From September 2006, I organised and hosted a series of lectures on visual effects and computer animation at the Tate Modern Museum in London. Sponsored by Autodesk and Escape Studios, the series examined the development of the digital arts over the last 20 years, while exploring their future potential. Working at the cutting edge of technology, many digital artists are nevertheless using techniques that date back to the Renaissance, such as the use of anatomy to inform sculpture. One of the themes of this series will be the meeting of traditional art practices with the new forms of expression developed in the digital revolution. We put together an extraordinary group of industry talent for your learning pleasure.
Lecture One – Scott Eaton and Johnny Hardstaff – 18th September 2006
Scott Eaton – Escape Studios
Scott Eaton is Creative Technical Director at Escape Studios in London where he teaches a number of courses including the popular Artistic Anatomy for Digital Artists course. Scott studied traditional drawing, painting and sculpture in the academic tradition at the Florence Academy of Art. It was there that he began to integrate the lessons of the old masters with the techniques of modern computer graphics. Prior to studying fine art in Florence, Scott worked as a researcher in computer graphics at the renowned MIT Media Lab where he received his Masters degree. He also holds a degree in Mechanical Engineering from Princeton University.
Johnny Hardstaff – Director
A graduate of St. Martins School of Art, Johnny Hardstaff initially worked in print graphics for fashion designers such as Paul Smith and Katherine Hamnett. In his own time, though, Hardstaff was experimenting with his own hybrid of graphic design and moving image. His first film and subsequent Playstation commission led Hardstaff to be signed to Ridley Scott Associates. His graphic design, image making and films have been exhibited extensively, not least through film festivals such as Onedotzero, Resfest and Mirrorball. Hardstaff is currently concentrating on a book and film project, although he still lectures and contributes to academic research and development within experimental graphic design / moving image.
Lecture Two – Joe Letteri and the making of King Kong – 25th September 2006
Joe Letteri – VFX Supervisor, Weta Digital
Weta Digital Visual Effects Supervisor Joe Letteri discusses the creation of the Academy Award-winning visual effects for Peter Jackson’s King Kong showing how Weta built 1933 New York City, grew the lush jungles of Skull Island, and brought Kong to life.
Letteri has pioneered and developed many of the digital techniques that have become the standard in bringing photographic quality to high-end visual effects. As an artist, he has specialized in the creation of highly realistic imagery, from the dinosaurs of Jurassic Park and Gollum in The Lord of the Rings to the 25ft. gorilla in King Kong. Letteri is the winner of two Academy Awards® for the visual effects of The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers in 2002, and The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King in 2003. He is also the recipient of the Academy’s Technical Achievement Award for co-developing the subsurface scattering technique that was used to bring Gollum to life.
Special Mystery Guest – Andy Serkis – Actor
In 1999, Andy was offered the prize role of Gollum in Peter Jackson’s epic film trilogy version of J.R.R. Tolkien’s saga The Lord of the Rings — Although the principal photography for all three films took place over 18 months, Andy spent much of 2002 and 2003 in post-production due to the complex technical nature of bringing Gollum to the screen. The role has been one of the most psychologically complex/physically demanding/technically challenging roles to date.
This was followed soon after with his performance as King Kongin Peter Jackson’s epic. These roles have made him the pre-eminent actor in the field of motion-captured performance redefining screen acting for the digital age.
Lecture Three – Glassworks and The Mill – 2nd October 2006
Juan-Pablo Brockhaus – Glassworks
Juan-Pablo Brockhaus is a Senior 3D Artist at Glassworks. After freelancing for several years in Germany, he joined the Glassworks 3D-team and as well as an all-round knowledge of animation, he creates scripts and tools for use in production.
Pete Reilly is head of Research and Development at Glassworks. Providing in-house tools for use in production, he has also specialised in developing software for visual effects.
Glassworks provides digital animation and visual effects expertise for the production of award-winning commercials, music promos and immersive marketing tools for clients around the world. The company’s expertise is built around a core team of specialists in computer animation, digital effects and compositing, supported by an in-house team of R&D programmers who develop pioneering software and unique tools used for generating digital content.
Rob Van den Bragt – The Mill
Born in Arnhem, The Netherlands, Rob studied classical animation in Belgium. After obtaining his masters degree he freelanced in Belgium for a short time, then moved to South Africa and worked there for three years in commercials for The Refinery Post Production Facility -biggest facility in South Africa. On his return to Europe he worked for Cinesite on feature films as an animator, for Passion Pictures/Slave Studios on an animated CG tv series/feature, as an animation supervisor, and currently as lead 3D artist at the Mill where he has been for the past four years. His work has won several prizes and was awarded the title of Maya Master.
Launched in January 1990, The Mill rapidly developed an international reputation as a pioneering visual effects company. The Mill’s reputation has been built up over many years due the innovative and creative VFX applied to various advertising campaigns for the likes of Sony, Nike and Levis and our work in other areas such as TV and music promos. The Mill has won prestigious awards in all its disciplines, including Europe’s only Oscar for visual effects for its work on Ridley Scott’s Gladiator. Other accolades cover best post-production, animation and visual effects awards from Cannes Lions (Grand Prix for Sony Playstation ‘Mountain’), D&AD, Clio and the BTAA, to name just a few.
Image credits in order: King Kong ©2005 Universal Studios : 6MM Hate Head ©2005 Johnny Hardstaff : Archer Anatomy Study ©2006 Scott Eaton : Bjork ‘Nature is Ancient’- visual effects by Glassworks 2003 and Sky HD by The Mill 2006. All Rights Reserved