Friday, May 08

How Computer Graphics Began in France in the Early 80's / "Fantôme": The Birth of a Crazy Company
Pierre Hénon, Professor, Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Arts Décoratifs - ENSAD, www.ensad.fr
Georges Lacroix, GL Consulting
Friday May 08
14:00 - 15:00
The first simulation companies who discovered they could use their hardware to produce advertising, TV credits and even visual effects for movies (Thomson, Sogitec). The research conducted at universities, art schools and public institutions (INA, Paris8, ENSAD, ENST).
The emergence of turnkey systems on PCs (Giximage, Cubicomp, Action 3D) which allowed the creation of small animation studios (Fantôme, MacGuffLigne, BSCA, ZA), some of them are very big now.
The creation of TDI (Thomson Digital Image) which became one of the first 3D software companies in the world with its product "Explore".
New big digital visual effects studios at the end of the 80s (Exmachina, Videosystem/Medialab).
This presentation will introduce how the different speakers of this afternoon session are related.

Pierre Hénon has a Master in Mathematics/Statistics and holds a PhD in Urbanism. He is a professor at ENSAD (Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Arts Décoratifs) where he created a post-graduate course on Computer Graphics in 1982 (AII - Atelier d'Image et d'Informatique).
He has been a member of ACM SIGGRAPH for more than 20 years and is an active officer of the Paris ACM SIGGRAPH chapter. One of his research axis is about the story of French computer graphics. He is the manager of the dedicated web site http://histoire3d.siggraph.org.

Fantôme, the early age. Once upon a time, in 1985, when the computers only had 5 megabytes of ram memory and 256 Mb of hard disk capacity, when Softimage and Maya didn't exist, three unconsciousness fellows had the ambition to create 3D animation that could provide emotion. But "Beauty is slow" as Alison Crowley said. In fact, to produce "The Geometric Fables" and "Insektors", an Emmy Awarded TV series, proved to be a long process. This presentation will be a cocktail of 3/4 of "naïve and maybe touching" images and 1/4 of behind the scene stories.

From 1966 to1984 Georges Lacroix worked as an illustrator for magazines and advertising, as a graphic designer, as an art director and draw comic strips and cartoons at the same time. He was also film director for commercials, advertising and for his first 3D animated film "Fly Bill" at Sogitec. In 1985 he founded Fantôme with Renato, Jean-Yves Grall and Philippe Baudart, a team passionate by 3D computer animation. In 1999 Fantôme died : never explain, never complain, just go forward... to GL Consulting.

GL Consulting was created in 2000. A studio specialized in the field of animation and new technologies dedicated to image and sound. Activities : Teaching film directing at Gobelins, Esra, Filmakademie Baden-Wuerttemberg, l'Institut de l'Image de l'Océan Indien, La Poudrière, Supinfocom, Royal College of Art as well as other worldwide High Schools. International conferences. Production of animated shorts author films and in house creation of 3D computer animated films. Works in progress.

INA, first CG trials; TDI the creation of the Explore software, the world's most popular 3D animation package in 1991 / The Beginning of Buf Compagnie in 1985 - Today one of the main Studios in Paris
Jean-Charles Hourcade, Red Cat Technologies
Pierre Buffin, Founder and CEO, BUF Compagnie, www.buf.com
Friday May 08
15:00 - 16:00
Jean-Charles Hourcade and Alain Nicolas founded a 3D animation lab at Institut National de l'Audiovisuel in Paris 1982. The two guys started doing 3D Computer Animation without a computer, but they had access to a 24 bits frame buffer. After Daniel Borenstein joined the company, the small group morphed into TDI and developed its flagship, "Explore", which became the world's most popular 3D animation package.

Jean-Charles Hourcade is President of Red Cat Technologies, an independent strategy consulting firm focused on the media and technology industries. Until mid 2008 he was Senior Executive Vice President/CTO of Thomson, where he directed the research and development of new technologies. Jean-Charles was among the original pioneers of 3D computer graphics. Initially as an engineer and then as Head of Research at Institut National de l’Audiovisuel he designed some of the earliest 3D software and composed the first 3D animations for French television, as well as animation and visual effects for motion pictures and commercials.

