Bengaluru GAFX 2019’s offering ‘The Sketchbook’ invites experts to shed light on their craft

With each passing day, Bengaluru GAFX 2019’s expanding list of offerings sets the landscape abuzz. Their latest offering, The Sketchbook, a space that sees the intersection of some of the best talents in India shedding light on their wishes, formulas, recipes and confessions through sketches and a breadcrumb trail of their artistic evolution, is decked up to be an immensely stimulating event for the attendees and students alike.

The Sketchbook

An ode to that god,
much forgotten!
Times when they presence matters the most.
Here we gather, an ensemble in celebration….
All Hail the real force of nature – Imagination!
Manoj A Menon

The Sketchbook comprises of carefully curated artists handpicked for their unique artistic personalities. They are independent creators of content, independent animation filmmakers and illustrators mixed with art directors and principal artists from Top Studios and Gaming companies. The one thing that is common to all is The Sketchbook. It is here that their ideas are born, incubated and nourished before it takes shape on a larger canvas.

In the Clay Garden

The summit is aiming a higher benchmark by flying down such an eclectic array of artists for Sketchbook from different walks of life. The collective brushstrokes is likely to invigorate the spirit of GAFX 2019, setting that bar high on creative summits in the country.

Sketchbook

Curated by PC Vikram and jointly hosted by Manjor A Menon, Venugopal G and BN Vichar, Sketchbook will bring a list of artists from the creative turf. Anand RK, Saumin S Patel, Ratheesh K, Kandha Swamy, Somnath Pal, Vijay Arumugam, Senthil Kumar, Hrishi M Sagari, MK Lathish Kumar, Rajesh PK, Abhishek Kesarkar, Rohan Baikar,
Vajra Pancharia, Prathiksha Bhat, Sri Priyatham, Sanjana Desai, Anandhasai, Shyam Deshpande, Leonard Beltrar, Felix Jackson, Rahul Philip, Ayan Choudary, Bala Sutar, Rajesh K, Pankaj Bafila, Lilian D’Mello, Tarun Kumar are some of the names that will be gracing the event.

Truly a once in a lifetime opportunity to share a space with so many of the creative stalwarts. We shall keep you updated on further development.

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DHX Media and Mattel assents ‘Polly Pocket’ season two

DHX Media and Mattel have announced to have greenlit a 26-episode second season of Polly Pocket, the animated series based on Mattel’s original micro-scale doll brand. In addition, Universal Kids, has picked up both seasons, and will begin airing season one in the U.S. this summer.

In the new Polly Pocket series, Polly inherits a magic locket that gives her the power to shrink to four inches tall. Now equipped with Tiny Power, Polly leads her friends Shani and Lila on tiny adventures that lead to big fun!

Season two brings a brand-new format (26 x 11’) where like Polly herself, shorter stories are packed full of even bigger laughs as Polly takes Tiny Power and her newfound tinier Micro Power to the next level. With her best friends and Grandma Pocket by her side, there’s no dream too big, no adventure too small for Polly Pocket!

DHX Media president Josh Scherba said, “This sale to Universal Kids builds on the big success we’ve seen from little Polly Pocket, with over twenty broadcasters and streamers worldwide picking up season one to date. The series is introducing a new generation of kids around the world to this much-loved Mattel brand, and the creative teams at our Vancouver studio are excited to delight fans further with more magical adventures from Polly and her friends in season two.”

In 2018, Mattel relaunched Polly Pocket toys, featuring the original micro-scale size and compacts that made Polly a phenomenon in the 1990s. The beloved brand has sold more than 10 million compacts throughout the years, and the new product line nods to the brand’s heritage and surprise factor, while reflecting the updated look of the characters and animated series.

Polly Pocket is an iconic heritage IP from Mattel that resonates with both kids and their parents. The brand delivers strong results on shelf and on screens, and we are delighted with the reception from our best-in-class broadcast partners globally, which makes the greenlight of the second series very exciting,” said Mattel Content Distribution and Business Development SVP Fred Soulie.

