A VFS Earth Day Playlist

In honour of Earth Day, we’ve collected some student films and reels from our YouTube channel that have stuck with us, provoked us, entertained us, disturbed us, and made us think. There are lots more like them, too – this is just a small selection. Enjoy, and happy Earth Day!

A Change Of Season, a Film Production short directed by Travis Callahan, is a post-apocalyptic cautionary tale best summed up by one chilling line delivered in a classroom early on: “This process was called photosynthesis.”

Two Degrees/Left Behind is a visual effects reel created in 3D Animation & Visual Effects by Elena Topouzoglou. In a very simple action, a single penguin approaches a man as if to say “We need to talk.”

Last year, Digital Design students Dewi Mariam and Christian Whiticar created a series of PSAs called Our Choice as their final project. (Later written up by Motionographer.) Here’s one of the four installments, Overexploitation.

In Classical Animation grad Ben Meinhardt’s classic Binge and Purge, a sequel to his other VFS film Dancing Animals in Love and later expanded in an even more pointed series of shorts for MTV called Perfectland, we see what happens when nature (or its mutated version) fights back.

Game Design isn’t the first program you’d think of on Earth Day, but many student games have had an environmental bent. As you can see in this trailer, Bloom‘s student creators (profiled extensively here) gave their final project a very earth-friendly theme.

And finally, although not overtly about the environment, Jessica Wan‘s Matte Painting and VFX Reel shows us a ravaged Vancouver skyline: a simple but powerful image. (And also one of the inspirations for creating our Google Map of students destroying Vancouver last year.)

Clean Sweep for VFS at IMATS Vancouver

It was an IMATS to remember.

Four recent grads of the Makeup Design for Film & Television program at VFS were selected to take part in the Student Competition’s character/prosthetics category at the Vancouver International Makeup Artist Trade Show.

And when it came time to hand out the awards on Sunday, it was an unprecedented clean sweep – VFS alumni took first, second, and third place!

First place – Zoe (Wei-Ying) Cheng
Second place – Elisa Solomon
Third place – Jon Berezan

Competitors had to use prosthetics supplied by IMATS on the day – they only knew the theme (Grimm’s Fairy Tales) in advance, and could provide their own wigs, hairpieces, and costumes. They only had three hours from start to finish.

The judges (who only saw the results and didn’t know who they were voting for) included two Oscar winners in Howard Berger and Tami Lane, and two other incredibly accomplished makeup artists in Charles Porlier and Victoria Down.

“Both our students and alumni spent all weekend dazzling the professional makeup community with their amazing work,” said Head of Makeup Design for Film & Television Stan Edmonds. “It’s always exciting for us to show off what we can really do!”

But what tells the story better than pictures? Check out this slideshow for shots of the competition and to see the graduates’ amazing creations take shape!

Pixar Parody, Directed by VFS Grad, Up for a Webby

Update: Pixar Intro Parody wins two Webbies, including a People’s Voice Award!

There’s a pretty good chance you’ve seen it already: Pixar Intro Parody, the pitch-perfect CollegeHumor send-up of Luxo Jr. It was announced last week that it’s among the finalists for a Webby Award in the Animation category, and deservedly so.

Pixar Intro Parody was directed and animated by Mike Ritchie, a graduate of Classical Animation and Digital Character Animation at VFS. He’s one of the principals behind the Greater Vancouver based Gloo Studios.

“They just handed us a script and said ‘go for it’,” he explains. “So we had an opportunity to pretty much do anything we wanted with it.”

An animator taking on animation’s sacred cow is one thing. (In the end, Disney Pixar liked it enough to tweet about it.) But the bigger challenge on the short’s production was time. “I was kind of nervous,” he says, “because we were working with a tight budget and because it’s a web comedy video, and a pretty tight time constraint, although CollegeHumor was pretty good at giving us flexibility. We were nervous that it was going to be hard to pull it off properly.”

You can watch Pixar Intro Parody here – we strongly advise viewer discretion. It’s hilarious but filthy. There’s also some great making-of material on the Gloo Studios blog to check out after.

Mike was the main guy behind Pixar Intro Parody, but, as it happens, not the only VFSer – with the clock ticking, he brought in 3D Animation & Visual Effects grad Yuvraj Magar as well. “He came on and helped me do the stuff I didn’t have time for,” Mike says.

The 14th Webby Awards are handed out in New York on June 14. But there’s also a People’s Voice component where you can vote for Pixar Intro Parody, as any sane person would: check it out and cast your vote at youtube.com/webby (select the ‘Animation’ category).

