Category Archives: report

Playgrounds Festival 2015 – Day 3

by Maurice Vinken /

by Maurice Vinken /

White Noise Lab (US)

Roger Lima, sound designer and initiator of White Noise Lab, and creator of the music of the Open Titles of this year’s Playgrounds Festival, shows the best of his portfolio. From commercial to personal projects, from the sound design of short films to that of experimental ones. He especially casts a light on his project “Specialized Beats”, a personal project inspired by a bike to make any kind of sound and mix it into an interesting composition. He later used this idea to design a very creative advertisement playing with the parts of a car. This is a perfect example of how creativity can be fed by personal, artistic, and non-commercial works. He finishes his talk with the statement: “Sound design is also music”. With this phrase he shows the passion that he puts into his work, and how this passion is reflected on to his projects.

Vincent Lammers (NL)

Vincent Lammers – designer, illustrator and animation director – mainly talks about his experience as an intern at Buck (creative agency based in the USA), and later as an animation director at The Ambassadors. He explains his work for Mona, a stop-motion animation currently screened on Dutch broadcasting channels. What struck me in this project were the character design and the timing of the animation. The stage and background are inspired by a traditional Dutch house, which serves to create a connection with the public to which the advertisement refers. Vincent also suggests that sometimes it is necessary to take a break during the workflow, in order to see everything from a fresh perspective. Among his suggestions: taking a walk, talking to someone, or most of all, start smoking!


20151106_Playgrounds_LR_069_9827The afternoon program started with Bradley G. Munkowitz, or GMUNK. In his two hour long presentation, the San Francisco based artist entertained the audience by alternating irreverent gifs with inspiring advice for young creative professionals. GMUNK has worked in the visual communication field, creating commercials, graphic design, artistic installations, music videos, and a lots of other visual projects. What really transpires from his work is his strong experimental attitude that allows him to boldly experiment with light, geometry, technology, and music. One of his obsessions, he explained, is to recreate the things he sees while high on drugs: optical illusions, colored geometries, ‘trippy’ images that constantly move and change, impossible figures. And creating these things makes the creative work fun, it’s what keeps your brain awake, what allows you to constantly evolve. His talk and his work prove exactly this point: being creative, as GMUNK explains, is about always trying to enjoy what you’re doing. And if your work doesn’t satisfy you, create something on your own, even something ‘meaningless’, because eventually that is the work that’s going to attract the attention of clients. Furthermore, constantly experimenting is going to help you step out of your comfort zone, and grow from a professional and artistic point of view.


Animation and VFX studio MPC show us mainly the process to create the advertisement for IKEA ‘Fly Robot Fly’. Their talk goes into the details of the production process: from the inspiration and creating the concept, to more technical issues, explaining what it’s like to deal with artists and producers to pitch the project. From general topics like costume design and background integration, to very specific ones like the composition in Nuke, or the rendering of the clouds with Turbulence FD in Cinema 4D, we get a glimpse of what went on at the background of such a production. MPC also took time to explain how the collaboration with the concept artist was, explaining the process of making changes until they get exactly what they think is necessary for each project.

Last but not the least the Closing Party hosted by The Ambassadors took place, where everyone could relax and chill a bit after a packed program full of inspiration. Some of us interviewed the guests of the festival briefly, but mostly people were enjoying a beer and getting into the DJ set.

Even after the festival ended, the spirit of the festival remained with us, reminding us to create work you want to do and believe in, staying true to who you are.


Playgrounds Festival 2015 – Day 2

by Maurice Vinken /

by Maurice Vinken /

Moving from Breda, the second day of the Festival is set in the fascinating Stadsschouwburg in Amsterdam. Surrounded by the elegant atmosphere of this theater, a new fresh wave of inspiring talks is about to begin, starting with:


One of the most important animation studios in Latin America, 2Veinte, shows us their unique style: a mix of synthetic motion graphic design from Germany, and the irreverent style of the US. They get their energy from abandoning forms, create offensive concepts and crazy color schemes, which undoubtedly influenced many animators in Latin America and in the rest of the world. 2Veinte is specialized in morphing, and has brought this technique to an extraordinary level. It’s also worth to mention the character design that 2Veinte has developed, from robots that try to destroy a city, to amorphous creatures leaking on the floor.


