FJORG! ahead to SIGGRAPH 2007

July 15, 2007 9:19 am

The Anvil Is Hot, For The SIGGRAPH 2007 Viking Animation Competition!

What happens when you sequester 45 creative Viking Animation Warriors in a room for 32 hours straight; armed only with a handful of specific software programs and powerful computers? No showers, no sleep, no smokes, no booze! Surprisingly this is not a plot for an upcoming medieval/futuristic reality drama ... it's the format for the SIGGRAPH 2007 Conference's first international iron-animator event, aptly titled FJORG! [Pronounced forge, and yes, the exclamation point is included in the spelling of the event's name-honest, it is!]

Fifteen three-person-teams, of computer graphic animators, will each have 32 hours to create a 15 second or longer animation. Not unlike the TV show "Big Brother," these brave, adventurous CG artists will FJORG! ahead, under the scrutiny of outside observers, as they go where no man, woman, nor Viking has gone before (at least not at SIGGRAPH).

Heading the Event, is Patricia Beckman-Wells (from DreamWorks Animation), who is the SIGGRAPH Conference FJORG! Chair-I mean the FJORG! Chief Viking High Priestess. Assisting Priestess Patricia, is the infamous Viking Chieftain, Samuel Lord Black. Together, along with the Viking council of judges, they will rule the fate of the brave 45.

In a pre-promotional publicity junket, Priestess Patricia alludes to the teams main goals:

"The challenge will be to develop a character-driven animated sequence that is at least 15 seconds long and based on a theme supplied by the competition's judges. Aside from animation abilities, teams must be able to deal with staged distractions and show creativity and physical endurance."

Now, I understand the creative and physical endurance of the event, but what in the world are staged distractions? Will there be Viking Raiders who pillage and plunder the team members? Will there be an attack of blue Celtic Woad Warriors? Will Johnny Depp make an appearance as Jack Sparrow? Yes, I know, Jack Sparrow is a pirate, not a Viking, but you have to admit he would make an excellent distraction.

Last week I was granted the privilege of interviewing the illustrious Viking Priestess, Patricia Beckman-Wells. Who I found to be not only informative, but also a courteous, fair-minded ruler with a wonderful sense of humor. Priestess Patricia graciously took time out of her busy schedule (of planning Viking raids and mysterious distractions), to give me a behind the scenes tour of the upcoming FJORG! competition.

FJORG! sounds like a surreptitious swear word created for Farscape. I can hear John Crichton scream "Get us the FJORG! out of here." Is FJORG! an acronym, a made-up word, or a sly way to beat censorship?

You are on to us, sly reporter. FJORG! it!

Ah ha! Just as I suspected! Wait a minute, I think you are just FJORG!-ing with me. So, what is the "real" story behind the grueling 32-hour animation competition title?

The name does have a dual usage. We are FORGING new talent-using the iron anvils of Viking will. Our anvils are the dozens of talented animators that we hope drop by from the many animation companies present at SIGGRAPH-to give council to these young talents.

All animators are welcome, and the first 100 will get a Viking helmet and mentor ribbon for their efforts.

Excellent incentives to draw participants and spectators. Is the 32-hour animation competition an event created especially for SIGGRAPH, or is there a clandestine society of FJORG! competitors gathering behind closed doors all over Southern California?

Animation marathons are a trend right now. Folk are gathering in dark rooms all across the world-in a sort of 'animation improv' setting. It is a freeing experience to compete in the marathons, because it gets the animator out of the typical 'anal retentive' over-planning that usually overcomes a project. The spirit of the competition requires that you think fast and creatively overcome hurdles. Often this creativity leads to an end result that is fascinating and unique.

Are there any pitfalls that first time "animation marathoners" should be aware of? 

Until you do this type of event-it is easy to get overburdened by all the things you COULD do in an animation, instead of stripping a project down to what you NEED to do to get your story/character across.

The Dragonchaser © Tony [Bigt] Sellars

To the rare conference attendee who may be unfamiliar with deadlines, 32-nonstop hours of sitting in front of a computer screen could appear incomprehensible (even sadistic). How easy was it to convince the SIGGRAPH planning committee to green-light this project?

This is a contest about passion lead by a planning committee of passionate people. We all love animation, and are the same folks who would (and will as supporters-all 32 hours) participate in this contest ourselves. These animators are competing with a love for the art form.

Besides talent, enthusiasm, and perhaps a bit of insanity, what were the initial requirements for contestant consideration?