IMATS Vancouver This Weekend!

IMATS Vancouver – that’s the International Make-Up Artist Trade Show – is this weekend, April 17 and 18, at the Marriott Pinacle. Our Makeup Design for Film & Television program will be there – big time.

We’ve got tons planned, including makeup demos by alumni, students, and faculty. Our Head of Makeup Design, Stan Edmonds, will be on hand. On Saturday, grad Michael Nickiforek (who we interviewed in January to talk Tooth Fairy, Smallville, and other recent work) will be doing an extensive demo of silicone prosthetic aging makeup.

If you’re coming to IMATS, be sure to drop by our booth! (Look for the giant head wound.) For complete event details and last-minute tix, check out the IMATS Vancouver site.

Other reasons we’re looking forward to IMATS Vancouver? Four of the eight contenders in the Student Competition’s prosthetics category are VFS grads. And one of the event’s keynote speakers is Emmy-winning Makeup Design for Film & Television instructor Charles Porlier, who also happens to be Makeup Department Head on The Twilight Saga: Eclipse.

Matt Lillard and Cassidy Freeman Talk Shop at VFS

The VFS Main Theatre was packed to the walls with Acting for Film & Television students recently, and for good reason. The Acting program’s Advisory Board Member (and special guest instructor) Matthew Lillard was in conversation with Smallville star Cassidy Freeman, delving into topics like how to deal with the ups and downs of battling it out in LA for acting gigs.

“You can have a bad day and [complain] about it, but that can’t be your mantra” Freeman said. She opened up about the times when she felt her lowest — during a botched audition for a Don Cheadle film — and the better moments, like when she ignored the advice of everyone around her in LA and took a part in the New York play that landed her a manager and a very bright future in acting.

Lillard, as always, encouraged actors to own their craft and know who they are intimately. That way, when they’re working on set, they won’t have any nagging worries about whether they have a right to be there.

“Part of this program is that you walk out with a sense of who you are, and that you’re an actor,” he said. “You have a conviction of who you are and that validation allows you to feel strong in that environment [on set].”

Lillard also explained how his own career lately epitomizes those same ups and downs Freeman described. This year was the first in many that he didn’t land a part in a TV pilot. But before that could sink in, he was cast by Alexander Payne (Sideways) for a feature film where he’ll play the lover of George Clooney’s character’s wife.

“It’s a big thing for me,” he said, emphasizing how things change all the time in this industry. Life as an actor is tough, but that’s also what makes it so rewarding.

Lillard carried that same spirit to the recent VFS Acting Alumni Reunion, where grads from the program got together to share their experiences and have some fun. Check out the flickr photos from that night.

Photos from Game Design Expo 2010

What a weekend it was! Here’s the story of Game Design Expo 2010, told in photos from both Saturday’s memorable Industry Speaker Day and Sunday’s Open House at VFS.

(When viewing the slideshow in full screen, hit “Show Info” at the top for more info about each photo!)

Incidentally, although we didn’t make a huge deal about it on the day, the weekend featured on-stage appearances by three VFS Game Design grads - Mass Effect 2 Lead Cinematic Designer Armando Troisi (there to talk interactive narrative), Saints Row 2 Game Designer David Bowring (who sat on the panel), and Punch-Out!! Game Designer Matt McTavish, who accepted an award for Outstanding Educational Contribution on behalf of his employer, Next Level Games.

Grads on Latest Splinter Cell

Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell: Conviction, the latest in Ubisoft’s long-running Sam Fisher series, officially hits stores today. Great reviews so far, and a nice plug yesterday by Tycho of Penny Arcade, a Splinter Cell fan of some repute.

So, we’re going to do that thing now where we list a few of the VFS grads who worked on it. Two 3D Animation & Visual Effects alumni, in particular, contributed to Splinter Cell: Conviction out of Ubisoft Montreal – Level Artist and Modeler Stan Siebert and Level Artist Matthew Massier.

Now that we can all actually play the game, it’s a little late to be thinking about trailers – but for the record, a whole bunch of VFS grads also worked on that for Conviction via Rainmaker, including Film Production grad and Editor Mischa Hrziwnatzki, and 3D grads Eric Wong and Ivy Ho (both Lighting Artists), Carolyn Wong (Senior Creature Technical Director), Ken Beauchamp (Effects Artist), and Maritza Louis (Modeling Lead).

