Hi all! I’m not going to Blender Conference this year but I attended Blender Conference in 2014, 2015 and 2016. After reading Looch’s great article, I remembered I was planning to chuck in my own two cents on how to bconf!
Well, ok, more than just two cents. Here’s what’s helpful to know..
The Blender Conference is scheduled to run Friday-Saturday-Sunday. This is just the presentations: in terms of hanging out with fellow Blenderheads, it’s potentially a Thursday night to Monday night kind of a deal. If you head over to De Balie on Thursday night, it’s almost guaranteed there will be a few earlybirds already there having drinks and being sociable. 🙂
By the way – if you have a project or other work to show off, keep it on you! I was working on a movie during the conferences I attended; I had a tablet and headphones so I could show a work-in-progress version and get valuable feedback on it from my fellow attendees.
Also If you’re stuck for a way to start a conversation with someone at the conference (e.g. on Friday morning while waiting for De Balie to open), ask them “So, what do you with Blender?”. Easiest ice-breaker in the world!
If you’re on Twitter, your official conference hashtag is #bcon17
On registering, you’ll be given a badge and a schedule, plus some other goodies. If you signed up for the Saturday dinner, your ticket for that will be included too. Don’t lose it!
As Looch said, once you get the conference program it’s good to plan out where you want to be. I like to circle my picks on the schedule with a pen and keep it in my pocket. 🙂
The keynote and farewell with Ton are no-brainers – get a seat early if possible.
Definitely go to the Suzanne Awards on Friday night. Some films are in contention for an award, and some of them are secret exclusives just for conference attendees. There’s an early and a late screening. I’d recommend the late screening instead because the audience is a bit drunk/stoned and that’s more fun. Don’t forget to vote afterwards!
Definitely go to the lightning talks on Saturday evening. (If you’re giving a lightning talk, try not to go over five minutes!) Do not believe anyone who says they’ll definitely finish their single-person movie project in time for next year’s Suzanne Awards because they don’t know what the hell they’re talking about.
Aside from that, don’t feel compelled to be at a presentation for every single moment of the conference – the bonus of actually being at the conference is the opportunity to hang around and chat outside or upstairs. (Also, free sandwiches!)
Definitely try to make it to a presentation that’s about something completely different from how you use Blender yourself. The lightning talks are good for that, but the more in-depth presentations are eye-opening as well. Blender gets used for all kinds of cool stuff you might not even know about!
Do be prepared to occasionally sit through a talk you’re not that interested in to make sure you’ve got a good seat for a popular talk that you _are_ interested in. Hjalti’s animation talk is often standing-room-only. 🙂
Definitely drop in for the Blender Insititute Open Day as well, even if you’re just popping in for a look. The conference is officially over by then so the Blender Institute folks are much more relaxed instead of running around making sure everything’s running smoothly.
Negotiating the airport
Those flying in internationally through Schiphol may benefit from the following info.
Schiphol is big. There might be a long hike between your arrival gate and customs. If this is your first international flight, I suggest legging it to immigration as quick as your feet will let you. Have your passport ready and waiting. Fortunately, the Dutch immigration people are pretty cheerful and are the nicest first impression of any country I’ve ever had.
Once you get through immigration and customs, you’ll probably have people walking up to you and offering a taxi service. Brush them off, no matter how official their gear is. The proper taxis are outside at the taxi cab rank.
Also right outside immigration at customs, you can pick up a local pre-paid SIM with Lebara. They can pop out your old SIM and activate your new one on the spot. This is worth doing if you’re going to be out and about with Google/Apple Maps or using social media to coordinate meet-ups. Even if you’ve got international roaming on your phone, this might work out a lot cheaper depending on your carrier. Something to keep in mind!
Leaving the airport
Keep walking and you’ll eventually come to the entry hall. There you have the choice of turning left to go to the train station or turning right to find a cab. You should be able to see an automatic kiosk which will let you purchase an OV-kaart (a rechargeable Dutch public transport pass). If you’re going to be doing any sightseeing in Amsterdam or you need to use the trams or trains to get around, you want one of these. Cash or card is fine and you can flip the machine over to English if need be.
If you want to catch the train to Amsterdam Centraal, you’ll need at least twenty euro on your OV-kaart unless you’re paying for a one-off ticket.
