The 2023 Computer Animation Festival at SIGGRAPH Asia in Sydney celebrated the best animations selected from submissions contributed by hundreds of artists from 14 countries.
The 2023 Computer Animation Festival at SIGGRAPH Asia in Sydney, Australia celebrated the best animations of 2023, selected from a pool of 382 submissions contributed by 595 artists from 14 countries. This event featured a total of 38 films, including works from the inaugural Junior Competition participants, shown from 12 to 15 December at SIGGRAPH Asia 2023's Electronic and Animation Theatres.
The Computer Animation Festival (CAF) is one of the most anticipated parts of the SIGGRAPH events, wherever they are held. The works submitted range from short films to scientific visualisations and AI-enhanced projects, and drive the gaming and animation markets around the world.
Herman Van Eyken, Computer Animation Festival Co-Chair, is the Director of Griffith Film School, Griffith Film School in Australia. He said, “As an educator and Co-Chair of the Computer Animation Festival, it's particularly gratifying to see global talent being showcased right here in Australia, which is a major player on the international stage. The awarded works not only stand at the forefront of animation but also serve as a testament to the richness of storytelling in the digital landscape.”
Moirai - Thread of Life
An Animated Life
Rob Coleman, Computer Animation Festival Co-Chair and Creative Director of Industrial Light & Magic, said, “Witnessing the rapid evolution and sophisticated, immersive animation at SIGGRAPH Asia is truly inspiring. The collection of work received this year not only showcases the dynamic interplay of art and technology but also redefines the possibilities in animation. We're eager to continue providing a platform for innovative works that captivate and inspire audiences worldwide, fostering a synergy of creativity and technological innovation in the dynamic landscape of animation.”
Rob described his own long, varied career in animation, including the sources of interest and inspiration that helped him progress from animator to animation directing and supervising roles at ILM, Dr D, Lucasfilm and Animal Logic – and back to ILM.
“I have loved animation since I was a little boy,” he said. “I grew up watching Saturday morning cartoons, Disney movies and The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour. I was especially fascinated by the combination of live-action and animation, like the sequence where Dick Van Dyke danced with the animated penguins in Mary Poppins. Believable, compelling, animated performances have always inspired me.”
The art and skill of animation certainly haven’t stood still since his early days working on Dragonheart and Men in Black, before taking the role of Animation Director on the Star Wars prequels. “The tools and technology we had in the early 1990s were much slower and more time-consuming compared to what we have today,” said Rob.
“I remember animating the digital dragon, Draco, in Dragonheart, moving a controller and then waiting twenty seconds for the pose to update. At times, it was excruciating to get any creative flow. Nowadays, our rigs are much faster, and our goal is to have them be able to play back our animation in real-time.”
Speed and responsiveness are great, of course, but with those developments come new expectations of what animators can achieve. Every year, the artists on his team learn how to be better performers but at the same time, the creative excellence bar continues to rise. “I look back at some of the animations we did in the 1990s and cringe,” Rob remarked.
“At the time, the work was considered good, or even excellent, but we all have continued to develop our skills. We see and can achieve nuance and subtlety now, where before we couldn’t. Animators today have to spend more time crafting their performances. But thankfully, the technology, software and hardware are vastly faster than what we used 30 years ago, and can support more iteration.”
He has been attending SIGGRAPH conferences since 1992 in Chicago, and ever since, attending the Electronic Theatre and viewing the latest entries in the Computer Animation Festival has been an inspiration. He said, “Taking on the role of Co-Chair for SIGGRAPH Asia 2023 Computer Animation Festival in Sydney has allowed me to give back to the SIGGRAPH community. I hope there are people in this year’s audience who come away inspired by some of the animated shorts they see.”
CAF celebrated extraordinary projects, with special acknowledgement given to three prize winners and two Honourable Mentions.
Coil Motors – Electro P200D
Best in Show went to Moirai - Thread of Life by directors Ina Conradi and Mark Chavez from Nanyang Technological University. Visualising the interconnected threads of the phenomena shaping the destinies of all beings, the story is set in the distant future when an astronaut seeking new frontiers finds herself drawn to a mysterious force in a cave. The viewer follows her journey of discovery as she is pulled into another dimension, entwined and connected with the larger fabric of the universe. The film symbolises the quantum realm – like the white-robed incarnations of destiny in ancient mythology, the interconnected threads of quantum phenomena weave the destinies of all beings together. Access trailer here.
Winner of the Jury's Special Award, Hair Universe by Jinuk Choi of Kotory Studio is also about connectivity. Although everyone faces the death of loved ones, we seldom have a chance to prepare for or think through such losses. Consequently, many feel lost and have to deal with the pain alone. This film shows how love, death, loss and mental anguish are intertwined just like hairs. When we realise such sadness connects us all, we regain the strength to live. Access trailer here.
The Best Student Project award was won by Thaba Ye, coming from l'école de Gobelins in France. Under the shadow of a mysterious mountain in a remote part of South Africa, where legends of the local Bapedi people say that those who go there never come back, Thato must face her fears in order to save her sick brother. The film explores courage, fear and the lengths one goes to save a someone you love. Access trailer here.
Two Honourable Mention awards went to projects from the animation school Supinfocom Rubika. Quem Salva is about a young recruit to the department fighting forest fires in the Amazon. During his first mission, he will be separated from the group and will have to undertake a perilous mission, guided by his mentor. He is confronted with a choice – follow the orders of the hierarchy or save a thousand-year-old tree at the risk of his life. Access trailer here.
Loup y es-tu?
In Loup y es-tu? a little girl named Mischa lives in the suburbs of Moscow. After making a beautiful violin out of paper, she wants to play for the big monsters who live in her apartment building, but who are little inclined to listen. However, the less they hear her playing the violin, the more dangerously near the Wolf approaches. Access trailer here.
Tomorrow's Animators - SIGGRAPH Asia 2023 Junior Competition
At SIGGRAPH Asia 2023, the Computer Animation Festival launched an initiative called the Junior Competition, which is held in collaboration with BESydney, and the NSW Department of Education’s STEM Industry School Partnerships (SISP) program.
The 2023 SIGGRAPH Junior Animation Festival Competition recognizes and encourages future animators by fostering emerging talent in computer graphics and animation.
Participants were encouraged to share their entries with classmates, team members, and colleagues, further promoting a spirit of community and collaboration within the animation industry.
Featuring two age categories, Junior (8 - 13 yrs) and Senior (14 - 18 yrs), the Junior Competition serves as a platform to show young students’ two-minute animations, and gives educators an opportunity to integrate computer animation into their curriculum. At the inaugural competition, the top winner was Water by director Selina Ho of Canley Vale High School, a visual story that evokes an emotional response by calling to mind everything you know about water, in lush shades of blue and subtle artwork.
Runner-Up Project The Star Keeper is different kind of story created by Keina Sugiyama of Harrisdale Senior High School in Western Australia. It follows the life of Everest, a diligent Star Keeper tasked with placing stars in the night sky. One night, Everest, despite a lack of motivation, gets to work and ascends to the stars. A sudden transformation occurs, triggered by memories of our unique connection with these celestial bodies.
Honourable Mentions went to Inspiration by Mina Phan, exploring the world of Art through diverse styles, mediums and artists and reflecting the boundless nature of Art as an open-ended pursuit; and to Coil Motors – Electro P200D by Nathan Fereig, a dynamic 3D-animated short created for his HSC Industrial Technology Multimedia Major Project, a compelling marketing campaign for a fictional car company. asia.siggraph.org/2023