The creation of the Polly Pocket animated series is part of a co-development, production, distribution and licensing deal between DHX Media and Mattel for new original content inspired by celebrated Mattel properties. In addition to Polly Pocket, new animated series from the collaboration include Bob the Builder, Fireman Sam and Little People.

Other new season one deals include Hulu (U.S.), Videotron (French Canada); Super RTL (Germany); and HBO Europe (Portugal). These add to previously announced broadcasters: DHX Television’s Family Channel and Family Jr (Canada); Sony Pictures Television’s POP channel (U.K.); RTL Telekids (Netherlands); Kidzone TV (Baltics); Lagardère’s Gulli and TiJi (France), Gulli AFRICA (22 African-French speaking countries) and Gulli Girl (Russia); teleTOON+ (Poland); AMC Minimax (Eastern Europe); vtmkzoom (Belgium); Canal Panda (Portugal); Turner (Italy, Middle East, Turkey and Greece); Star Channel (Greece); kidZ (Israel); SABC (South Africa); and Discovery Kids (Latin America).

Polly Pocket is produced at DHX Media’s Vancouver studio with Shea Fontana (DC Super Hero Girls, Doc McStuffins) as the story editor.

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Indian VFX studio ‘Labyrinth Cinematic Solutions’ plays a key role in the VFX of latest Hollywood flick ‘John Wick 3’.

The John Wick franchise has earned a cult following over the years owing to its power-packed VFX-rich action and thrill. Even before the release of the movie, social media had been set awhirl with the leaked footage of Keanu Reeves firing bullets while riding horseback on the sets of John Wick: Chapter 3 — Parabellum. The movie managed to dethrone Avengers Endgame with 57 million dollars, surpassing the box office numbers.

A franchise like John Wick automatically presupposes a great deal of visual effects work, given the action-packed sequences and stunning imagery that have become the trademark feature of the franchise.

Like previous iterations, this movie is just as replete with VFX and this time Labyrinth studio, a VFX studio from India also has played a substantial role in creating the stunning imagery. It is perhaps the first time that an Indian VFX studio has been involved in a neo-noir action thriller like John Wick.

We spoke to the VFX supervisor of Labyrinth studios to get insight into the scenes of the movie and how they managed to create the breathtaking imagery in the actioner.

 John Wick: Chapter 3 — Parabellum


John Wick is a popular franchise that has built and earned quite a reputation for its action-packed imagery. We are pleased to learn that an Indian VFX studio has been involved in deploying a substantial number of VFX shots. Could you talk to us through the process?

It felt like quite an honour to get the call for this one as all of us loved the franchise and we were really excited to come on board for one of the most awaited films of the year. We had numerous calls with the VFX supervisor to understand their vision and their expectations. Our meetings with the producer & VFX supervisor had really helped us in gaining their confidence and entrusting us with the most crucial climax sequences. We were constantly in touch with them.

How many people worked on this project from your studio?

We had a dedicated team of about 60 artists on this project. Mix of 2D & 3D.

How many shots were delivered from your end?

Let’s not disclose the number.

How much time did it take for your studio?

We came on board from Dec 2018 onwards.

Action Sequence

 

The movie is making massive waves across the globe. Any special VFX techniques or software you made use of to deliver the shots?

John Wick is known for its action and it’s getting bigger and better with every franchise. Seamless use of VFX has made it possible for everything to look natural and organic. We were assigned a couple of key action sequences like the Bike Chase on the bridge and Horse sequence in Manhattan. We followed the director’s mandate to perfectly blend the VFX components with the high intensity of the live action shots. Along with these we also had tremendous 3D input in the film. It’s best to see Chapter 3 and enjoy the action-packed experience. 

Considering your body of work, you have also worked with OTT giants like Netflix. Would it be too bullish to say that the advent of OTT platforms has given way to high-quality VFX content from India given the fact that Netflix is big on shelling out budgets?