Another really interesting collective that is part of Playgrounds is Marshmallow Laser Feast from London. The group’s approach is based on a continuous investigation of the relationship between shape, sound, motion, and the connection with the human perspective. For MLF storytelling is about interaction. By allowing the user to take part in the installation itself, he/she feels more connected to the story.

by Maurice Vinken /

by Maurice Vinken /

At Playgrounds, Barney Steel and Robin McNicholas presented their new work, ‘In the Eyes of the Animals’, a virtual reality installation that enables the viewer to experience the animal perspective when exploring the forest. The installation, as they explained, was originally set in a forest in which the trees were mapped, and then recreated in a 360° virtual world using a system of particles constantly changing in size according to the viewers perspective. The most fascinating thing about this project was that, since the trees mapped in the VR experience were actually the ones that were in the surroundings of the original installation, the viewer eventually recognizes the space and associates it with the experience. What we as humans find interesting, Robin says, is the change of perspective. So in experiencing the animals’ point of view, our perception of our own world totally changes. MLF really test the possibility of virtual reality experiences, reinterpreting the world in an effective, non-realistic way.
They explain that in order to do what they like, they have to do what they jokingly call “prostitution”: working for the commercial field. But their artistic approach is always visible, even in spots like the one for McLaren. Here the shape of the car is visualized through light beams that simulate the wind flow. These commercial projects are fundamental in order to survive in a creative environment — eventually you always need to pay the bills. And in their case, the main bills are the ones concerning the acquisition of new technology, in order to build a prototype of a project that will later be presented to a possible client.


Mark Ardington – Animation Director, Animator & Character Rigger and VFX supervisor – focuses on the work for the feature ‘Ex Machina’ (2015). In the talk the process of character design and 3D animation is explained in great detail. In the film ‘Ex Machina’ the main character is a combination of a woman and robot. The woman is portrayed by the actress Alicia Vikander, while the CG animation was mapped onto her later in the post-production phase. Witnessing the highly detailed and perfect work of the studio was really impressing, and it also provided a precious insight into the level of complexity behind it.

by Maurice Vinken /

by Maurice Vinken /

The talks finish at 18.00, but the day is not over yet. The program also involves an exclusive meeting in one of the most famous creative studios in Amsterdam: Post Panic. At the Panic Room all the participating artists — and whoever previously registered at the event — meet to share their thoughts while having a drink on the house. Some of the artists show a few slides about what they do, and what they like. Among them there’s Aaron Duffy, 2Veinte, and also GMUNK, whose talk is scheduled for the day after.

Attending Panic Room gives the guests the opportunity to talk with each other in an informal way. You realize that the artists you previously saw on the stage are actually very approachable human beings you can have a drink with, or chat, and experience the sacred art of networking.

In the past I attended several kinds of festivals: design, music, animation. The festivals’ atmosphere is always relaxed, and that makes people more approachable than usual. At Playgrounds somehow this feeling of relaxation is even more amplified, making you wish it would never end…

Playgrounds Festival 2015 – Day 1

Playgrounds offers different perspectives on the creative world, and shows how creative minds approach different kinds of projects. Set in two different locations – Chassé Theatre in Breda (day 1) and Stadsschouwburg Theatre in Amsterdam (day 2 and 3) – , the artist talks provided some interesting food for thought.

by Maurice Vinken /

by Maurice Vinken /


Aaron Duffy is a director and creator. His talk was one of the most captivating of the festival, challenging the bad image advertising has by showing that creativity is possible in this context. He revealed the thought process behind his successful commercials for Audi and Google and shared some of his earliest projects with the crowd, before becoming a famous director. He made it clear that in order to produce a memorable piece one doesn’t need a big budget or sophisticated software – it’s mainly about the idea.


