Field Theory by Hadyn Green


State of Disbelief

AnimFX NZ was a conference of visual effects, animation, games, and blowing your fucking mind! That's because in between the inspirational speakers, and the ones talking marketing (who were equal parts "real world" and "scary Mad Men shit") there were moments like this (YouTube clip removed until I figure out what's breaking Safari)

And as your brain was processing that, Paul Debevec would hit you with a metaphorical baseball bat called "One to Many 3d Video Teleconferencing". That thing you're seeing? Yeah, that's the goddamn future!

There were whole parts of the conference that were like DVD commentaries, where special effects artists tell you that what you just saw wasn't what you thought it was. They fooled you by bombarding you with pixels and what looked like a set dressed up as a spaceship was in fact a vacant lot with a black-cloth doorway standing in it.

You can forget suspension of disbelief. We're at a point now that you won't even know what to disbelieve anymore. Sure the giant monkey and the insectoid aliens are fake; but so are all the leaves blowing around and that mound of dirt and that plastic bag.

The most concrete things we were shown were sales figures. Digital downloads have an infinitely long tail, who knew? I'll have more on this at a later date.

Richard Taylor and Jeff Okun were perfect for the morning. Taylor waxing lyrical about Weta Workshop and Wellington ("This shaft of earth caught between sea and sky") and drawing real belly-laughs from his anecdotes. Okun filling everyone's heads with dreams about the future and how realtime digital feedback loops could mean that no two film screenings would be of the same film.

There were some parts that made me angry. They were mainly about marketing. If you are a child of the 70s/80s and you think it's cool to buy your kids the toys you used to have (Transformers, Care Bears, Strawberry Shortcake) you are a "Heritage Parent" and they are targeting you. Here's the new Strawberry Shortcake.

See the new non-bespectacled skinny girls doing yoga and (probably) drinking lattes while an Avril Lavigne-style theme song plays. Yeah, that thing being violated is your childhood.

But John Stevenson's finale was amazing: Ray Harryhausen's Cyclops and Jim Henson's Kermit the Frog helped him to create Kung Fu Panda and the journey in between. To remember that the magic isn't all visual effects, it's also story and the love of the telling it.

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