There is certainly a LOT happening in the Indian OTT media and entertainment space. In India, we have the big global players producing out of here, as well as many domestic ones. However, VFX hasn’t played too large a role in any shows that have been made so far out of India… Compared to say a Lost in Space, which we worked extensively… Or A Series of Unfortunate Events which we also did… Both produced by Netflix in the US….compared to those Indian OTT platforms have not bet big on VFX-driven content yet but we are sure it is only a matter of time before it happens…

What message would you like to give to the budding VFX artists and aspirants who wish to work with studios like yours in the future?

Our journey has been exciting and there are some great projects coming out from Labyrinth very soon. As an organisation, we take pride in our projects and we know that great work is only possible with a great team of like-minded people. Anyone who wants to work with Labyrinth should be onboard with this work ethic first and foremost.

Our advice to young artists would be to spend time in getting their basics right before they jump into the field. India has been projected as a major player in the entertainment sector and there are exciting times ahead for all of us.


It’s always reaffirming to hear when Indian VFX studios are involved in the creation of world-class imagery. We hope to see more Indian names rolling up in the credits of movies, contributing to the VFX scene worldwide.

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SidKinG Studio’s upcoming game ‘SARKWO’ aims to improve problem-solving skills

Puzzle solving games have aced the popularity mark with each passing year. The reason behind it is the simplicity of the content and its engaging nature of the concept. The genre has ballooned in a big way on mobile and it has become one of the most popular genres on the platform. Viral puzzle games like 2048 have set a benchmark and it evolved into genuinely enjoyable experiences like Monument Valley and Telltale Games titles.

When we asked SidKinG Studio founder Kishor Berde on the reason behind the popularity of puzzle games he replied, “People love to feel that they are smart and puzzle games are proven to do that  … So they play puzzles more…Larger audience encourages more creators”.

Adding to the puzzle solving game genre SidKinG Studio is gearing up with the upcoming launch of the game SARKWO. It is an artsy puzzle game with traditional swipe controls mixed up with different puzzle mechanics.

“The game doesn’t have any particular theme. Each level has its unique design and style inspired by different things around us – like birds, flowers, fashions, monuments and more,” he added.

The gameplay is simple where the player has to swipe to slide coloured marbles and take them to their goal. “All marbles slide together and that’s the first challenge you face in the game. The game has different puzzles mechanics like rotators, portals, sequential portals, colour blockers, colour switchers.” Berde added.

Berde believes that puzzle solving games helps the players to enhance the skill to solve real-life problems as he said “How do we solve problems? By finding solutions. We do the same thing in puzzle games. We can say puzzle games can help to improve problem-solving skills and may help someone to solve bigger problems in life.”

The game will be available first on iOS platform later it might explore other platforms as well. Berde being a indie game developer follows a unique workflow to design a game he says “I have a habit of making prototypes whenever an idea hits my mind. I make a quick prototype and ask my mom and brother to play it. If they enjoy it I save it in my games to make a list. I have enough prototypes to make games for the next three to four years. SARKWO has been in games to make list for a long time. I started reworking on it in  March. It will be available on the App Store at the end of June or start of July.”

The profit of the game development business depends on the type of game one creates. “If you make an amazing game then App Store features it. That helps to reach to a larger audience and can bring more profit. I am more into making games that App Store can feature.“

The game is currently at the beta phase and Berde is taking reviews from the one who has tested the game. He said “I have tested this game with friends and few unknown people. Everyone loved it. Common feedback I got from testers is ‘I kept playing it for a long time’. It feels good to hear something like that.”

He highlighted a fact that it is easy to access vendors or to outsource work within the industry nowadays as one can find creative professionals on social media. “Harry makes music for my games. He is from the UK. I met him in a Facebook indie game developers group, the internet has made networking easy.”

The studio aims to release three games this year and with the upcoming game SARKWO he wants to target the ones who love to play relaxing puzzle game with little brain exercise. Since the game is easy to play therefore anyone can play the game without instructions.  And with the game audience can expect some unique content which will keep them busy for hours.

