Escape Awards winners announced

The winners of the inaugural Escape Awards have been announced at a ceremony at London’s Tate Modern. Framestore CFC was the night's top winner, taking three of the eight awards.

The Escape Awards is a new initiative from London-based Escape Studios to recognise and honour the wealth of computer graphics talent in the UK, celebrated the cream of the UK computer graphics community with Lord Puttnam taking key position as chairman of judges, presiding over a panel of more than 30 of the industries’ leading figures.

The awards, now set to be an annual event, claim to be the first of its kind to bring together the full spectrum of the UK CG community to celebrate all of the various industry sectors that depend on the astonishing skill and craftsmanship of digital artists to produce stunning imagery for them.

The award categories covered visual effects, games and design visualisation and entries were judged by a stellar panel of more than 30 key industry figures from world-renowned companies such as Pixar, Sony, Seymour Powell and Foster + Partners.

2008 Escape Award Winners:

CG in Broadcast – Framestore CFC for Primeval

Primeval, from Impossible Pictures, is a TV drama series which sees Professor Nick Cutter, an evolutionary zoologist and his team investigate a series of unusual creature sightings. Now in its second series, it was co-created by Tim Haines and writer Adrian Hodges who chose Framestore CFC to supply 13 CG creatures and more than 730 animation and VFX shots on the first series.

Framestore CFC aimed to bring all the expertise they had gained working on big-budget films into a TV drama. A number of different tools were used to produce Primeval with all the creature work completed in Maya, rendered using Mental Ray and composited in Shake. Inferno was also used for some of the spot effects. The producer was Matt Fox and Christian Manz worked as VFX supervisor to six staggered deadlines, one for each episode, across an incredibly short eight months, as opposed to the usual 18.

CG in commercials – Glassworks for Flexifuel, Ford

Ford’s Flexifuel was designed to lower carbon dioxide emissions by 75 per cent, something that advertising agency Ogilvy Stockholm and director Martin Krejcl wanted Glassworks to bring to life. The team that worked on the project consisted of Vaclav Cizkovsky, Alastair Hearsum, Daniel Jahnel, Vincent Thomas and Noel Hocquet, with no named lead, and they worked to the main challenge of matching live action models seamlessly.

The ad is memorable for its beautiful imagery and the fact that not a single vehicle is shown. Instead you are taken inside the wombs of an elephant, dolphin and polar bear to see the growth of a foetus. The message is of course about the environment and how Flexifuel can help protect it. The Glassworks team spent five weeks on the project, with the twin polar bears taking up much of that time, using XSI, Mudbox and Photoshop to stunning effect.

CG in Film – Framestore CFC for The Golden Compass
As one of the biggest releases of last year, The Golden Compass took the visual effects awards at both the BAFTAs and Oscars for its stunning CG work. A lot of the film’s stand out scenes and characters including the polar bear, lorek Byrnison, and the evil Ragnar were provided by Framestore CFC using a huge team of over 200 members to work on more than 300 shots over a 15 month period.

Framestore CFC’s VFX team was headed by supervisor Ben Morris who worked to director Chris Weitz’s and VFX supervisor Mike Fink’s brief that Iorek was a true co-star and demanded an accordingly strong performance. The team began their work with models and then used Maya, Houdini, Renderman, Mantra, Matchmover, boujou, Shake, Inferno, proprietary plug-ins and the mRig that Framestore CFC had developed in house some years ago.

CG in Music – Framestore CFC for The Salmon Dance by the Chemical Brothers

The video for The Salmon Dance by The Chemical Brothers was the latest collaboration between directing team Dom & Nic and Framestore CFC, providing a truly memorable visual counterpoint to the Brothers’ funky beats. The video was produced by John Madsen for Factory Films with Ben Cronin stepping in as VFX supervisor and lead Inferno artist. The project took eight weeks in all, a little over two weeks for rigging and six weeks for the Framestore CFC Commercials 3D team to complete the work on 320 hand-animated fish using Maya, Houdini, Inferno, and proprietary plug-ins.

CG in Games – Ninja Theory for Heavenly Sword

Heavenly Sword from Heavenly Sword is the epic tale of Nariko, a doomed heroine out to avenge her people, a warrior clan almost destroyed by the tyrant King Bohan. The game’s production was almost as epic, taking a whopping four and a half years with 95 people from Ninja Theory to a total of around 500 when including Sony and outsourcing partners.

Tameem Antoniades was creative director on the project which set out to create a blockbuster martial arts drama, an experience that could rival film and literature, and take advantage of the PlayStation3 to produce one of the most beautiful games ever created. Technically, Heavenly Sword excelled by capturing face, body and voice performance simultaneously for up to five actors, a first for a game or film. Visual art Director Alex Taini and technical art director Stuart Adock created the beautiful graphics with Maya, Photoshop, ZBrush, Mudbox and MotionBuilder.

Design Visualisation – Moving Image – Uniform for The Crystal

Uniform was chosen by Beetham Organization, a Liverpool based property developer, to create The Crystal for its project at Trinity EC3. With no brief as such, the film had to simply accompany the other marketing materials while building the brand of Trinity EC3 as a high-value, design-led development, and firmly portray its location as part of the London City ‘cluster’.

Creative director Laurie Jones oversaw the project, with its four day film shoot and three month studio period. The team employed 3ds Max 9, VRay, Brazil, Mental Ray and Combustion 4 to achieve the different looks and effects from the crystals.

Design Visualisation – Still Image – Burrows Nvisage for Land Rover LRX in Piccadilly Circus

The brief for Burrows Nvisage was simply to show the LRX in an iconic London location, not easy as the car was supposed to be kept under wraps and not paraded around for all to see CGI allowed Burrows to fulfill the brief, exceeding the client’s expectations and creating a truly track-stopping image that would be recognised anywhere in the world.

The lead artist on the project was Sam Price, with CGI senior creative Robin Lowry and a team of three others in the studio and two photographers, to work on the shot using 3ds Max 9 using ARTVPS RenderDrive and Photoshop.

Student in CG – Ian Wharton and Edward Shires for Solar

Ian Wharton and Edward Shires, who studied at the Cumbria Institute of the Arts, wrote and directed Solar while in their final year. They were inspired largely by Roald Dahl's The Big Friendly Giant for both its story and its balance of believability and fantasy which permits the viewer to engage with the characters.

Ian and Edward took just over seven months to complete the short film, from starting on the script to launch, and modelled, textured, animated and composited using Softimage XSI. Adobe After Effects and Final Cut Studio were used for additional post-production work.

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