der Wirtschaft. Make no mistake, German food trucks and beer were hugely popular (even with one major downpour of rain), and it provided FMX with a much-needed space just for socializing.

And as much as the event caters to students and new artists, speakers – of which there were more than 280 – and other professionals who attend found themselves in a casual environment to ruminate about the industry. That’s actually a major attraction in attending FMX – meeting and greeting other pros from around the world. At other conferences, often there’s not always the time and space to simply ‘hang out.’ It was clear this happened a lot in Stuttgart this year.

This wrap-up really only touches on some of what occurred at FMX (not to mention the associated event also in Stuttgart at the same time, the Stuttgart International Festival of Animated Film). It might be time to even start planning your attendance for next year. In 2020 – FMX’s 25th year – the event will be held from May 5-8.


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