Submarine Channel

Revisiting Playgrounds Festival Amsterdam 2013

Joining forces for the third time, Submarine Channel was more than proud to team up with Playgrounds Festival for a full day of exciting Motion Design events and talks from some of the most prodigious talents in animation, visual effects, animatronics and motion design. Organized to put a spotlight on the latest trends and developments in the field of moving images, we had a feeling our third collaboration with Playgrounds would be the most exciting yet.

With the always-brilliant filmmaker and designer Fons Schiedon installed as our moderator for the day, we took to the breathtakingly beautiful surroundings of Amsterdam’s Stadschouwburg on 8th November to commence with a sold-out Playgrounds Festival 2013.

In addition to a full schedule of great talks and presentations from some of Europe’s finest animation, visual effects and motion design talents, the Stadshouwburg also played host to a number of screenings running parallel with the talks. Our very own 2Pause was on hand to present New Psychedelica in Music Videos, a series of conscious-expanding contemporary psychedelic music videos.

Also showing were a presentation of the best animation videos from Breda’s St. Joost school of Fine Art and Design and a one hour screening program featuring an electrifying assortment of the finest book trailers. Allowing visitors to the festival to temporarily discover another reality was the Oculus Rift, an amazing next-generation virtual reality headset designed for immersive gaming.

Kicking off the celebrations, was the always-wonderful Julia Pott . A pretty splendid start to any day, she got things started by introducing us all to her piece My First Crush, before walking us through some of the things that inspired her (When Harry Met Sally, old Disney movies and Buffy the Vampire Slayer, in case you’re wondering.) Treating us to her unique exploration of human relationships through the humorous tales of beautifully-drawn anthropomorphic animals she provided an extremely uplifting and inspiring start to the day.


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Playgrounds Festival is all about celebrating diversity in the industry and the boys from Polynoid certainly provided a shift in gear. The Berlin-based design and storytelling collaboration, founded in 2007, is made up of a team of directors, designers and animators and they introduced us to their unique visual style – a minimalist, photo realistic and abstract sensory experience. They discussed everything from the early days of coming together and starting out to the moment they were asked to create the titles for the Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn web series, which went on to be nominated for an Emmy for Outstanding Title Design.


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Moniker’s Roel Wouters receives his Playgrounds Award for Best Dutch Motion Design


Following this we were proud to welcome Moniker’s Roel Wouters to discuss their approach to designing participatory systems and the dilemmas of crowdsourcing. Introducing their interactive, crowdsourced music video Do Not Touch, Roel gave a hugely inspiring walkthrough of their efforts to celebrate the solitary cursor and erase the loneliness of the web. In fact, Moniker and the Do Not Touch music video was awarded the Playgrounds Award for Best Dutch Motion Design – a well-deserved win for such a fantastic project!


“Designing pictures with no other limit than imagination.”


BUF is one of Europe’s leading VFX and animation studios and their work has been used in a whole range of Hollywood productions and over 1,000 commercials and music videos. They gave the audience a tour through some of their most impressive VFX work, demonstrating how they are constantly pushing the limits and boundaries of what is possible. A truly jaw dropping presentation.


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Fons Schiedon and Marcus Wendt


“Culture is the things that make life interesting….”


Joining Playgrounds Festival 2013, was FIELD’s very own Marcus Wendt to talk about some of the dynamic artworks their studio has produced. Beginning with the early Rodney Mullen videos that first inspired him, Marcus took us on a truly captivating tour through some of the audio-visual installations and boundary-pushing computer-generated design work he has helped produce.


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Psyop’s David Chontos


Playgrounds Festival and Submarine Channel were extremely proud to welcome the brilliant David Chontos to Amsterdam, the Creative Director and Designer for Psyop, one of the world’s leading motion design studios. David was responsible for the award-winning Happiness Factory commercial for Coca Cola and as well as giving us an eye-opening talk on the process behind it, even shared an unseen director’s cut of the commercial. With his infectious laugh and fascinating approach to filmmaking, David’s talk was a real highlight of the day. He left us with an exclusive sneak peak at his labor of love, a 3D animation born out of his “lifelong obsession with robots and decay’’, which follows abandoned robots dancing in an abandoned building, all set to the music of one of his favorite artists, Fever Ray.


“Tim Burton approaches filmmaking traditionally, as a creative process. And I love that…”


Then it was time for the Playgrounds Festival audience to meet one of the world’s leading heavyweights in animatronics, Gustav Hoegen, who took to the stage to shed a light on what it’s like to produce hyper-realistic robotics for the highest level in the industry.


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Neal Scanlan and Gustav Hoegen


Hoegen, whose worked on films such as Prometheus, Clash of the Titans and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, stunned the audience with his show reel before detailing the intense but breathtaking working style of himself and his team.

Rather than taking the approach of an engineer, Gustav described his process pretty succinctly: “I just try to mimic what I see in the human face”.  He revealed all the technical challenges and time restrictions facing him when he was asked to produce an animatronic head for Ridley Scott’s Prometheus. But his most complex and complicated project? “A tiny robotic premature child”, he revealed.

Joining Gustav via the power of Skype was Neal Scanlan, one of the founding members of Jim Henson’s Creature Shop, a leading voice on animatronics, and Gustav’s mentor for many years.

Detailing the ways in which he himself found his way in the industry and the founding of the Creature Shop, Neal talked about how he feels animatronics is once again finding its place in film; as an important device that can be enhanced and made more believable through the use of CGI while still bringing something real and tangible to the film set.

Following Neal and Gustav was something altogether different.


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Rex Crowle


“There’s a lot of talk about 3D printers, but I actually think 2D printers are the next big thing”


Who else, but the brilliant Rex Crowle (better known to some under his moniker, Rexbox), one of the founding members of game studio Media Molecule and co-creator of Little Big World. Returning to Playgrounds Festival, he took to the stage to give us an introduction of the thought processes that went into developing his latest, forthcoming game Tearaway’. Capturing the audience’s imagination, he delivered an incredibly thoughtful and  in-depth on what ideas went through his mind when he and his team set about making the game.

Surely only Rex and his team could spend weeks locked in the stationery cupboard with sheets of paper to give them the inspiration and knowledge necessary to create a fully-immersive world in which your fingers become the protagonist. Rex’s talk was an inspiring look at how to think differently and the power of imagination and innovation.

We couldn’t have asked for a more perfect end to the day, when Pixar’s Shading Art Director, Belinda van Valkenburg came all the way from California to be with us.  As Pixar’s only Dutch employee she  started by giving us a glimpse  of what it’s like to work at one of the world’s most interesting and coveted workplaces.

To give an idea of what her role as Shading Art Director entails, she used two films she has worked on as examples, Toy Story 3 and Ratatouille, to guide us through the entire painstaking process – from mood boarding to the final editing stages.

Such a fascinating talk was a fitting end to our time at the Stadshouwburg, but wasn’t the end for Playgrounds Festival. The artists, staff and visitors to the festival all joined to dance the night away at Amsterdam’s Up Club. We want to thank everyone again for making the day such a huge success. Here’s to next year!


For more information on Playgrounds Festival, visit their website.