There’s also an airport shuttle bus for 5 euros which might go past your hotel. Check ahead of time.
If you want to taxi it up to Amsterdam, you’re looking at around a 50 euro fare or thereabouts. (The way I see it: if you’re at the tail end of twenty hours of travelling and fighting off delirium, getting someone to drive you directly to the front door of your hotel is probably a good idea.) Shuffle past yet more dodgy taxi hawkers with your luggage and veer right to head outside. Follow the directions to the taxi cab rank. I like the Tesla taxis the best because they’re zippy as heck and can even use tram tracks as required. Noice!
Amsterdam is a fantastic walking city and an even more fantastic bike city, but it can be a lot to take in at first! If you’re on foot, make sure you’re not accidentally standing in a bike lane like a tourist. Always keep an eye out for bikes, trams and cars. And take care not to fall into the canals!
If you’re doing some sightseeing and bikes are not for you, I highly recommend availing yourself of Amsterdam’s excellent tram system by getting the aforementioned OV-kaart and installing 9292.nl on your smartphone. The trams need you to have at least 5 euros of credit left on your card to use them. Heavy rail between cities requires 20 euros of credit.
De Balie is just around the corner from a square called Leidseplein. The trams that run through Leidseplein are 1, 2, 5, 7 and 10. The 1, 2 and 5 all terminate north at Amsterdam Central Station, while the 7 and 10 run more east-west.
The Blender Institute building is on Entrepotdok. You can get from De Balie to the Institute a couple of ways. You can catch the number 10 tram directly from the Leidseplein stop, get off at Hoogte Kadijk, wave hello to the Windmill, backtrack the way you came past the service station, walk through the trees and head westwards up Entrepotdok until you see the Blender Institute logo.
And since you’re in Amsterdam, you may as well know that the filming location for “Tears of Steel” is the northernmost bridge of Reguliersgracht where it intesects with Prinsengracht. Just don’t freak anyone out with your robot hand if you do go there. It might not end well. (The Oude Kerk where the movie “takes place” is up in the famous Red Light District, but that’s pretty easy to find.)
Food and drink
First off: there’s coffee, tea and water at the conference. There’s also sandwiches for lunch. Yay, free stuff!
Leidseplein itself is an entertainment district with lots of restaurants, most of which are overpriced tourist traps. On any night of the conference, people peel off in packs to grab dinner. It’s good to follow the lead of people who know the area and therefore know which places are good to eat at. Expect to be constantly invited in by hawkers/spruikers, and don’t feel bad about brushing them off.
Dinnerwise, have maybe twenty euro in bills and change to pitch in for the cost of your meal. Tipping is optional. If you’re short on cash, there’s a blue ATM/cashpoint which accepts credit cards on Leidsestraat across from the newsagent.
Said newsagent is also the closest source of cheap-ish Red Bull that I’ve found to De Balie. It also has an OV-kaart recharger in the back. The closest really good coffee I’ve found is at a place called “Sweet Cup”, down Lange Leidsedwarstraat.
I don’t drink so I have no idea where there’s a good pub. I also don’t smoke cannabis so I don’t have any recommendations for a nice gezellig coffeeshop either. 🙂
Local tasty things to eat include stroopwafels and poffertjes.
English. Seriously. Everyone in Amsterdam speaks English.
The only reason to actually learn Dutch as a tourist is to eavesdrop on people or for pronouncing placenames. “Oe” is pronounced “oo”, “oo” is pronounced like “aww”, “ij” and “ei” are pronounced something like “eye” or “ay” depending on your accent, “ui” is pronounced something like “ow”, “r” is pronounced “GHHHH” and “g” is pronounced something like “KHHHHHHH”. Don’t try to pronounce “Ruigoord” without adult supervision.
“Alstublieft” means either “please” (e.g. “spa rood, alstublieft”) or is said when handing something over. “Dank u wel” means “thank you very much” to someone you don’t know; “dank je wel” is for someone you’re more familiar with.
If you really want to learn Dutch for some reason, Duolingo has a Dutch course.
May the 2017 Blender Conference is the best one yet and hopefully I’ll be up there again myself again before too long! Tot ziens!
It’s been 30 October to 6 November 2016. I returned from Amsterdam very early Friday morning and the jetlag is epic.
This week’s post is about the notes I got from people at Blender Conference and what came afterwards.
