by Rob Redman
FMX can be thought of in many ways but it has always been a pioneer of showcasing new technologies and discussing possibilities of what is just around the corner. 2015 has been no different in this but has maybe had a slight split. As it’s the 20th anniversary of FMX there has been some reflection at what has passed, not just form the event organisers but form a number of speakers and studios. Not surprising as both Pixar and Weta digital share the same celebration. Yes, Toy Story is now two decades old!
A fair number of talks were given over to the last few years, how pipelines as well as techniques have developed to help visual storytellers produce better results, efficiently and economically.
Although there was a fair amount of nostalgia that didn’t stop the march of progress and much of the discussion was about the latest technologies and trends that are only just starting to emerge. Many speakers used their time on stage to extoll the virtues of FV, AR and MR, from a multitude of perspectives, from cinematic, games and various other forms of immersive interactivity but the place to really see what advances are being made and planned was the marketplace.
Normally the trade stand areas at events are quite dry; sobre halls filled with sales people trying to maintain their enthusiasm however nothing could be further from the truth this year. Everywhere you looked there was something exciting and interesting happening. Kolor, recently aquire by GoPro, were there and happily spent the week demonstrating their 360 video system, which in essence uses a cube of GoPro cameras to capture the full environment which can then be viewed in real-time, remotely, using an occulus rift. I tried this a couple of times and I can certainly speak for it’s effectiveness. I wish they had set it up with a more distant location as looking at the back of my own head from a few feet away is slightly disconcerting. That said it’s a great tool and has many possible uses, not just in creative fields but accessability. Image granting the ability to view difficult locations the mobility impaired. Or even the scared? You could conceivably throw the camera rig out of a plane and let a viewer look around the entire scene remotely.
Elsewhere in the hall were other apsects of vr, which is often combined with motion capture tech to create the seemless interface between viewers motion and viewing experience. Faceshift were there showing a number of tools for facial mocop, using high end camera rigs right down to affordable kinect setups.
Optitrack had a large area, demoing their mocap solutions, with pretty much constant dance performances, showing how single or multiple performers could interact and have the motions captured.
The marketplace has a gallery/mezzanine, which this year was home to yet more VR. Companies from Lexus to Nozon were there, offerng hands on demos.
This year really has been the year of Virtual Reality and it looks as if artists from all fields are going to be needing to expand their skill sets to stay abreast over the next few years. Whether you are a designer visualiser or a vfx artist, you should really start to investigate how interactive media is going to make new demands of you.