Since 1984, BUF has been regarded as one of the most innovative visual effects companies in the world. At a time when there were no software or hardware fit for 3D, Pierre Buffin developed appropriate tools in-house. The quality and originality of BUF is achieved through preliminary stages of research and tools development. This approach has been relied upon by many renowned directors, such as the Wachowskis, Christopher Nolan, Sam Raimi, Michel Gondry, Oliver Stone, Jean-Pierre Jeunet, Marc Caro or Wong Kar Wai.
One of BUF's main credentials was to pioneer Camera Mapping and Stereo Modeling techniques. The Bullet Time effect used for Matrix was directly inspired by the research carried out while working on Michel Gondry's "Like a Rolling Stone" music video in 1996.
BUF Compagnie is now a complete animation studio developing several world-class feature films while maintaining its position as a leading studio for VFX, regularly involved in major US feature films. This endeavor is supported actively by AngeleFine, its production company, and B-MAC, their new laboratory and post-production facilities located in central Paris.

Sogitec, the first CG studio in Paris; ExMachina main studio in Paris at the end of the 80's
Xavier Nicolas, Managing Director, Lucasfilm Animation, www.lucasfilm.com/divisions/animation
Jerzy Kular, Director Animation & Gaming, Independent Author, DSK International Institute of Industrial Design, Animation & Gaming
Friday May 08
16:00 - 17:00
In 1982 Xavier Nicolas was working at the audiovisual department of Sogitec when he had the idea to use the airplane simulators developed by this company to make films. They had to develop everything: Starting with an experimental film “Maison vole” with INA, followed by many corporate and commercial films and the first French feature film with CG visual effects “l'Unique”. By creating this new business line, Sogitec became the first computer graphics company in France. Xavier led this new division to the number one position in the Digital Media space in Europe by selling and producing award-winning computer graphic films. In 1989 Sogitec and TDI (Thomson Digital Image) merged to form ExMachina who became in the 90s the main digital visual effects company in Paris. Xavier was Co-founder and President of ExMachina Paris (1989-1995) then Founder and president of ExMachina Tokyo (1995-2000).

Xavier Nicolas' career in animation and computer graphics has spanned over 25 years - from commercial films and corporate presentations, to visual effects - in Europe and Asia. His domain experience includes both computer graphics production and studio management. Recently, Xavier has been instrumental in business development for visual technology companies in Silicon Valley, including Believe Inc. and PiXlogic Inc. Prior to joining Lucasfilm, he was one of the original founders of the SOGITEC CG Group, then President of Ex Machina, a pioneering computer animation studio in Europe, with offices in Paris, Tokyo and Los Angeles. Xavier’s production credits also include various large format film attractions for Iwerks Entertainment and stereoscopic films for international expositions in Japan and Korea as well as high-end games for Atari and Square-Enix.

The Beginning of MacGuff in 1985 - Today the one of the main Studios in Paris / IMAGIX-3D: the Beginning of 3D Animation Software Running on a PC in The 80's
Jaques Bled, CEO, Mac Guff Ligne, www.macguff.fr
Olivier Emery, Founder and CEO, Trimaran Studios , www.trimaran.com
Friday May 08
17:00 - 18:00
MacGuff: They were five friends and they begun CG with a PC in one of their student’s room. They made an ad, then a TV series, "La vie des Betes" that always took place in the same set designed by Philippe Starck. . As they couldn't animate the model it was just based on a subjective camera and you had to guess which animal it was. They went on to create several video clips (l'Affaire Louis Trio, Marc Lavoine, Rita Mitsouko), more ads and TV jingles. They upgraded to Silicon Graphics workstation, started to grow and to work on feature films and eventually became one of Paris' biggest animation studios: MacGuff .
Jacques Bled was one of the five MacGuff founders in 1986. Today
he is CEO at MacGuff.

Olivier Emery will try to tell the story of IMAGIX-3D, the first 3D software running on a PC middle of the 80ies. From the beginning of his research during his architectural studies and his difficulties to get access to graphical computer, to the marketed product, and succes with his first clients BSCA and Mac Guff Ligne. His presentation will close with a short clip on his current Trimaran works.

