A report from SXSW

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The wonderful people at Maxon Cinema 4D invited me to join them for the SXSW Interactive Festival, which has become a pilgrimage for any technology geek. It was an amazing opportunity to show my work to 3D animation enthusiasts from around the world and also a great reason for me to visit my parents who recently moved to Austin from Cincinnati.

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SXSW is the busiest week of the year for the city. There are pop-up concerts, corporate sponsored parties, and every variety of person promoting or protesting stuff. Official film and music events are scattered around downtown, while the Interactive Festival takes over the Convention Center. I spent a few hours each day at the Maxon booth promoting my film and the software, but I was also fortunate to spend time wandering the exhibition. I experienced the latest in virtual reality, video games, camera gear, 4K television, robots, interactive software, 3D printing and funky tech toys. There were all sorts of “wearables” including digital slap bracelets and 360 video helmets. I shook hands with a man who had a robotic arm… instead of a real arm.

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Maxon hosted an event on Sunday night at a small theater near the Convention Center. An audience of about 40 people showed up to eat pizza, watch “Hellyfish” and hear me talk about our visual effects process. The focus was mostly on character modeling, rigging, and animation (with a big nod to our main animator Pryce Duncalf). It was great fun and I was even able to catch up with a few members of our crew who now live in Austin.

For anyone planning to attend SXSW, I should warn you about the general vibe of frantic overpopulation. The organizers oversold the passes so that even people with “gold passes” had to show up an hour early to get into a lecture or concert. This overflow spilled into the other free events, like when I rsvp’d to the Onion party and found a line 3 blocks long. I met one opportunist pedaling fake wrist bands of every color.

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As a person with a high threshold for weirdness, I was skeptical of the famous slogan “keep Austin weird”. In a place where weird is normal, how can you tell who is genuine and who is just trying to fit in? Girl in a superwoman costume – not that weird. Werewolf playing the violin – okay, kind of weird. Silicon Valley startup nerds protesting the spread of artificially intelligent robots… unexpected, but not that weird. In my search for the strange, unexplained and other-worldy, I mostly found people in Halloween costumes. I would argue these people are actually “keeping Austin fun” and I think that’s awesome. Ultimately, I will need many more trips to Austin before I can experience it’s true weirdness.

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The weirdest discovery for me was a Comedy Central event poster plastered all around town. The artwork on the poster featured a jellyfish monster VERY similar to the illustrations in our end credit sequence. Did they copy Hellyfish? We’ll probably never know. Instead of feeling ripped off, I’ll just be happy that killer jellyfish are trending.

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