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A bunch of world-class VFX and design artists are about to hit Melbourne and Sydney

I’ve got to travel around to a few conferences and events recently and what I’ve found is, there’s nothing quite like hearing and learning directly from artists in visual effects and design – in person.

In Australia, it can sometimes be tricky to have that exposure to the best artists in the field. However, there’s an event coming up – in both Melbourne and then in Sydney – aiming to change that.

It’s called Gnomon Live, and it’s a full weekend event of live demos, masterclasses and panel discussions with a whole bunch of world-class artists speaking on a range of VFX and design topics. People like Neville Page, Tran Ma, Miguel Ortega, Brian Recktenwald and Josh Herman. Plus the big studios – Animal Logic, Luma Pictures, Iloura, Firemonkeys, and more, will be there.

Alex Nice.

Another of the presenters whose attending is art director Alex Nice from Magnopus, an exciting studio which is crossing the line between visual effects and new forms of immersive entertainment. Nice has previously worked on films like Sin City, The Hunger Games and Hugo, and these days he’s exploring new art direction techniques in AR and VR.

I asked Nice about a few of his thoughts on the current state of VFX/VR/AR and about what he’ll be showcasing at Gnomon Live.

vfxblog: It feels like a really interesting time to be in visual effects, and to be at somewhere like Magnopus that is able to use the VFX skills/artistry of its crew to work in emerging fields – what’s your take on the state of work available to VFX artists right now?

Alex Nice: It absolutely is. When I first started studying visual effects in art school, I was laser focused on working in film. Movies like Jurassic Park, Terminator 2, and Toy Story – all I wanted was to move to Los Angeles and be a part of that world.

Now, the VFX career isn’t an obscure industry somewhere off in Hollywoodland. It’s worldwide. And the path to working on a blockbuster movie or a AAA game isn’t as much of a long shot. I believe that hard work and determination will most certainly get you to where you want to be.

The market is so diverse now too. VFX has expanded into some really exciting new technologies such as VR, AR, museum exhibit design, mobile app development etc – the list is growing every day. There’s a huge selection of new career paths available, it’s really a matter of what interests you.

We are a content hungry society these days, and where there’s interesting content, there’s often some form of CGI or visual effects.

vfxblog: How is art directing for VR/AR different than say for traditional visual effects or film projects, or how is it the same?

Alex Nice: From an art direction standpoint, it’s not that incredibly different. VR/AR is just another story telling medium. Good art direction transcends the technology. Just like anything else, your trying to develop visual interest and support the story.

One thing that realtime VR and AR has changed is with layout and composition is that you now have special awareness in your design arsenal. When you are standing on the edge of a building rooftop in VR, you are keenly aware that the street below is hundreds of feet below you. You have a real sense scale and that’s an exciting new tool available to us in the art dev pipeline.

vfxblog: Any advice for those looking to get into art direction for vfx/filmmaking?

Alex Nice: Never stop looking at the masters and studying the foundations of art. There are so many managers and directors out there that are talented technically, yet don’t fully understand the fundamentals. To make good decisions In visual storytelling, you need to understand the basics of value, anatomy, composition, perspective, and color theory etc. So much of what we do is visual problem solving. Why isn’t this shot working? How can we set the mood? To solve these problems, we need to know the foundations.

vfxblog: What do you hope attendees to Gnomon Live will get our of your talks there?

Alex Nice: I’ve been incredibly lucky to have had an very diverse career in many different rolls in the film and entertainment industry. I’ve learned a lot of lessons (good and bad) over the years and I’m always happy to share them with like-minded and aspiring artists. I hope the attendees walk away with a little inspiration and a clearer direction to go after their dreams.

Gnomon Live is in Melbourne from 31 March to 2 April, and in Sydney from 7 to 9 April. Find out more at http://gnomonlive.com.au. I’ll be there too, moderating a few panels and presenting some speakers.

Alex Nice’s talks will include:

1. From Matte Painting to Art Direction through VR

From the history of traditional matte painting to the use of advanced technology, Alex will discuss how he has prepped himself and adapted to the ever changing entertainment art industry. This masterclass will discuss matte painting break downs in films such as Hugo, transitioning to shot design roles for films such as Sin City and Hunger Games and what is involved in his more recent art direction role through new technology such as VR.

2. Demo

Using all the tools in the CD generalist toolbox Alex will demonstrate how to use 3D in the creation of high quality concept art for film and games.

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