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June 01
2023

ISSUE

Summer 2023

Washington Revisited: Celebrating Synergy in the Pacific Northwest

By NAOMI GOLDMAN

VES Washington members served as proud participants in the 2023 VES Awardsglobal nominating events.

VES Washington members served as proud participants in the 2023 VES Awards global nominating events.

Washington Section members celebrate the holidays with a festive games night.

Washington Section members celebrate the holidays with a festive games night.

The VES’ global community gets stronger every year – and so much of that is because of our regional VFX communities and their work to advance the Society and bring people together.

VES Washington is at the center point of a vibrant gaming and tech community, and the visual effects market is tightly tied to the wealth of visual computing and video game design companies, small production studios and indie boutiques in the region. Founded in 2016, the Washington State Section boasts a dynamic and diverse membership that reflects the unique makeup of the area’s visual effects community. As a game development hub, the VES Washington Section’s membership of 85+ boasts game developers and engineers, as well as educators, recruiters and production artists.

“It’s true: we think and show up differently,” said Andy Romine, VES Washington Co-Chair and Senior VFX Instructor at the Academy of Interactive Entertainment in Seattle. “Because we are home to a lot of independent studios, our membership brings that ‘scrappy’ perspective to our VFX community. And one of the truly great things about working and living in Washington is that you might run into someone working at Apple or NVIDIA, doing comp work for commercials or VFX for a Triple-A game. The ability to highlight all of the cool state-of-the-art innovation in our backyard and make those connections is great – and a big selling point for new members.”

In the realm of recruiting new members, the Washington Section has benefited from strong word of mouth and fun evenings akin to pub nights with a ‘Washington flair’ hosted at gaming experience haunts like Mox Boarding House. Now, the Section is leaning into social media to engage prospective members.

“LinkedIn is proving to be a very successful vehicle for us in recruiting new members,” said Eric Greenlief, VES Washington Co-Chair and Visual Effects Artist at Bungie Studios in Bellevue. “Beyond recruitment, having strong communication with our current and prospective members where we trumpet all the amazing things we’re doing is a top priority. And we want to foster more real-time communications with and among our fellow members around the world to share what we’re learning and champion the building of our global network. We believe that compelling communication is key to growing our membership and deepening the involvement of our members.”

When it comes to programming, the VES Washington Co-Chairs are proud of the robust roster of virtual programs they produced during the pandemic. Virtual programs over the past few years included fun Netflix watch parties – with Grub Hub certificates sent to members so everyone could eat together – and a series of moderated conversations and demos under the Creative Spotlight theme, including: a roundtable discussion on Shotgun’s Project Management Software with panelists from Netflix, MGM, Bungie, Shotgun and Autodesk; an overview of Unreal Engine VFX; and a conversation with Independent Visual Effects Producer and Consultant and former VES Board Chair Mike Chambers, VES, as he discussed his journey from The Pickle to Tenet.

“We are excited to be back in the realm of hosting live events, and the decision to hold our VES Awards nominating event in person earlier this year was a testament to how hungry our group was to have that in-person interaction,” said Romine. “But it’s going to be a balancing act with some virtual events because we all understand how the online world helps in booking speakers and getting attendees to easily join in from across the state.”

Moving ahead, programming ideas in development include a panel on “Lighting in Games” with various studio representatives; a demo on real-time fluid simulation software Embergen; and a VES member demo reel night where members can show their work and share stories from the journey. There is also a lot of conversation within the Section about AI and how that is going to affect the industry in games and film, which may lead to hosting an educational forum that is mindful of how it might impact jobs and career opportunities.

“And with the move towards Virtual Production in the film industry… who knows more about Unreal Engine than game developers?” said Greenlief. “As we think about programs, we have a great opportunity for these two industries to mix. Making VFX in games is different than doing it in film, but the spaces are coming closer together, and there is a lot of learning to be done in the crossover.”

The Section also hosts a bevy of film screenings and Q&As, thanks to its longstanding partnership with the Seattle International Film Festival (SIFF), which holds the screening events in their theaters, including the SIFF Egyptian and SIFF Cinema Uptown.

“This is the perfect time to share gratitude for our former Section Chair Neil Lim Sang, who is our liaison with SIFF and works to ensure we have these great venues for our screenings,” said Romine. “Eric and I are so grateful to Neil who started the Section and has been our core. We feel like Neil was the entrepreneur who created the start-up, and now we are coming in to take things to the next level and realize the vision of what we can do.”

“We believe that compelling communication is key to growing our membership and deepening the involvement of our members.”

—Eric Greenlief, VES Washington Co-Chair

The VES Washington Creative Spotlight series features a dynamic roster of guest speakers and presentations.

The VES Washington Creative Spotlight series features a dynamic roster of guest speakers and presentations.

The VES Washington Creative Spotlight series features a dynamic roster of guest speakers and presentations.

Washington Section members and guests gather for an exclusive LED Wall demo presented by immersive experience experts from Vossler Studios.

Washington Section members and guests gather for an exclusive LED Wall demo presented by immersive experience experts from Vossler Studios.

When asked about the value of their VES membership, the Co-Chairs offered these testimonials: Said Greenlief, “I love networking with people who are all working on different things because there is always more to learn. I can draw a dotted line from the VES to people I have hired for my studio. And we are so fortunate to have the platform from the VES to go out and talk with students about our tales from the journey and their futures. That school outreach is an incredible process that gives me such perspective on my pathway and what I can give back to those that follow. The ability to have an impact on aspiring young artists energizes me to do what I do.”

In closing, Romine remarks, “I’ve been a film and VFX nerd since I was five years old, and finding a community who loves this as much as I do has been such an amazing part of my life. Talking shop and learning how people get things done – the excitement is contagious. And the VES is also the reason I have a job at the Academy of Interactive Entertainment. I was invited to speak on a VES roundtable at AIE, they invited me back, and the rest is history. Let me end with this: VES Washington is hitting another growth period in membership, and we have the largest Board of Managers we’ve ever had.

We all are bringing high energy this year and expect to deliver great things for our VES community!”



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