Siggraph: Three's a charm

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ACM Siggraph has announced its 2007 Computer Animation Festival's Best of Show Award, Jury Honors and Award of Excellence winners for Siggraph 2007, the 34th international conference and exhibition on computer graphics and interactive techniques that is scheduled for Aug. 5-9 in San Diego.

"Ark," an animated short from writer-director Grzegorz Jonkajtys that was produced by Jonkajtys and Marcin Kobylecki, was named best of show. In the short from Poland that also is a Festival de Cannes selection, an unknown virus has destroyed most of the human population. The survivors, led by one man, set off by ship in search of a safe new land.

"The level of production value is absolutely astonishing," said Paul Debevec, Computer Animation Festival chair and associate director of graphics research at USC's Institute for Creative Technologies. "It's clear the work had been storyboarded and detailed over the course of years to tell the story.

"We had HD submissions for the first time, so we could see these details," he added, citing as an example a shaft of light with dust floating, a unique element he said demonstrates attention to how light works.

Jury Honors went to "Dreammaker," directed by Leszek Plichta of the Institute of Animation, Visual Effects and Digital Postproduction at Filmakademie Baden-Wurttemberg in Germany. In the story, a talented man lives in solitude focused on the creation of his own dream.

"En Tus Brazos" has received an Award of Excellence; the entry was directed by Francois-Xavier Goby, Edouard Jouret and Matthieu Landour and produced at France's Supinfocom Valenciennes. The short tells the tale of a great tango dancer of the 1920s who recovers from an accident with the support of his wife.

Said director Randal Kleiser, who served on the jury: "All three of the prizes awarded by the jury have one thing in common: They prove how well computer graphics can convey a strong emotional response with well-defined characters and outstanding artistry."

In all, 134 entries were selected for the Computer Animation Festival, which since 1999 also has been an official qualifying festival for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences' best animated short film category.

Siggraph wins have helped open doors for filmmakers. "More and more, they have the chance to parlay these into opportunities to develop feature films," Debevec said.

An example is the 2005 Siggraph winner, Shane Acker's "9," which went on to earn a 2006 Academy Award nomination and which Acker is now expanding into a feature for Focus with producers Tim Burton, Timur Bekmambetov and Jim Lemley. Cast to voice roles in the feature are Jennifer Connelly, Crispin Glover, Martin Landau, Christopher Plummer, John C. Reilly and Elijah Wood.

This year's Computer Animation Festival jury selected the winners from a record 905 entries. This is only the second year that three entries received awards. Debevec described "Dreammaker" as a short with "real characters with real emotion, which have to go through complex story arcs. (The filmmakers) used the medium very effectively, with an enormous level of detail." He noted that the makers of "En Tus Brazos" designed the characters with sharp, angled faces to match the sharp moves of the tango. "They designed the characters in a way that tells the story very well," he said.

This year's Siggraph jury included Carter Emmart, Rose Center for Earth and Space, American Museum of Natural History; Nickson Fong, Egg Story Creative Production; Michael Kass, Pixar Animation Studios; Gavin Miller, Adobe Systems; Shelley Page, DreamWorks Animation; Jay Redd, Sony Pictures Imageworks; and Habib Zargarpour, Electronic Arts.
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