Emmanuelle is an illustrator and animator, originally from Canada. She studied animation at Gobelins in France and then moved to London to get more professional experience. In her talk she shared the change her work has been going throughout the years as a professional illustrator and animator with the audience. Emmanuelle showed her personal colorful illustrations that were published in books, as well as commissioned work as an animator and illustrator. One of the highlights of the talk was Emmanuelle presenting in a humoristic way the process of character design and the never ending correspondence with the clients who constantly demand changes. It was inspiring to see her professional attitude and skill to adjust to the client’s needs without losing her own style.

by Maurice Vinken /

by Maurice Vinken /


The talk of PIPS:Lab during the festival was closer to a performance that to an actual talk. Presenting their project Diespace, Thijs de Wit, one of the creators of the collective, staged an interactive theatrical experience in which the audience could leave its signature on the big screen. Before entering the Chassé Theatre each person was given a small light. Thanks to three camera’s placed in front of the audience, the audience itself became the main protagonist of the performance. With the light they were given, each person had to write his own birth date, name and surname in the air. This data was then collected by the camera’s and transmitted to a computer, so that for each position there was a corresponding name and birthdate. And at the end of the performance, the data was shown on the big screen, for an entertaining, engaging finale. Diespace is presented as a metaphor of the afterlife, an imaginary space populated by information about the audience.

Apart from their live performance, the work of PIPS:Lab is interesting also for the approach they have towards technology. Among the inventions of Keez Duyves (one of the members of the group) is a motion capture studio with photosensitive instruments that allow the user to paint in 3D, turning the real world into a 3D canvas. The results are live painted digital images that amaze and add a level of complexity to reality. And all this while having fun!

ILM / Jorik Dozy

Jorik is a visual effects artists that works at ILM. He participated in the making of legendary films such as The Avengers, Jurassic Park and more. In his talk he gave us the opportunity to see what’s behind the visual effects of such a production: how the scene is being planned and filmed and how it’s being aligned with the work of the animators and visual effects artists. He showed the tricks that are used to make life easier for the animators and for the actors as well. Since Jorik is part of a team, his part in creating the movie is very specific, opposed to animators working independently. It was interesting to hear from an animator that works in a team. Also it was inspiring to hear about his travels while pursuing his career as an animator. He noted that the film industry is no longer centered in California, but in London and Singapore. He has been working in Singapore on a project for the last couple of months and he’s currently in the process of creating his first personal film.

by Maurice Vinken /

by Maurice Vinken /

After a long and rewarding day full of information and talks in Chassé Theater in Breda it was time to process it all with the music of Binkbeats. Binkbeats’ experimental music is based on loops that he records live using more than 50 different instruments. All the instruments are beautifully put together in an abstract installation that resembled a missile launch station more than a music show. The lighting and smoke from the theater contributed in creating a mysterious concert that closed the first day in a lovely way.

Playgrounds Festival 2015 – Immersive Storytelling

by Maurice Vinken /

by Maurice Vinken /

With the rise of new digital technology that allows the user to experience stories in a new immersive way, an insight into current practices is really useful to define the current status of storytelling. On the 3rd of November, before the grand opening of the Playgrounds Festival, five different creative minds gave their personal insight on immersive storytelling.

The first speaker was Joris Weijdom, one of the initiators of the Media & Performance Laboratory (MAPLAB) at the HKU in Utrecht. He started his talk with a simple question: which aspects of immersive technologies such as the Oculus Rift are new? The answer, he explained, can be summed up in three main points: 1. dynamic frames, which allows the user to change his or her point of view; 2. user interaction; 3. an embodied experience.

This new technology is being used for different kinds of media content. One example is the music video ‘What do we care 4’ by Steye and the Bizonkid, in which a lot of things can be seen happening at the same time, depending on the viewer’s point of view.