I put the movie in front of many people over the four day span of the conference, including Jason Schleifer from Nimble Collective (first picture), the director of “Alike”, Daniel Martínez Lara (second picture) and Colin Levy. It was as much an education in how to give notes for a film as it was an opportunity to hear what people thought of my little story.
My “lightning talk” during the conference’s Open Stage went very well. I invited people to grab me if they wanted to see my little film and give me notes. Although nobody came looking for me, people knew who I was when I introduced myself at the bar so it was definitely worth doing! 🙂
By Monday evening, I had twelve hand-written pages of valuable encouragement, critique and confusion from the various review sessions. I made sure it wasn’t just a list of problems to fix but also the stuff I was doing right. I don’t want to break what’s working – not again. 🙂
People liked the fun and the weirdness and silliness of it. They also went along with the steppy animation style of the block-out.
Some notes got more interesting the more I thought about them. One of the notes from Colin Levy said that the pacing and beats made it feel like three episodes instead of a single story. Another note about Pointy from Jason Schleifer (Nimble Collective) even made me think “this isn’t what I want for this character at all”. But I got many notes about the over-long running time and the characters being a little mysterious, Gronky in particular.
The day after the conference, I wrote a new outline which answered the notes and I did twenty pages of thumbnails the day I left for home. Of the 149 thumbnail images, about a third of them are reused from the current edit. A good chunk of the remaining 100 images use existing same camera angles with slightly different action on the same narrative beat.
I’m taking this week off from the day job to shake off the jetlag from the trip and rest up. I’d also like to have a flatmatic by the time I’m back at the day job. This week I can go full-time film maker – drawing storyboards, recording pitch narration and dialogue, working back towards a revised rough 3D version. A week should be more than enough time to get a big chunk of that done once I recover from the jetlag.
Next Saturday, you’ll be able to see how well-founded this optimism turned out to be. See you then! 🙂
I have been showing the AMITS animatic to various people since the conference began on Friday. The feedback so far has been super useful. People have been positive about what I’ve shown them and it’s making them smile and sometimes laugh, but I’ve had some really solid critiques about it too. Many of the notes point to pacing issues in the film’s home stretch and that it feels a little long. Other feedback suggested clarifying certain story points, being more specific about the walkie talkie, making Gronky even more playful and silly, and so on. And maybe Pointy talks too much.
As people watch, I’m trying to note which jokes and gags are making people laugh and which ones aren’t hitting. There appears to be no real pattern with what makes people laugh. Everyone’s at least smiling, which is good.
Everyone who’s looked at the animatic at the conference.. I honestly can’t thank them enough. Even just going off the notes I’ve got now, I can get the edit to a much better state without making any drastic changes.
I gave a five minute talk on Saturday during the Open Stage to spread the word on this project and this blog in particular. (I sold it as a litany of failures for wise people to learn from.) The five minute talk included a little excerpt from the work in progress animatic, so I’m letting everyone else see it too. 🙂
I’ll rework the presentation into something that doesn’t need me narrating it and link it in next week’s journal. 🙂
That’s all for this week. I’ll be back home in Perth again next week with epic jetlag. See you then!
And just like that, it’s 25 to 31 October 2015. I’m typing this from Changi Airport sitting on the most messed-up airport carpet in the universe while my laptop screen glitches out from being dropped onto said carpet. I’ve got just over seven hours left to go until I’m back home and 1 ½ hours until I board for the final leg, so this entry is a bit wordy. 🙂
So. Amsterdam. Well, the rest of Amsterdam. In the context of making movies, of course.
Blender Conferenceand pitching in the sun
I pitched “A moment in the sun” again to Andy Goralczyk on Sunday and got some more notes which reinforced what Beorn said. The intro changed slightly from before and Andy didn’t note it quite as much as Beorn did. He did say the relationship between Pointy and Gronky wasn’t super-clear. Something to work on.
The Blender Conference continued through to Sunday but unofficially there is still one more day of convening to do – the Blender Institute Open Day. No talks, no presentations, just hanging out until people leave. The time to relax and chat coupled with the day-long series of goodbyes makes it a thoroughly bittersweet occasion.
