Really Long FITC Report

I spent the first half of the week in Toronto at the Flash in the Can design & technology convention. We got up and left Rochester at 6am on Sunday and had a quiet drive across the border into Canada. All day Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday at computer graphics/programming lectures, and parties in the evening. Then late Tuesday night, back to Rochester.

Sunday:

  1. Awesome presentation by James White of SignalNoise, who does awesome retro-scifi style art. I’d love to have some of his posters, and I’ll definitely be trying out some of his tutorial tricks from the lecture when I get a chance! His presentation was a great combination of reference material, process work, tutorial, and an awesome glimpse into the head of a creative genius. Definitely one of my favorites from the lectures I saw.
  2. Programming Art was a bit disappointing, mostly because I expected to see stuff as awesome artistically as James White’s work, but also the presenter seemed a little too disorganized to have a strong impact. The open-source software that he exhibited was cool though – stuff like Processing that is used to create the programmed art.
  3. After lunch, I went to a panel on starting and running a company. There were no women, which was disappointing, but the discussion was still very interesting.
  4. We got some insight into the famed Content-Aware Fill in Photoshop CS5 at the Adobe Keynote in the evening. There are plenty of other magic features, including Flash/InDesign support so you can make InDesign documents directly into animated, paginated brochures with that fancy page-flip interface you may have seen.
  5. North Kingdom is made of awesome. They’re from northern Sweden and put quality above all else, which has earned them lots and lots of FWAs. The stuff they reject from their projects is far better than any work I will ever do. They showed us the process behind the Adidas Teamgeist project, which advertises the new German soccer jerseys. I’m also a big fan of their now-aging Coke Zero Game, just because it’s so over-the-top…

I was so tired by the end of the day that I didn’t go to either of the gallery shows for new media artists, but later we went to the FITC Rooftop Party, which had an open bar and good music. It was really loud for talking, and no one was dancing, but the RIT students had a good time hanging out on the couches and availing themselves of the free candy and drinks.

On Monday I went to another panel, this one about the role of creative directors. It was disappointingly not very well moderated, but they had some good information all the same. Next was a presentation about Firstborn, which exhibited the sweet tools they make so that code can be more easily reused for later projects. Lunch was at a pub next to the hotel, where the women of FITC were having a networking lunch. My stew was delicious, and I had a good time talking to women in the field. I learned a little from the woman across from me about the glass ceiling that I will probably encounter in the future, and it was nice to see women when the conference was somewhat devoid of them.

Monday evening saw two great presentations. First was “Terraforming Narrative” by Alex McDowell, who sounds like he has one of the coolest jobs ever. We got to see process work behind everything from “Minority Report,” to “The Terminal,” to the new “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” since he worked on the environments for all of them. It was fascinating to hear the logic behind the visuals – and there was a lot more logical thought process than I expected. Basically this guy takes a script, concepts the world, and then does as much logical development of the details as he can. “If the height of the city is only limited by the upward transportation (ie elevators), wouldn’t cars that can move on vertical surfaces make sense? and what would the society at ground level be like?” These are a few questions he listed, and I would love to have a job where someone else makes the story and I get to make up the details about the world.

Afterwards, there was a presentation from Brendan Dawes, who coincidentally wrote the book we used in the first half of my team project class. We barely saw the beginning of the Awards Ceremony before all the RIT people headed off to a quieter bar for the evening.

Tuesday morning started off great with a data visualization presentation. You probably know that I’m obsessed with the periodic table as a work of art/data visualization. This guy made graphics of everything from campaign donations to service requests with as many layers of information as the periodic table. I was impressed and can’t wait to learn more about how it works.

Next up, “The Cool Shit Hour” was marred by technological problems with almost every demo, but the cheerful MC and the varied accents of all but one of the demo-ers kept it from being too dull. The Scene.org presentation would have been cooler at a CG conference, but a Flash one was not really the right forum for it since it was just a string of videos and no discussion. Still, in the modern age, it’s amazing what a few clever programmers/3D artists/mathematicians can fit into 177kb of code. Sweet atmospheric effects, code-generated textures, and even music compiled out of that tiny file into an impressive abstract CG video. I learned a little about character behaviors (flocking, fleeing, etc) in the next session, and we finished up with another guy who worked on “Minority Report.” This guy developed a real version of the gloved hand gesture interface, which was interesting.

    And then we wrapped it up with the closing ceremonies and bugged out of Toronto. Those three days were pretty well packed, and as soon as we got back we had to jump into prepping final details for our thesis exhibition at Imagine RIT on Saturday.

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