Demo reels were required for consideration. Each team submitted one reel reflecting the abilities of the participants. They could create 2D, motion capture or 3D animation for this contest.

How many teams applied for the FJORG! experience?

Quite a few-and several tried to apply after the deadline.

What criteria was applied to narrow down the pool of applicants to 15 teams?

These were the criteria:

Each Team selected one member of the Team to act as the "Team Organizer." The Team Organizer submitted a completed application for the Team and a Team demo reel (Applicants also included a signed copy of the Official Rules as well as a signed Waiver and Release). The maximum length for the demo reel was 2 minutes and no greater than 200 MB in size. The allowed formats were: QuickTime (.mov), RealMedia (.rm), Windows (.avi) MPEG (.mpg or .mp4), or Flash (.swf). The demo reel was then uploaded to an entry link on the SIGGRAPH conference web site. Only one entry per Team was permitted.

The FJORG! judges then selected 15 Teams (the "Competing Teams") based on their applications and demo reel submissions to participate in the 32-hour event, to be held at the San Diego Convention Center before an attendee crowd. Team demo reels needed to reflect a command of animation skills in 2D or 3D animation by all applicants. Teams could earn up to 100 points on their demo reels from the "FJORG! Judges" based on the following categories: 

  • 0-20 points awarded to storytelling / believability / acting / personality
  • 0-20 points awarded to pantomime / body language / posing / body mechanics
  • 0-20 points awarded to facial animation / lip sync
  • 0-20 points awarded to artistic style
  • 0-20 points awarded to technical achievement

We did not require fully surfaced, lit and rendered characters, and were happy to receive wireframes, pencil tests, and movement studies showing good acting and movement. The demo reel could contain short films, sequences or just movement studies. It was up to each Team how they presented themselves on their demo reels.

Each Team needed to identify the work on the demo reel with the name of the animators responsible and the names of any other artists who participated on the shot. Shots needed to be the work of animators seeking participation in the Event.

In selecting the Competing Teams, judges looked for evidence of team character animation abilities, such as: character walk cycle, lip sync, acting and a range of characters. All team members were notified that they had been selected to participate in the Event by email, and the Team Organizer identified on the entry form was also notified by telephone.

Will video cameras be positioned in the "animation area" allowing the public to view the creative process?

Yes-we will be creating a short documentary that will premier at the judging Special Event on Wednesday, August 8, during the First International FJORG! Viking Animation Event Winners award ceremony (6-8pm, in room 1AB).

In the Viking ceremony, special guest judges present awards to the winning teams in the FJORG! competition. Attendees are encouraged to wear their finest Viking garb. The session will include video highlights of the event and the animations produced by the FJORG! finalists. Also featured: the FJORG! teams that receive the most votes in the attendee "popular vote."

Outside of the FJORG! live event (in the hallway), there will also be 15 monitors (one per team of three, with a KVM switch) that viewers can watch to see the entire animation process from start to finish. You can pick a favorite team and watch the whole process. This will be an exciting learning activity for those interested in learning about the animation process. You can watch the animators block out the animation and take it to final tweak.

That is so exciting, as well as innovative. Will all the final animations be available for public viewing, or just the contest winners?

Yes-we are exploring a few media outlets at this time. Animation World Network may be providing streaming video.

Assuming everyone's a Survivor (whoops, wrong show), will the FJORG! competition be included in next year's SIGGRAPH schedule of events?

If this is successful, we may even have spin-offs. Stay tuned! 

Thumbin! © Tony [Bigt] Sellars 

We invite you to view the following sites: 

Supporting images are copyright and have been used with permission from the artist, Tony Sellars
The images are not affiliated with SIGGRAPH, nor with the FJORG! Event.
Tony Sellars images are intended to be used as supporting article content only.
The Supporting images are not intended to be a representative of the FJORG! competition.
Images cannot be copied, printed, or reproduced in any manner without written permission from the artist

Get to know industry leaders and professionals
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Contributing Columnist, Dee-Marie.

July 16, 2007

Article Comments

Paula Sanders ( posted at 12:00AM Wed, 18 July 2007

Absolutely fascinating! I was not aware that this was happening throughout the animation community. Thanks for sharing this with us. I'll be looking forward to a follow up. Hint, hint.

FALCON2 ( posted at 12:00AM Thu, 19 July 2007

Definitely looking forward to hearing more about this!

nemirc ( posted at 12:00AM Tue, 24 July 2007

This thing is going to be crazy! I'd love to be there to take a look... too bad I will miss the event ¬_¬

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