Game Design Expo 2010: Photo Preview

We’ve still got lots of exclusive stuff from Game Design Expo 2010 to share with you – seriously, hang on to your hats – but for now, here’s a little taste of some of the scenes from Saturday’s Industry Speaker Day.

Dave Warfield, Head of Game Design at VFS, introduces the day’s slate of speakers and panelists on a brilliantly sunny Saturday morning.

Even first thing in the morning, the atrium at the Vancity Theatre was buzzing. Here, attendees enjoy some hands-on preview time with United Front Games’ urban-vinyl-influenced racer ModNation Racers, due in stories in May.

“Failure is not inherently bad,” says Obsidian Entertainment’s Matt MacLean – his talk, Crafting the Perfect Challenge, explored questions of failure, learning curves, and finding the sweet spot between impossibly difficult and… rewardingly difficult. (He’s growing a playoff beard – he’ll only shave once Obsidian’s espionage RPG Alpha Protocol ships!)

The Future of Gaming Panel: Moderator Scott Jones (co-host of Reviews on the Run), David Bowring (Volition, Saints Row 2), Josh Bridge (Blue Castle Games, Dead Rising 2), Ted Nugent (Genius Factor Games), Trent Shumay (Finger Food Studios), and Jay Balmer (BigPark). Not pictured: Jason Leigh (Blue Castle, Dead Rising 2).

Stay tuned! Lots more to come!

VFS Impact Awards – Save the Date!

The first-ever VFS Impact Awards are coming May 3, 2010!

The awards represent a VFS-wide celebration of student achievement, taking place at the funky Biltmore Cabaret in East Van. It’s a showcase of an incredible array of crazy-hot talent from around our 13 programs, crossing disciplines and shining a spotlight on the uniqueness of VFS talent – in short, this is not your mama’s awards show.

An urban edge, cultural diversity, and spirit of technical collaboration – that’s what the evening’s all about. Ticketholders can look forward to a smorgasbord piled high with delicious fare from around the world, a variety of energetic, international entertainers throughout the evening, and professional photo portraits.

VFS Impact Award tickets are available to VFS students and their guests – and what better way to start a new term than with a party? So save the date to enjoy a fun-filled night of celebration.

Tickets are $10 and will go on sale soon – Entertainment Business Management students, who are making the event happen, will be visiting your floor and classrooms starting April 19.

VFS Impact Awards
May 3, doors open 7pm
Biltmore Cabaret

You’ll be hearing lots more about the VFS Impact Awards very soon. Stay tuned!

Update! Visit the VFS Impact Awards site for all the Spring 2010 event details!

Game Design Expo 2010 Goes Out with a Bang!

We’ve rung the closing bell on Game Design Expo 2010! What a pleasure to host another successful, fun, and educational event – for the fourth year running – in sunny Vancouver.

Saturday’s Industry Speaker Day was a day of learning and connecting with the industry around us, beginning, appropriately, with a talk by United Front Games’ William Ho about user-generated content and the upcoming ModNation Racers – a game where the game designer and the gamer intersect. “Make a game for someone you love,” he told the audience, stressing the power and reach of the entire medium. Fun is ubiquitous.

Dave Warfield, Head of Game Design at VFS, introduced things at the beginning of the day: “It looks to be a great day.” And he was right – the Vancity Theatre was buzzing all day long.

Other highlights included a long live demo of Dead Rising 2, set to hit store shelves August 31st. We got to see this highly-anticipated sequel in action, with a special emphasis on weapon combinations like the electric rake, chainsaws duct-taped to a kayak paddle, and an unforgettable lawnmower move. Having Armando Troisi lift the cover off Mass Effect 2′s approach to interactive narrative and cinematics was also a treat.

The day concluded with a panel hosted by Reviews on the Run‘s Scott Jones. The subject: The Future of Gaming. The diverse group of designers and producers explored subjects like mobile games, distribution, innovation in controls (panel consensus – thought-controlled games are not where it’s at) and a question on the minds of anyone involved in the industry: Is Farmville the future?

On Sunday, we threw open the doors of VFS  for the Game Design Open House, inviting everyone to come by for a day of sample classes, arcades of student- and alumni-created games, and other assorted good times. Best of all, we announced all the details on our 2010 Women In Games Scholarship, as well as three other Game Design Expo Scholarships – you’ll be able to find all the details and apply starting Monday right here.

Thanks to all of our sponsors, speakers, panelists, and everyone who came out over the course of the weekend!

We’re going to have lots more for you coming up, including photo highlights, a rundown of the action at 2010 event, and more! Stay tuned to gamedesignexpo.com.