He encourages indie game developers and their games and to inspire them he said “avoid making clones, even if it is your first game. Try to create something new…your own. People always love to try new things than another clone of the previous hit.”

Sticking to the innovative lane, the studio has designed the upcoming puzzle game SARKWO which seems to have the potential to join the queue of viral puzzle game genre.

 

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Masami Kurumada collaborates on mobile masterpiece with YOOZOO games and Tencent

Game developer and publisher YOOZOO Games worked on Saint Seiya: Awakening alongside developer Tencent and renowned Japanese manga artist and writer Masami Kurumada. Mostly known for his work on fighting manga; featuring Bishonen and magical boy, Masami Kurumada is the founder of the manga studio Kurumada Productions.

Saint Seiya: Awakening looks to recreate the classic Japanese comic featuring mystical warriors known as ‘Saints’ — empowered by a curious energy force called ‘Cosmo’. Combining beautiful high definition 3D graphics with some very cool combat effects and boasting a fantastic line-up of top Japanese character voice-artists from Jun Fukuyama (voice of Lelouch in Code Geass) to Yuki Kaji (Eren Yeager in Attack on Titan), Saint Seiya: Awakening is set to offer mobile gamers a unique audio-visual experience.

The game design and art style remain incredibly faithful to Kurumada’s original work; with characters and their respective skills all based on the original animation. The authenticity doesn’t end there as players can actually play through the original story of Saint Seiya, reliving their favourite moments. While elsewhere there are both PvP and PvE modes to keep even the most demanding fans happy. With a roster of hundreds of fighters to choose from, players will have the freedom to create a unique team with a tailored strategy.

Within the carefully-scripted RPG structure, there is also a diverse and well-balanced card game, offering a compelling mechanic for strategic decisions and the different skill combinations used during combat.

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Review: ‘Men in Black: International’ is a VFX triumph

Without delving into the foundational premise, MIB International opens with the assumption that viewers are already well-acquainted with the previous instalments and picks up from the well-kept secret of aliens being harboured by our beloved tellurian forces whilst making sure humans are never made aware of their existence.

MIB 4 International

That’s when Tessa Thomson’s character with all her smarts, passion and drive to “know the truth of the universe”, who has been doggedly pursuing the MIB headquarters, trespasses their offices and ends up being recruited. The alien we are introduced to right, in the beginning, is perhaps one of the most adorable works of CGI in the film; A Tarantian alien.

Tessa’s deputed to the London branch where she is teamed up with Agent H (Chris Hemsworth) who is shown cavalier in his approach to missions yet somehow manages to shine bright in the eyes of the chieftain.

Agent M’s (Molly) bookish diligence is fused with agent H’s all-Australian care-free persona, and they’re zipping off to Paris, Morroco and Naples in a bid to protect the super-weapon designed to stave off the impending doom. Tremendous VFX, right from the way celebrity aliens waddle along with their extraordinary tentacles and whoosh past you to the way train converts into an advanced locomotive, whizzing from country to country in a breeze, the deployment of VFX imagery is absolutely photorealistic and faultless.

Green wonky aliens with pot-bellies, arms-dealing seductress alien lady who owns a fortress, to the tiny sidekick extraterrestrial critter named Pawny are perfect CGI creatures created with dexterity and skill.

A VFX-spectacle you can’t neuralyse for a long time plays host to a number of aliens species that come in all shapes and sizes. Action Sequences are also equally stunning with the way in which MIB agents try to protect Jababian friend Vungus from the onslaught of Dyads with their high-end weaponry.

Although the soul of the movie, considering the themes (buddy-cop, madcap humour, wisecracks and virtue) the previous instalment is known for, seems absent. The winning duo (MCU) is given scant content to work with. Chasing the McGuffin through the movie, the character arcs are oddly structured. But their backstories are woven in tune with their motives. They rather predictably resolve most of their conflicts, barring the initial convoluted plot point where the diplomatic efforts are made to keep the Jababians at bay. That plot-point is lost in the middle of the predictable “MIB is compromised, there’s a mole amongst the team”

As a multiplex monsoon popcorn movie, it is worth a watch but might not stay on your mind for very long. Although visually-stunning, Men in Black 4 fails to make a dent in your imagination as far as the plot is concerned.

