Event: Playgrounds Blend 2018 in Amsterdam
As an intern at Studio Analoog you’ll find me behind my desk most of the time. But last Friday I left my trusted desk and traveled to the Tuschinski Theatre in Amsterdam for my annual trip to the Playgrounds Festival, with this year the Playgrounds Blend edition. As the name suggests every branch from the animation, movie, VFX and game world was represented. With speakers from autonomous studios, one man companies, short film studios as well as concept designers and animatronic builders of one of the worlds leading film franchises. A busy day!
One of my personal highlights would have been a talk by creature designer Terryl Whitlach. Unfortunately it got cancelled but replaced by Moby Francke. A Senior Character Concept Art Director from game studio Riot. He worked on League of Legends and previously Team Fortress 2 and Half Life. Since I’m planning on doing a minor in Game Design after my internship this was a nice opportunity to get an insight from Moby.
Of course there was a lot of in depth info about his concept work and how the look and feel of Team Fortress was established. But even more interesting was his story about ‘clarity’.
In the case of a chaotic shooter such as Team Fortress, it’s extremely important to be able to determine your position as a player and to be able to identify your opponent and his class. This sounds logical, but the importance of clarity is something that’s also very recognizable as an animator and something I tend to forget when I’m in the middle of a project.
In the images above you can see what choices were made to make the level design and color palette understandable and clear. One piece of advice that was given is to always revert your images to black and white with high contrast. Is everything still recognizable or is it simply not working out this way? Then it will probably not work in color either which means you have to take a step back.
Another great highlight and annual addition to the line-up of Playgrounds is the duo Neal Scanlan and Gustav Hoegen. They’re responsible for the countless amount of animatronics, figurines and protheses that occur in the Star Wars films. They provided an insight in they’re built, operated and everything else required when designing and creating animatronics. Two years ago I first saw them on Playgrounds and was amazed how much is still being hand made in movies. I was under the impression CGI had already completely taken over all visual effects. This year they showed everything that has been built for the latest Star Wars film “Episode VIII – The Last Jedi”.
Just like previous years I was astonished by how many aliens in this film are hand made. In the image you can see how many people are needed to operate one of these creatures in a life like way.
In the case of the famed “Porgs” they didn’t just create a handful of animatronics which could be used in every shot. They made individual Porgs designed specifically for their shot, which could only perform one or two actions. Like in the image above, there was the need for a Porg that would chew on a lightsaber and a Porg which tabbed it’s foot on it. So they designed these in a way that they would be able to perform these basic movements plus the one required for the shot. They even made a special silicone Porg which could be smacked into a window.
The scenes where these figurines where required were not filmed in a greenscreen studio, as opposed to what I was thinking. The crew went out with these, in some cases, very heavy animatronics and filmed on location to get the most realistisch image.
These were my personal highlights of Playgrounds Blend. Of course there were many more talented speakers like director Adam Smith, VFX studio Trixter, art director Curt Enderlee and individual artists like Jasper Kuipers and David O’reilly who are worth a Googling session. For me this edition of Playgrounds was, as expected, a great succes and I would recommend everyone even remotely interested in animation, film, VFX or games to pay a visit. I know I will be there again next year!