Another project Joris mentions is ‘The Machine to be Another’, an investigation into the relationship between identity and empathy, giving users the possibility to be immersed in another person’s body, changing gender and/or age. Other examples, mostly related to the gaming field, are ‘SightLine: The Chair’, a game that changes while playing, and ‘The Void’, a virtual reality theme park. In ‘The Void’ people can play games from a first person perspective, using the Oculus Rift combined with vests and gloves that create a tactile experience. Thanks to virtual reality technologies, we are able to involve not only vision, but all of our senses when we tell a story.

by Maurice Vinken /

by Maurice Vinken /

The second speaker of the afternoon was Yaniv Wolf, one of the producers at Submarine Channel. He presented one of the company’s latest projects of the company: ‘Refugee Republic’, an interactive documentary about life in a Syrian refugee camp in Northern Iraq. The online platform lets users visit the camp through an interactive map by illustrator Jan Rothuizen, enriched by audiovisual content about the daily life of its inhabitants. This project is a very interesting example of cleverly combining different visual languages to tell a story.

Next up, the duo Sense of Smell presented one of their projects called ‘Famous Deaths’. Sense of Smell are Marcel van Brakel and Frederik Duerinck, from Avans’ Communication and Multimedia Design Breda. While the previous talks were mostly about audiovisual experiences, in this one a more underrated sense took center stage: smell. The concept at the basis of the project is the duo’s shared obsession for death. That’s why their project enables the user to experience the deaths of Lady Diana or J.F. Kennedy, by entering a copy of a morgue locker. While in there, the user is treated to a combination of different scents and sounds, related to these famous deaths.

by Maurice Vinken /

by Maurice Vinken /

The other guests of the afternoon are Marshmallow Laser Feast from London, talking about their VR project ‘In the Eyes of the Animals’, and PIPS:Lab, who tell about their experiences as live performers and the experimental approach to technology they use in their work.

The various speakers this afternoon showed that immersive storytelling is very much a hot item with a broad scope of possibilities. But they also reminded us that not all aspects of these new technologies are really new, and that instead of getting too carried away by these technological gadgets, we need to keep in mind which stories are worth telling.

Seminar Directing Animation

FullSizeRender (3)27th September, 12.15, Utrecht
It’s a lazy Sunday and Utrecht welcomes the guests of the Netherlands Film Festival with a warm sun. The event is a big one: conferences and screenings are happening simultaneously, most of them related to live action film making. But luckily this particular Sunday is related to animation too, with a seminar Animatieregie or, for non-Dutch speakers like myself, Animation Direction seminar.

The first guest is a French director, Rémi Chayé. A little bit shy, visibly nervous for the approaching talk, Chayé goes on stage and introduces himself. Rémi Chayé is a 2D animator, graduated at La Poudrière in 2005 with the short ‘Eaux Fortes. He’s also the director of ‘Tout en Haute du Monde’ (in English ‘Long Way North’), an animation feature, winner of the Prize of the Public at the last edition of the festival of Annecy.

Today’s talk, explains Chayé, is about producing an animation movie. To do so, there are some basic steps you need to follow: first, write a script; then, decide the graphic style of the animation, the look and feel you want your work to communicate; then find a producer and, eventually, produce a pilot.
For him these phases took him more than eight years: after the writer Fabrice De Costil showed him the script, he started working on it, visualizing the ways in which the story could be told; in 2008 he found a producer, in 2011 created the pilot, and finally in 2015 the movie was released.
Producing an animation, as Chayé testifies, is long and patient work. But the most important thing is the work in the pre-production phase, concentrating mostly on the animatic. The animatic determines everything: the shots, the colors, the development of the story. The directing part, he says, ends with the animatic. But the other fundamental function of this tool is to show a potential producer what you’ve got in mind. When you’re looking for money (and you have to ‘belly dance’ for the financiers, as he describes it), you have to be sure of what you want to do in the movie — or at least you have to look like you are, says Chayé. And animatics of course can help you in this process.

The second speaker of the day is Karsten Kiilerich, from Denmark. His speech starts with the presentation of his last movie ‘Albert, a 3D animation movie he directed. For Kiilerich, everything depends on the pitch, how you present your work to someone else. By pitching, he says, you’re more able to clarify your own ideas, in order to explain it to a potential producer. At first, he continues, there are always the gatekeepers, those who ask you stupid questions. At that moment the most important thing is to know how to sell yourself: by showing confidence, you’ve got more chances to be taken seriously. Just like Chayé, Kiilerich points out that the most important thing when presenting a project is the animatic, the movie before the movie. Even if the process of producing a 3D animation is quite different from 2D animation, the animatic follows the same logic. The only difference, he explains, is that while the characters are 2D, the set is 3D.