We will keep you updated on the VFX aspect of the movie.

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Uplandme raises seven figures for a new property trading game

Uplandme, has closed a financing round, which was led by Finlab EOS VC Fund and with the participation of several angel investors. FinLab EOS VC Fund is a venture capital fund backed by both Block (dot) one, the publisher of the blockchain protocol EOSIO, and FinLab AG, one of Europe’s largest company builders and investors focused on financial services technologies.

“We invested into Uplandme because we like the genuine idea of a virtual property market powered by the EOS Blockchain and the very experienced and passionate team behind it. Blockchain and specifically EOSIO allow the creation of completely new game mechanics that were not possible before,” FinLab EOS VC Fund managing director of Stefan Schuetze .

The funds will be used to support the initial development and launch of Upland, a digital property trading game that blurs the boundaries between real and virtual worlds.

“We are excited to work with Uplandme as we believe they present a very unique and differentiated concept and that gaming and digital collectable companies, such as Uplandme are a great application of Blockchain technologies, in particular EOSIO,” commented EOS VC COO Paul Grotowski.

Players buy, sell, and trade properties based on real-world addresses. An in-game currency called UPX will power the economy of Upland. Players will be able to complete property collections, use location-based features and trade their properties on a marketplace.

 

“We have chosen the EOSIO blockchain software because it offers the best foundation to create a strong casual gaming experience where players engage quickly and can continuously enjoy the game without the hassle and need to understand today’s complicated world of Blockchain. We are excited to work with Finlab and EOS VC to leverage their EOSIO background and financial expertise which are very important for us as we build out Upland,” said Uplandme co-founder Dirk Lueth.

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Netflix premieres footage from first animated Oscar contender ‘Klaus’

Netflix has unveiled a footage from its first original animated feature, Klaus, at the Annecy Animation Festival on Wednesday.

Directed by Sergio Pablos (Despicable Me), Klaus is a wacky Santa origin story that boasts innovative 2D. This is Netflix’s first animated Oscar contender which will qualify theatrically this holiday season.

Klaus, follows a young, lazy Scandinavian postman named Jesper (Jason Schwartzman) who gets exiled by his father to a contentious village in the cold north to launch the postal service, where he meets a mysterious, white-bearded toymaker named Klaus (J.K. Simmons).

The retro look of the film has a definite Disney vibe, full of classic squash-and-stretch and illustrative design. But it’s enhanced by stunning lighting and texturing, courtesy of new tracking software from Pablo’s studio in Madrid, which takes 2D into the 21st century with some digital flourishes.

Pablos mentioed, “We knew we had a story that would be better served by traditional animation, but we did not want to rely on nostalgia alone. I strongly believe that traditional animation still has a rightful place in the feature animation scene, but in making this movie, we knew that bringing traditional animation back would not be enough; we had to bring it forward. We methodically looked at all the steps in the traditional animation pipeline.”

Veteran animator and Netflix character animation head  James Baxter (How to Train Your Dragon, The Lion King), has been assisting Pablos and his team: “This breaks the mold of hand-drawn as a more graphic and illustrative experiment. It creates a sculptured, modern look. But there’s no model building or virtual lighting that you would see in CG. It’s still done by hand by visual development artists that have been trained to use the software as light shapes on characters, which then get tracked through the shots,” he added.

Of his Santa origin story, Pablos added, “The message we’re trying to present has to do with the contagious and transformative power of good will. The story is presented as a comedy, but there’s a deep heart behind it.  I would hope that after seeing what traditional animation can still offer, other creatives and producers might choose that route for their animated projects.”

