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July 09
2017

ISSUE

Summer 2017

ORIGINAL VES SECTION CELEBRATES VIBRANT, THRIVING VFX COMMUNITY

By  NAOMI GOLDMAN

As the Visual Effects Society celebrates its milestone 20th anniversary, much of its growth and diversification is due to its network of Sections, whose members lend their expertise and entrepreneurship to benefit visual effects practitioners in their region – while advancing the Society and industry worldwide.

VES Bay Area Section Board and Summit Keynote Speaker Lynwen Brennan, EVP and General Manager, Lucasfilm, ILM and Skywalker Sound, is flanked by VFX colleagues. From left to right: David Valentin, Scott Smith, Laurie Blavin, Jewels Rottiers, Lisa Cooke, Brennan, Kim Lavery, VES, Maggie Oh, Lance Thornton and Corey Rosen. Photo by Jason Andrew Photography

The Bay Area Section in Northern California is the VES’s oldest Section, founded in 2006 and now boasting almost 500 members, and it’s enormously vibrant because of the area’s rich history in visual effects and impassioned leadership at the helm.

Often called “Digital Hollywood,” the Bay Area is the birthplace of some of the most recognizable brands in the visual effects industry, including Industrial Light and Magic, Pixar, Tippett Studio, Telltale Games and Atomic Fiction, and the region leads the way in technological innovation in Silicon Valley.

“Another element lending to the success of the dynamic Section is the desire for and commitment to community,” says Bay Area Section Chair Lisa Cooke. “A lot of people are working in a freelance capacity and are dispersed, and so the Bay Area Section has taken on the responsibility and opportunity to bring together the VFX community through our events, outreach and education. There was a real hunger for this centralized hub to exchange ideas, network and build relationships, and we’re immensely proud to play that role of convener.”

Engaged attendees at the Summit’s interactive roundtable session. Photo by Jason Andrew Photography

Keynote speaker Rob Legato, ASC, addressing the Summit audience. Photo by Jason Andrew Photography

The Bay Area Section enjoys strong support from area studios, local corporations and colleges. That business support has been elevated this year, as the Section launched its Diamond Sponsorship Program, where companies sign on as sponsors for an entire calendar year and all of its programs. The 2017 Diamond Sponsors are Lytro, ASG Advanced Systems Group and Quantum, who serve as integral players in the Bay Area VES Community.

“A lot of people are working in a freelance capacity and are dispersed, and so the Bay Area Section has taken on the responsibility and opportunity to bring together the VFX community through our events, outreach and education.”

—Lisa Cooke, Bay Area Section Chair

The Section also nurtures mutually beneficial relationships with other guilds and associations in the region who partner on events, share resources and reciprocal discounts and foster valuable cross-craft connections, including The American Society of Cinematographers (ASC), Society of Motion Picture & Television Engineers (SMPTE), Women in Animation, the Producers Guild of America (PGA), Directors Guild of America (DGA) and SIGGRAPH.

The launch of the Bay Area Summit in 2016 was core to the Section achieving its outreach and education goals. “It’s exciting to be able to bring such great minds together to exchange ideas as we look forward to the limitless possibilities of the artistic and technological innovations in our unique industry,” says Cooke. The collaborative endeavor has quickly become a highly-anticipated annual forum for VFX professionals to come together and innovate.

In May 2016, the Section kicked off this ambitious undertaking and hosted its first Bay Area Summit, entitled “Film & Beyond: The Changing Landscape of Entertainment.” Held at Pixar Animation Studios, the Summit featured Karen Dufilho, Executive Producer of Google, as Keynote Speaker, and included speakers and roundtable moderators from The Foundry, ILM, Dolby, Telltale, Inc., Pixar, Jaunt, Tippett Studio and Whamix.

The VES Bay Area Summit had numerous industry supporters. Photo by Jason Andrew Photography

“Highlighting new technologies in motion pictures, television, online content, games, apps, virtual reality, scientific research and ‘beyond,’” Cooke continues, “the Summit honored and celebrated the thriving visual effects community, which we are so proud of supporting here in Northern California.” The event was deemed an instant success from attendees, sponsors and the community-at-large.

Back by popular demand, the 2nd Annual Bay Area Summit was convened in May 2017, once again under the direction of Summit Chair Kim Lavery, VES, and an exemplary team of hard-working professionals. “Film & Beyond: The Next Twenty Years” was a nod to both what lies ahead for the global community and the VES. Held again at Pixar Animation Studios, the Summit brought together local and global experts from the fields of animation, broadcast and film, VFX, video games and technology to reflect on our history and provide insights on where to go next. The Summit exudes pride in the region’s leadership in the many modes in which VFX can affect the world, citing its roots in hand-made, traditional visual effects craftsmanship, through expansion into digital tools and technologies, feature-length animation and cinematic video game content.

The excited capacity Summit crowd at Pixar Animation Studios. Photo by Jason Andrew Photography

VR on display at the VES Bay Area Summit. Photo by Jason Andrew Photography.


Life-size renditions of Pixar characters inspire all kinds of behavior. Photo by Jason Andrew Photography.


Keynoter Rob Legato, ASC, is flanked by Lisa Cooke and Kim Lavery, VES. Photo by Jason Andrew Photography.


Buzz Lightyear and Sheriff Woody line up for their badges. Photo by Jason Andrew Photography.

The Summit featured impressive keynote speakers Lynwen Brennan, EVP and General Manager, Lucasfilm, ILM and Skywalker Sound, and Robert Legato, ASC, acclaimed Visual Effects Supervisor, 2nd Unit Director and Director.  The Summit also facilitated a series of interactive roundtable discussions on topics ranging from “Filming for VR,” “Modern VFX Production in the Cloud” and “The Future of Machine Learning in Entertainment,” to “Interactive Characters in AR/VR,” “Merging Realms; Art, Science and Social Awareness” and “Crossover from Live-Action VFX Films to AR/VR/Multi-Media.”

The Section Board is very active, with each member taking on meaningful responsibilities and having the freedom to come up with new ways to serve the membership. Every Board member brings a unique and important talent to the Society. The team is focused on events that bring the membership together to network, socialize and learn. Its anchor events, in addition to the Summit, are the annual Summer BBQ and Holiday Party. Throughout the year, the Section has a full roster of screenings, a museum series, a workshop series, a speaker series and an outreach/mixer series that gets peppered in between. Leadership is looking forward to branching out into mentorship programs and developing its VFX for Good Committee to provide members with opportunities to use their talents to give back to the community.

“This is an important time to elevate visual effects as a respected art form and critical contributor to the business – and not just have it characterized as magic. The VES is 20 years old this year, and in that time our industry has seen incredible change. Always remarkable, often exciting and sometimes very challenging. Our goal is to honor the past, celebrate the present and embrace the future. We try to help our membership understand and prepare for our industry’s rapidly changing landscape and we’re excited for all that comes next,” concludes Cooke.



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