During the Open Day I pitched the movie to Blender Institute animator Hjalti Hjalmarsson and BI director/all-rounder Pablo Vazquez. Beorn was also there to give advice again – the pitch was changing subtly every time I did it. Possibly also the play-acting was getting better. The intro now contained a sequence where Gronky helps a little insect past an obstacle only to get bitten for his trouble. Sort of a microcosm of Gronky’s relationship to everything.
Hjalti and Beorn had really good feedback. I showed Hjalti the “Pointy the Entrepreneur” version and both Hjalti and Beorn said that idea was easily funny enough to work as a short film. For a few minutes I thought I might even just dump the slapstick version I’ve been developing altogether. In the end, I decided not to. I considered it long enough to get a certain RubiconPaul all intrigued about this blogpost before I said goodbye to him but sorry Paul, it’s not the bombshell I promised. 🙂
Pablo liked the film and said my self-discipline was inspiring considering how long I’d stuck with it. What seemed to attract the most attention were the story planning sketches I was doing in my notebook. People really liked the look of the characters and my cartooning in general, and even the animation test from last year with Gronky stomping around happily made people smile.
And then just like that it was all over. I was back to being yet another tourist in Amsterdam. I went to Amsterdam’s zoo, then I went to another zoo in another country on a half-day trip. I continued to jot down gags.
I finally nailed the relationship problem by using the old trick of switching motivation from one character to another. And then figuring out why they have that motivation. And then figuring out how to express that motivation. And finaly I got my streamlined story. It was even a proper Eureka moment because it happened in the bath. The characters have morphed slightly again and one of the more troublesome comedic causes and effects – Pointy’s voice being concussively horrible and Gronky having incredibly good hearing – is now consigned to the discard pile. Probably for the best because Pointy’s voice was also kind of annoying for the audience.
With that I tihnk I can finally say that the end of the development phase is in sight. I can even start doing single-shot tests and create an updated teaser with the material I’ve got.
What surprised me a bit was that normally I’m shy as hell, but the pitches often turned physical. If I hadn’t drawn something yet, I play-acted it. Either I trusted these guys and any onlookers enough to make an arse out of myself, or getting the film right took me totally past my fear of embarrassment to just get it right. I believe in the story that much, maybe? But I am really getting into this whole film making lark as a craft. I like myself better when I’m making cartoons, for sure.
Klik! Animation Festivaland more animated features
On Thursday I dropped in to check out Klik! Animation Festival up at the EYE film museum. Instead of applauding, you get a little clicker and when the film finishes the cinema sounds like an army of cicadas. Also people click in time to the leader. Or shyly between screenings. Or, in the case of Unhappy Happy, which seemed to be created specifically to mess with festival audiences, at random intervals. There was even a Blender film, “9, Chemins de Gauchoirs”, about a shepherd who stumbles on a very strange ski lift. What was particularly educational was how Don Hertzfeldt’s World Of Tomorrow played in front of a Dutch audience. The MIAF audience was much more enthusiastic. Not to say the Dutch folks didn’t laugh at anything, but it tended to be the entertainingly cruel comedic stylings of their own country.
Speaking of cartoons, I’ve caught a couple of feature animations on the trip back: Asterix and the Mansions of the Gods was awesome and I need a hi-def copy of it as soon as I can get my hands on one. The poppy French animation style and excellent renderings of the Asterix characters and world were fantastic. I watched it in French so I don’t know how the English dub sounds.
Speaking of French animation, I watched Minions straight afterwards. That was not too shabby. I think Pierre Coffin deserves more credit for his voice work on the Minions though – depending on how many languages you know there’s a ton of bilingual bonuses in there. 🙂
Finally, I saw a Western Australian film called Paper Planes. It’s nto animated but it was fantastic. My sister was a stills photographer on it and nagged me to go and see it when it was on atht the movies, but I think seeing and hearing my home country was just the ticket on this trip home. What really surprised me was how great it is – Inside Out didn’t make me cry (not even that bit with Bing Bong) but the answering machine scene in Paper Planes put tears on my cheeks before I realised they were even there. It is one of the most touching and beautiful bits of cinema I’ve seen in ages and "ages” definitely includes Chaplin’s City Lights. Occasional dodgy CGI aside, Paper Planes is an underdog boy’s story definitely worth a look.
That’s about it for now. I’ve got another week until I have to be back at work. I suspect I shall be a busy little bee during that time now that the way is all but cleared for pre-production. See you again soon!