With a German precision, the International Conference on Animation, Effects, VR, Games and Transmedia (or FMX, in short) happens every year when the spring is considering a comeback to Stuttgart. I’ve attended the past 4 editions and this is my favourite moment of the year to get updated on what studios and software publishers in the industry are doing. Plus, there’s a lot of eye candy, too – a lot of the latest blockbusters have their VFX broken down and explained by the studios that worked on them.
The reason for which I decided to write about this edition – after last writing about the 2014 one – was that this year, the industry seems to be finally committed to a few important directions:
The cloud. After a lot of struggle and mixed feelings about the cloud (skepticism, lack of trust, uncertainty about the provided benefits), medium-sized studios are now using the cloud in earnest. Also, most software publishers are working on adapting their licensing models to cloud usage. There are still issues, but they are being worked out, and the cloud is here to stay. From expanding your rendering capacity (which RenderStreet has been doing for a while now, for Blender and Modo pipelines) to the ‘put-everything-in-the-cloud’ approach, studios and publishers are still looking for the perfect way to go about it.
As always, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. But things are moving in the right direction: the big movie studios are starting to be a bit friendlier to the cloud. There are more and more collaboration tools being released. And there are software publishers that are looking at moving entire pipelines in the cloud, as Foundry does with Elara for instance.
Game / real-time engines. The past two years were a giant leap for game engines. Riding the VR/360 wave and finding their way into movie production pipelines, they are more and more present in all the areas of generated 3D contents. This means they are being used in quite a lot of areas of a production pipeline: previz, virtual production, mocap, even for generating final contents for TV shows and much more.
At the same time, the lines between preproduction, production, and postproduction are getting less defined as every studio tries to find the fastest and most cost-effective way to combine the available tools. This, in turn, pushes forward the output quality and feature set of the game engines. And you can see the results below, in the latest reels for two of the most popular game engines: Unreal Engine 4 and Unity.
If you’re curious about how they can be used in a production. here is one of Unreal Engine’s implementation in a production pipeline, in a virtual production toolkit created by The Mill. If you’re interested in the technical details, you can find them in this article on fxguide.
And here is another example of the same engine in production, this time being used to create a group VR experience by Framestore VR.
VR and AR. The virtual/augmented reality landscape is advancing steadily towards a mature state. The technology is now better, both in terms of hardware and software. More and more applications are being developed and making their way into various areas of our life: entertainment, education, buying experience (think architecture, automotive industry) and more.
The adoption rate is still a bit slower than enthusiastically forecast in the past couple of years, but the progress is there. And VR is still expected to be the next big wave that hits the industry. An interesting tool from this area showcased at FMX comes from Microsoft in form of the High-Quality Streamable Free-Viewpoint Video system (video below, and technical paper here).
There were a number of other interesting topics and presentations (including one demo of the Palabos simulation engine used with Blender), but I won’t go in detail about them. I’ll just close this by saying that, whatever you’re trying to achieve, the tools are already here. You just need to put them to good use 🙂
Header photo credits: FMX/Dominique Brewing /Peter Hacker