The Masters Animation and VFX show at DJCAD this year will take you on a fantastic journey through diverse lands: dystopian futures, dreamlike vistas, dark underworlds, troubled candy-coloured fairytales and also to Dundee by means of a Dandy comic inspired world and a cardboard arch situated in the cities Slessor Square.
On entering the animation corridor, it is the sound of reverberating music emanating from a darkened room that immediately draws you in. Inside the boardroom-turned-cinema, are rows of seats awaiting an audience to relax and enjoy the screening. So that no one misses anything, the show reel is looped and playing all day. The animations on display are a spectacular assortment of techniques of character realisation and motion effects. It includes 2D and 3D animations and green-screened hybrid mixtures of real and animated footage. The accompanying soundtracks range from loud high-octane, heart pumping tunes to dreamlike ambient chimes and gentle nature sounds. Noticeably there is no spoken dialogue in any of these films, all favouring a visual mode of storytelling for their narratives instead.
The story of ‘Flower’ by Fran Morton is a poetic example of this form of visual narration. The hand drawn sci-fi story of a young woman soldier’s journey from her home through a war torn and storm blasted country is perhaps representative to many real life human dramas although this tale ends serendipitously with a happy ending. No respite however in the post-apocalyptic vision that is ‘Mad Maude’ by Chingiz Jumagulov and Sandeep Tanday. Theirs is a brutal world of grotesque characters, mutant dogs and gun toting babies where the rules are ‘Arm Yourself’, ‘Scavenge’, ‘Fight’ and ‘Protect’ and that is just while doing some food shopping at the, aptly named, ‘Dethco Extra’. ‘The Royal Arch’ by Verda Munir is another example of how different a visualisation and animation form can take. This project in ‘Preserving History Digitally is part of a high-profile community event celebrating Dundee’s Architectural heritage that took place in Dundee’s Slessor Square in May 2016. The building of a cardboard arch interprets the former Dundee Royal Arch destroyed by planners in the 1960s. The animated motion graphics sweep, circle and track the construction of the towering arch using laser scanning and ground-based photogrammetry. Again, attention to detail is exemplified by the realistic seagulls and their cast shadows across the building and its surroundings.
Outside along the animation department corridor walls there are eye-catching posters promoting all the films with pithy loglines such as “Alien meets robot in the most epic escape movie of the year”. Also available in the corridor are artists’ business cards and flyers with contact details and descriptions of what they do, such as “3D Generalist” or “Animator and Illustrator”. The artist information cards and flyers also contain website addresses, where you can re-watch, and links to social media sites. Some have artists have even included scannable QR codes and links to downloadable apps for the chance to enjoy more CG visualisation at home or while out and about.
Outside the screening room there are a couple of informative “process explained” videos playing on monitors. These explanatory videos show the intensive building process of animation work taking the viewer from early sketches through to modelling, texturing, lighting, and the many varying other CG techniques. After a little while of watching the process unravel, the viewer is left in no doubt as to the very intense nature of the year-long Animation and VFX course and to the importance given to the tiniest of details in a character, its movements and also to the inanimate objects of their visualisations such as firearms or Rubik’s cubes.
Whether you are in the animation industry, a fan or an interested observer, this year’s Masters Animation & VFX show, as always, is certainly well worth a visit. The range of styles and variety of stories on offer has something for everyone and, and if you are a new spectator to the process of animation, the amount of work involved in even the shortest film will leave you astounded.