BFX is the UK’s largest visual effects, animation, and games festival.
Sofronis Efstathiou (Saf) is a principle lecturer at Bournemouth University in the UK and Joint Programme Leader for the MA 3D Computer Animation course. Saf is also the BFX festival director which has just celebrated its sixth year.
Saf shares insight into the BFX competition and explains how YellowDog’s Cloud Render Service has helped student competitors deliver their 3D renders with a new level of professionalism.
How has BFX evolved since its first year?
Originally, the BFX Competition wasn’t for charity but before the third year, Peter Truckle, director of The VFX Hub in Bournemouth, talked with Kingston Smith who had just finished funding an animation created by Aardman for charity.
Kingston Smith wanted to do more charity work with animation studios. Peter was able to propose using the BFX competition as a collection of student studios, whilst being mentored by world-class industry practitioners. That is how we started the BFX Competition as people know it today.
Flight of the Stories - Created by Aardman
Who competed this year?
This year we had students from universities in Falmouth, Dundee, University South Wales, Ulster, and Northumbria, as well as from Arts University Bournemouth (AUB) and Bournemouth University (BU).
What experience do students gain?
Students stay on campus for seven weeks and studios including MPC, ILM, Framestore, DNEG, Blue Zoo, JellyFish Pictures, Hibbert Ralph Animation and Outpost VFX plus freelancers such as Tessa Mapp and Paul Campion commit to coming down every other week to mentor the students. The studios usually send artists who have supervised or directed shots and led teams. It is an incredible collaboration.
BFX Competitor Video Interview
What software do students use during the BFX competition?
We give competitors a shopping list of what pipeline software is available off the shelf. If the students need something that we don’t have, then they tell us and we do our best to source it for them. For example, students requested Toon Boom and they provided some licensing. The same happened with TVPaint so I think it is fair to say that we’re well looked after by many software vendors.
BFX Animation Breakdown
Most students come from an Arnold background but when they come here, they often use V-Ray for the first time and they pick it up quickly.
The general toolset students use is Maya and Houdini for animation, rigging, FX, shader dev and layout, Z-Brush for sculpt, Mari or Substance Painter for texturing, Nuke for compositing, and the Adobe suite will also be used at various points. As well as learning how to animate a film from start to finish, the students really get to figure out how to move assets from one software to another. That’s a skill in itself!
For the first time ever, they used YellowDog for all the rendering.
How did you hear about YellowDog?
Tom Box at Blue Zoo referred YellowDog to me and the team here. A referral from one of the best loved animation studios in the UK comes with gravitas. His experience rendering Redshift with YellowDog was really good for some of their work including their Christmas Short ‘No More Stuff’.
As Tom and Blue Zoo had been involved in the competition as mentors, he had seen the problems that YellowDog could solve.
No More Stuff Christmas Short created by Blue Zoo
Want to find out just how much faster YellowDog was than the University Render Farm?
Read the full case study now!