We have tested for you: the IntereFX Ultrackathon

The second edition of IntereFX was held from January the 30th to February the 1st in Paris area. It is part of the Paris Images Digital Summit, which gathers VFX and digital creation leaders. IntereFX is organized by Dominique Yolin and Walid Benhafsia from Light in Chaos with the help of institutional partners and private sponsors.

InterFX is an ultrackathon. What is such a thing? Let me explain: it is a big project divided in two steps. The first step revolves around cinema schools with the creation of a short-movie (from 3 up to 5 minutes long). This year the theme was “superheroes”.
Then, last but not least, comes the hackathon: it gathers about forty students from seven schools specialized in 3D/VFX and computing. The aim is to integrate VFX in the movies and to manage them through an app durint the screening of the movies.

This is quite ambitious and it represents a lot of hard-work!

Another thing to bear in mind: students are supervised by both mentors and professionals during this event. Hence, this year, there were about twenty mentors taking part to the ultrackathon. As for me, I’ve been asked to supervise the smooth renderings on the renderfarm. RANCH Computing was one of the sponsors from the event.

The first morning was dedicated to the finalization of the computing set-up of this temporary studio but also the introduction of all the mentors, students and their skills. Then the students got to discover the two different movies they had to work on.
Then they split in different groups according their skills: modeling/texture, VFX (in real-time of pre-calculated), real-time overlay with Unity, app development, servers… 
Eventually, the mentors helped the students define their missions and one leader was selected in each departments. Ready, steady, go!

For two days and two nights, everybody was hard-working.

The environment was difficult: wide range of software used, no common file server, many people in modeling/texture but very few in compositing. However, thanks to Dominique’s impulse and with the help of the mentors as well as the group leaders, everything went forward.

Discussing with the film directors was very interesting: indeed, they worked on their project for months and they now had to entrust it to other people. It is not easy to put names on VFX. How do you call a flame or a spark? Thus, you no longer speak with words but rather with gestures that refer to movie’s VFX. I reckon it was the biggest discovery for VFX leaders. 

On the developing side, they had to design a server and to work on a test sequence to manage the interactivity of the mobile app.

Some mentors really hard-worked, such as Ronan Broudin, who was the only mentor in  compositing. Perhaps schools taking part in this contest should at least have one mentor in each discipine? Moreover I have to salute the remarkable work of Kevin Roussel as a general coordinator and also Damien Climent from Allegorithmic who shared his talent during the contest thanks to short improvized masterclasses.

There are different interests for the contestants: firstly, they confront themselves to difficult production conditions while creating an innovative and challenging project. Moreover, they have the possibility to meet and exchange with professionals of the field and to then access the PIDS’ jobfair in order to find a position in the recruiting studios. Undeniably, this is an unforgettable memory that they will gladly reminisce when working in their studios.

The screening which was ending the PIDS did not completely work as planned because of some technical issues combined to the lack of time to finish up all the effects. Although it generated some small frustration, there are many good aspects to remember from this contest and the numerous hours of hardwork from the students. Once more, I would like to congratulate the organizers for their great dynamism but also the sponsors. It is a unique experience that the students had the chance to live. I hope that next year, IntereFX will have more means and that more schools will join the adventure.

Christophe Bicchierai