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"China's New VFX Talents" A Look Back at Base Academy's Open House

On Saturday, December 9th, 2017, Base Academy hosted an Open House in Dachang, Hebei, opening its gates for a full house of movie fans eager to learn more about Visual Effects and Base FX’s flagship projects of the past few years. It was an exciting opportunity for visitors to interact directly with leading industry experts, whose credited works include Guardians of the Galaxy 2, Doctor Strange, Transformers, Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens, and many others.

Held at the Dachang Film and Media Industrial Park, this Open House also introduced Base Academy’s visitors to a new, cutting-edge film production campus. Guests were taken on small-group tours of the production areas, sound stages, and other facilities. Recent productions shot on campus include 国家宝藏 and 魅力中国城.

Taking the stage first, Base FX Vice President Neil Xie discussed the rapidly-changing landscape of the global film industry, and explained how VFX is poised to take on an even bigger role in the future. Neil outlined the new career paths the industry has created, and shared his excitement for the globalized future young professionals will enjoy ahead of them—Neil encouraged the audience not to wait to seize the emerging opportunities in China.

Up next was BASE VFX Executive Producer David PI James, who delivered an electrifying lecture on “Invisible FX.” Comparing superhero flicks such as Dr. Strange with comedies like The Wolf of Wall Street, DJ highlighted how moviegoers are usually unaware of CGI's prevalence in most major productions. He emphasized how seamless VFX can enhance the authenticity of a shot, or help big-budget projects optimize their shooting schedule and post-production expenses. For example, opting for a green screen set rather than a real house, it becomes possible to maintain 'natural lighting' indoors without concern over weather fluctuations. Lastly, DJ discussed how VFX is often the only option to ensure actor safety or compliance with legal codes.

Following DJ was BASE Compositing Supervisor JD Cowles, whose talk provided a history of cinematic compositing. Having worked on pioneering shots such the Bullet-time sequence from The Matrix, JD highlighted the rapid progress of technologies that enable the creation of fluid visuals that push the boundaries of human imagination. JD expressed tremendous optimism for the growth and expansion of VFX, noting work that used to be produced with million dollar supercomputers is now being made with compact personal workstations running fairly affordable software. Yet, while the speed, cost, and power of VFX have all been enhanced immensely, the human touch has never been more important—after all, artistic ingenuity is what guides technology.

Up next, BASE Compositing Training Lead Liu Meng provided a comprehensive breakdown of the shots that Base FX produced for Star Wars: The Force Awakens. From levitating blaster shots to animating BB-8’s charming gestures, Liu Meng provided an overview of the various roles and departments that were responsible for major sequences. In particular, she noted the immense difficulty of nailing down the shot of Finn’s TIE Fighter sinking into the desert of Jakku. Having worked on over 30 projects in her ten years at Base, Liu Meng emphasized the high level of collaboration and coordination required to achieve sophisticated results.

In between presentations, guests toured Base Academy’s classrooms to interact with students and learn about their current film projects. It was a rare opportunity for visitors to audit how Base teachers deliver hybrid flipped classroom instruction and personal feedback in a close-knit training setting.

The last speaker was Base Academy Animation Teacher Wang Hannan, who provided an overview of how Base uses its own projects to enable an innovative educational model for training artists. He explained how major productions helmed by prominent directors—i.e. The Great Wall by Zhang Yimou—require VFX artists to not only demonstrate great technical proficiency, but also wield robust collaborative acumen. Hannan spoke extensively on how Base has refined its talent development system over nearly a decade to supplement elite VFX training with soft skill cultivation, including general teamwork, interpersonal communication, and creative thinking.

The frigid weather of Beijing did not deter our guests’ enthusiasm last Saturday. Base is excited to lead the way in training the next generation of elite VFX artists and industry leaders. No matter your status (industry professional or casual fan), if you love the world of VFX and would be interested in joining Base, please visit our website or send an email to study@base-academy.com for additional information.

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