Netflix certainly has high hopes for stirring up the animated Oscar race while modernising 2D: “It’s really charming and an openly emotional holiday film and really delivers on that. But, in terms of the animation technique, we jumped over to CG and left 2D behind, so we’re trying to innovate in that form to create incredible looks and create our capabilities in that space. As far as the Oscar potential, we’re taking it one step at a time,” Netflix VP of original animation  Melissa Cobb noted.

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DreamWorks Animation announces new Netflix series ‘Fast and Furious’ and ‘Kipo and the Age of Wonderbeasts’

DreamWorks Animation is certainly on a rampage. Having only announced Jurassic World: Camp Cretaceous series last week, it has now unveiled two more animation shows that will be coming to Netflix soon.

During the DreamWorks Animation TV Studio Focus presentation at the Annecy International Animation Film Festival, the studio announced Fast and Furious: Spy Racers, a series based on Universal’s Fast and Furious franchise, to launch later this year, as well as an original series Kipo and the Age of Wonderbeasts, slated for 2020 premier.

Besides, the fans were also treated to an exclusive first look teasers of both shows by executive producers Radford Schrist and Bill Wolkoff.

Fast and Furious: Spy Races probed the adventures of a teenager Tony Torretto, who follows into the footsteps of his cousin when he and his close allies are recruited by the government to thwart a certain racing league that’s run by a nefarious crime organisation.

Fast and Furious star Vin Disel and Chris Morgan will serve as a executive producers.

Kipo and the Age of Wonderbeasts sees a young girl Kipo embarking on an adventure in a post-apocalyptic world after spending years recluse in a borrow. She is later joined by a group of fellow survivors as the ragtag group go through a wild goose chase.

The series is executive produced and created by Sechrist and executive produced and developed for TV by Wolkoff.

The presentation also featured studio updates on the hit Netflix original Shi-Ra and the Princess of Power as well as Kung Fu Panda: The Paws of Destiny, which is also competing at the Annecy in the television category.

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Nintendo Treehouse: Live focuses on indie games, with two launches

Thursday’s Nintendo Treehouse: Live programming focused on some of the great indie games and content coming to the Nintendo Switch system. And viewers didn’t have to wait long to play two games featured during the show – the new rhythmic action-adventure game Cadence of Hyrule: Crypt of the NecroDancer Featuring The Legend of Zelda and Overcooked! 2: Night of the Hangry Horde DLC are both available to purchase and download now from Nintendo eShop.

Cadence of Hyrule: Crypt of the NecroDancer Featuring The Legend of Zelda, the latest title from Brace Yourself Games, combines the move-to-the-beat gameplay of the acclaimed Crypt of the NecroDancer game with the iconic characters, items and locations from the Legend of Zelda series.

In the Cadence of Hyrule: Crypt of the NecroDancer Featuring The Legend of Zelda game, each move the player makes – whether it’s moving, attacking, defending, using items or more – must be timed to the beat of the music, which features remixes of familiar tunes from the Legend of Zelda series. Players can choose to embark on their journey as Link or Zelda, each with different powers and abilities, before they adventure through a randomly generated overworld map where classic areas like the desert or the forest will differ, meaning no two playthroughs will be the same.

Make a wrong move and the character will be defeated, losing all their rupees, keys and limited-use items. Don’t fret, however,  Zelda can visit the Oracle to purchase items to use after continuing their adventure with in-game currency. Players who want to play Cadence of Hyrule: Crypt of the NecroDancer Featuring The Legend of Zelda their way can also choose between various modes including Permadeath Mode, where any wrong move could mean starting over from the beginning of the game. This is each player’s journey to undertake, so there’s no right way to endure it.

Overcooked! 2: Night of the Hangry Horde from Team17 Digital and Ghost Town Games sees players face the most terrifying threat to the Onion Kingdom yet, the unbread, and this time they’ve brought friends! This brand new DLC introduces an entirely new horde mode in which players must use all their cooking know-how to repel waves of ravenous undead ingredients.

 

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