The Dutch speakers are up next, starting with Belgian director Jan Bultheel.

FullSizeRender (9)He talks about the atypical animation feature he just finished, with the title ‘Cafard‘, a hybrid of principes of live action – working with live actors –  and animation – fantastical landscapes and imagination. He did not use a storyboard, but trusted the actors. Bultheel describes it as the opposite of fiction: the actors play without a camera, and you work out the camera positions afterwards. Bultheel is critical of blockbuster films like ‘TinTin’, that according to him suffers from bad acting. He feels the slick visuals are unfairly prioritized. Instead, in ‘Cafard’ he really trusted the actors to carry the film.

Hans Walther shows behind the scenes material of a couple of series he has been directing; ‘De Sprookjesboom’ for the Efteling and ‘Café de Wereld’ for the Dutch program ‘De Wereld Draait Door’. He mentions that directing for him is really about keeping a crew of people enthusiastic and motivated.

FullSizeRender (5)This is also confirmed by the next speaker, Joost Lieuwma. Besides showing his hilarious new short ‘Paniek!’, he talks about his approach to directing. For him this is about team work. In his studio Frame Order they all work together and provide feedback on each others work. Because it can be difficult to keep a fresh look when making 34 versions of the storyboard,  he has a test audience look at it, or flips the storyboard.

Mascha Halberstad of course has to tell the story about how she was approached by The Prodigy to make a music video (apparently one of the band members was flicking though channels and stumbled upon Nederland 3 which showed her film ‘Munya in Mij’). But mainly she discusses her work on ‘Munya in Mij‘, a stop motion project. She didn’t use a storyboard in this case; she wanted to be able to make decisions standing in front of the set, looking for a casual feeling.
Nice anecdote: Halberstad used lube to make tears, which an assistant had buy at a sex shop. Feeling embarrassed, she said at the counter: “It’s not for me, it’s for a film…”

Erik van Schaaik, last but not least, shows the making of of his newest film ‘The Apple Tree’. He stresses that directing is managing a team: the quality of your team is the quality of your animation. In the past he worked with people without enough skills, and had to redo parts of a film, or spend a lot of time on explaining what he wanted. This time he worked with very skilled people. He feels he got the most out of the challenging shots, since that made people really creative in finding solutions.

All the directors give precious advice to all who are interested in animation. The experiences that are shared in the presentations show that there are as many ways to approach directing as there are people. But although quite a few of the people present don’t rely on a storyboard, the importance of preparation is stressed often. You need to be smart at the beginning, in order to be efficient and not have unwanted surprises at the end. And to do so, it’s best to start as soon as you can.

Report by Federica d’Urzo & Sarah Lugthart
Pictures by Esther Schmidt

Studio visit Walking The Dog in Brussels

Friday the 22nd of May we visited animation production studio Walking The Dog. We were welcomed in one of their viewings to watch their previous work (such as: Les Triplets De Belleville, Kika and Bob, and Secret of Kells) and even got a sneak peek at their most recent creation Voltaire. They finished it just before we visited.

After the screening we got to see their working spaces, render farm, and insights into their working process and techniques. They explained how they work with freelancers, which come and go with different projects. At the art department it was interesting to see that they work with the LAB color format (instead of the regular CMYK); this mathematical process is more like oil painting.

Thank you Walking the Dog for your hospitality and showing us how it works behind the scenes!



Workshop by Wouter van Reek

We had the pleasure of having Wouter van Reek over for an artist talk and a workshop. Some people know him for his illustrations and animations of Keepvogel (Coppernickel in English), but currently his live animations also accompany a theater and music performance. In his presentation he talked about his inspiration and his fascination for the act of drawing. He showed us some clips of ‘di shu’, Chinese water calligraphy. The workshop afterwards made it possible to easily try out combining drawing on a Wacom with writing code. Next to the master students, also a few bachelor students from Animation and Illustration participated. A real eye opener!



