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Customer Success Story :: Filmakademie Baden-Württemberg, Germany
23 December 2011
Interview with Conrad Tambour and Karsten Wagenknecht
"Filmakademie student films have won prizes at Animex, Anima Brussels, Annecy International Animation Festival, International Festival of Animated Film Stuttgart, Ars Electronica, Siggraph, Siggraph Asia and VES Awards."
Filmakademie is a unique institution, combining education, art and exceptional talent. What makes it different from other schools, and what advantages do students receive at Filmakademie?
Filmakademie: At Filmakademie Baden-Württemberg and its Institute of Animation, Visual Effects and Digital Postproduction, the project-oriented curriculum triggers learning by doing for all stages of film and television production, making studying at Filmakademie a truly unique experience. The majority of our teachers are guest instructors; they are highly qualified experts from the film and media business, who mentor the students and advise on their projects.
Filmakademie is an internationally renowned film school funded by the Land Baden-Württemberg. It was founded in 1991 as a non-profit, limited liability company, providing students an opportunity to attend without paying high tuition fees.
What are the challenges in filmmaking education?
Filmakademie: One of our biggest challenges is to make sure that both the curriculum and the students’ film productions are at the cutting-edge of current filmmaking, both artistically and technically.
Why did you choose to attend Filmakademie, and what sets it apart from other institutions?
Conrad: When I first saw the short film Hessi James, I knew I wanted to study at Filmakademie. I have always been interested in drawing and making films, and animation is the perfect combination of the two. I think what makes Filmakademie, and especially The Institute of Animation unique, is that it is more like a real studio than it is a school. The students learn by doing, and they learn from each other. They have an opportunity to make their own films while exploring animation, visual effects, technical directing, compositing and interactive media. I think the strength of the Institute lies in the combination of excellent teaching and the application of state-of-the-art technologies. Professor Thomas Haegele and Professor Andreas Hykade approach these issues perfectly, and I hope the Institute will continue to follow the path of "learning by doing".
How did you come up with the idea for Der Besuch? What was the inspiration for the story?
Conrad: Der Besuch is a very personal story. There was a time when my grandmother was sort of confused, and her state of mind seemed to switch between reality, to the past, and to fantasy. For example, she once told me that she had just been visited by her parents, who, of course, had been dead for decades. Everyone was shocked when she would say such confusing things, and I thought it was not only tragic but also very touching. It appeared to me as if my grandmother was in a world between the afterlife and real life, and I thought it would be great to tell a story from that perspective. That is my ispiration for the story.
What were some of the funniest and most memorable moments during the production process?
Conrad: The opportunity to work with so many talented artists was a great honor for me. It was a big team, and dealing with so many people was challenging at times, especially when time was running out!
We often looked like zombies, but that is a common occurrence when deadlines are close. In fact, the best time to see the living dead is right before the trailers for the ITFS (International Trickfilm Festival Stuttgart) have to be finished. Once, I came into the Institute, and a large group of people attending a Filmakademie tour was standing in the hallway laughing at me as I entered. Of course, I did't understand why at first, but later the tour guide told me, he had just mentioned that a typical animation student looks very pale. And when I walked in, I looked like a vampire who hadn't seen daylight in ages! In the end everything worked out perfectly, and no one killed each other.
THE BACKSTAGE EXPERIENCE
Let’s take a look behind the scenes at the production of Der Besuch. What were some of the techniques used to create the film? For instance, the lighting is such a great part of the look of the film. What type of lights did you use? And were the lights animated in frame or in post?
Karsten: We used VRayLights for all lighting in the film, and they were animated in frame.
The GI adds a nice dimension to the piece, especially since it takes place inside. What type of GI solution did you use?
Karsten: We used Irradiance Map for Primary bounces and Light Cache for Secondary bounces, and we ran an animation prepass to avoid flickering.
Was everything rendered out in frame or were the characters composited?
Karsten: All of the sets and characters were rendered together.
Was depth of field rendered in frame or added in post? What about motion blur?
Karsten: We rendered VRayVelocity and ZDepth Render Elements, and we added motion blur and depth of field in compositing.
How long did it take to render a typical frame?
Karsten: A typical frame took 20 minutes for the animation prepass, 80 minutes for the final rendering, and 10 minutes for extra passes.
What passes did you render for compositing?
Karsten: We rendered ambient occlusion, specular, reflection, refraction, subsurface scattering, diffuse, facing ratio, velocity, and zdepth. And for every shader we rendered a mask by using the MultiMatteElement.
What was the most complicated shader to create?
Karsten: We used a complex shader for Mutti’s glasses, combining two refraction shaders. The first used an index of refraction with a value of 1.0, and in the second we set the IOR to 4.0. We blended the two shaders using the facing ratio value as the mask for a VRayBlendMtl, and the result is no refraction at facing angles and more refraction at glancing ones.
Did you use VRayMtls throughout?
Karsten: We used a combination of VRayMtls, VRayBlendMtls, VRayFastSSS, and we also used the VRayMtlWrapper.
Der Besuch and several other Filmakadamie films have been featured in numerous international festivals. Can you tell us about some of the honors these student films have received?
Filmakademie: We are genuinely proud of our students’ achievements, and in the past two years, films produced at the Institute of Animation have received awards at Animex, Anima Brussels, Annecy International Animation Festival, International Festival of Animated Film Stuttgart, Ars Electronica, Siggraph, Siggraph Asia and the VES Awards. In 2003, the animated short “Das Rad” (Rocks) was nominated for an Academy Award.
How would you describe the role of V-Ray in Filmakademie’s classroom?
Karsten: At Filmakademie, students can use any renderer they want, and a lot of projects are rendered using V-Ray.