After architectural studies in Paris, Olivier Emery started as the Author of IMAGIX-3D, the first French 3D animation software running on a PC in 1985. He worked then in IVAO, a French multimedia studio, developing 3D animation and graphic applications for TV and offline. In 1988, he produced the short movie "Paillafrisson", winner of a Pixel Ina Award at Imagina. Later he founded Trimaran where he still serves as CEO today.
Trimaran is a French CG and VFX studio working for commercials, movies and television programs.

The Médialab’s “Starwatcher” - History of a Non-Standard Studio /
Z-A Story : the Quarxs, God and the Devil
Francois Garnier, Director, Founder and Creative Director, Professor, Head of Research Program, AmaK Studio , www.amak.fr, ener.ensad.fr
Maurice Benayoun, Film Director, Media Artist, Co-Founder of Z-A Production, Artistic Director and Co-Founder of CITU Research Center, www.benayoun.com, www.Z-A.net
Friday May 08
18:00 - 19:00
In 1985, a handfull of self taught freelance CG Artists were emerging. These pioneers were working with post production companies on smaller systems, mostly PC based ( Graph9, Cubicomp, Explore PC ). In 1990 Francois Garnier joined the founders of Videosystems. From Videosystems Alain Guiot, created one of the most innovative and creative French studios of the early 1990’s: “Medialab”. They pioneered the Art of 3D animation with Moebius’s “Starwatcher". They were also leaders in the field of performance, real time animation and virtual reality ( Cluny, 1993).

François Garnier, CG pioneer since the mid eighties, designed and directed numerous broadcast and corporate communication graphics. In 1990 he was one of the founding members of French Medialab. Freelance Director for Exmachina from 1995, he directed large formats and stereoscopic films for international shows and theme parks. In 2000, he founded AmaK, a specializing Studio for stereoscopic films, large immersive film and 3D real-time interactive installations. Francois holds a Ph.D. in “Esthétique, Sciences et Technologies des Arts " and is Professor at “ENSAD”, in charge of the research program EN-ER. AmaK Studio designs and produces films, digital installations, and interactive projects, for theme parks, Art and science museums, and international events. AmaK Studios is an European leader for stereoscopic films (Rides, 3D Imax theaters), specializing in large immersive film, and 3D real-time interactive installations.
Contact: F.garnier@AmaK.fr

Maurice Benayoun digs a Tunnel under the Atlantic, charts the first map of the world’s emotions then sells these emotions as musical cocktails. He offers the only acceptable explanation of the imperfection of the World (Quarxs), launches a photo safari in the land of war (World Skin), dares to ask the Big Questions: is God flat? and the Devil curved?. He co-creates a pioneer CG company (Z-A) ignoring what does “business model” means, reconfigures a major Paris subway station and converts the Arc de Triomphe into a monument to Peace. Beside, he pretend to define the future of art, daily dumps all new concepts and upholds in La Sorbonne that a blog can be a thesis (the-dump.net). benayoun.com

Z-A Production: In 1987, we, architects and artist, decided to create a company to produce computer graphics. In 91, the pilote of the series Quarxs was awarded at Siggraph Las Vegas, it became the first CG series with an original scenario made in Hi Definition. Beside 3D CG animation and special effects, Z-A started to explore the creative potential of Virtual and Augmented Reality, creating its own tools, Virtual Tunnels, innovative interfaces, through art installation and exhibition design. Ending in 2003, Z-A spent 15 years contributing to write the history of 3D animation and interactive design.


Early Days in France

The Paris ACM SIGGRAPH professional chapter has compiled, over the past two years, a history of computer graphics in France. This industry started in the early 80s and was focused mainly on entertainment. Our honorable guests from today’s session are all keys actors from that era, and will testify how they started in the business, sometimes by pure chance. We will retrace how the more important studios evolved from heavy in-house software to simpler turnkey systems in under five years. The founders of these studios will recall the trials and successes of the early days, when complete movies were being made on hardware that was less powerful than today’s cell phones.