Book Trailer Project

The second period was about working for actual clients from the field of animation and beyond. One of the clients was Submarine Channel. The given project was about promoting a book in a dynamic way. Submarine Channel has already worked on various book trailer projects which translates significant parts of a book into motion as you can see on their website.

Generally for a book trailer an audience can scroll through the story which is similar to moving comic. The students decided to do something different: the main idea was to promote the book with a simple and funny online game which has a direct relation to situations from the book. For example, the coffee addiction of the main character is one of the issues in the book. In the book trailer this element is shown metaphorically both to give clues from the book and to entertain the audience. When a user clicks on the coffee cup, a character appears in the coffee cup and drowns.

The book in question is called “256 Seconds” and the title gave the students another idea: People can click the images infinitely, but in the end 256 seconds is the time limit. If you want to learn more, you should read the book!

One of the best parts of the project was that is has actually been taken into production. The project at first was fictitious for students, but the book was not. So the producer luckily loved the idea and execution, and this created a chance for students to produce the project and see their idea come to life.

Below are some images and a link to the final live result: BOEK 256 BLZ
You can also visit the blog for the making of and research process: Making of Blog


Closed Window

Open Window


Character Sketches

Pixar Talk @ KLIK! Animation Festival, Amsterdam

At the Klik! animation Festival, which was in Amsterdam at November 7th 2014, there were very interesting talks.  One of the talks given was about Building tools for telling stories, by Michael B. Johnson, also known as Dr. Wave.

He works at Pixar, which merged with Disney in 2006. Pixar is a director driven studio where they inspire the team with obstructive criticism.

It takes 4 years to build a movie. The whole process of story, art and editorial takes 3 years already. The most important elements are:

  1. Designing rich worlds
  2. Creating engaging characters
  3. Tell compelling stories

Johnson gave us more insight about the process of their movies.

He talked about story and editorial. The storyboard artists have to work close together with the editors. Editing movies within animation happens from the start till the end of the movie. Together they take care of the story reels, the moving storyboards including voice acting and dialogue. If a story reel doesn’t work out, the story doesn’t work and t has to be changed. Story reels are made to early find the story’s problems.

“Pain is temporary, ‘Suck’ is forever.”, Jason Dreamer

Color scripts are made to test out the color pallet. This must act on the audience and is sometimes inspired by other live action movies.

After that, animation is done by the animators, supervised by the animator supervisor. At the department of Simulations & effects they animate other things besides characters, like fur, snow and water. After that, the lighting department takes over.

Johnson as a tool maker at pixar writes new software to make life for the employees more easily. When there is a problem he fixes it. they want to make the users visibly better at their jobs. Next to that, they want to be a hero, show up and save the day. The have to be world class at something and to become that work with people who are better at their job than themselves.

Based on notes by Samantha (Nov 7th)

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Hi! My names Samantha. I’m a professional illustrator and soon to be animator. After 7 years of freelancing, I thought it a good idea to pimp my skills and add animation to my belt; offering me more job opportunities in this technological, multimedia world.

I have always loved animation and being a character based illustrator, animation has been an enjoyable step in my career, bringing life to my characters.

For my graduation project i decided to take the opportunity to make an animation which would stretch my story development skills and allow me to play with my dark and quirky sense of humour.

My animation is being made with a combination of Adobe photoshop and After effects. A mix of already existing skill and new ones learnt during the last school year. It will be an animated rhyming couplet  about the Boogie man who has a career change and becomes the Tooth fairy.

Below are a few screen shots and a shot from the animation so far.

If you are curious about the making of my animation and my trials and tribulations of the last school year, take a look at my ‘Making of’ Blog and see what I have been up to.

s-Boy-puppet s-Boogie-Puppet s-Bedroom screen shot Screen Shot 2014-07-10 at 18.14.27 Screen Shot 2014-07-07 at 15.18.47 Screen Shot 2014-07-02 at 11.17.44Bedroom-01 Houses Fairy land background