e-magiciens Casts Spell in Northern France

While Americans were celebrating the Thanksgiving holiday, young European artists converged on Valenciennes in the north of France for the sixth annual e-magicians festival of European digital creation. The event, organized by the Valenciennes Chamber of commerce and Industry, concluded Friday, Nov. 26 with a best of 2004 animated short film screening and the presentation of awards. The ceremony capped off three days of workshops, meetings, debates, exhibitions and more.

The "Coups de Cœur" awards this year went to a diverse offering of works from students and other young digital creators from all over Europe. One of the big winners was the bittersweet CG-animated short, Overtime, by Oury Atlan, Thibault Berland and Damien Ferrie, students at Supinfocom in Valenciennes. The five-minute piece has a group of puppets (which look suspiciously like Kermit the Frog) attempting to animate their dead creator. The filmmakers used black and white images and photo-real rendering to tip their hats to the late Jim Henson. The short won the press jury award.

Another favorite was the beautifully animated and fun CG short, True Color, by Bertrand Bey and Pierre Ducos, students of Supinfocom Arles in the south of France. The piece takes place in an all-white, LEGO-inspired world where some mischievous robots get fed up with the status quo and decide to introduce a little color to the landscape. The seven-minute romp took the Softimage award, while the CANAL + award went to La Migration Bigoudenn by Eric Castaing, Alexandre Heboyan and Fafah Togora from Les Gobelins in London.

The award for direction was bestowed upon Frédréric Martin from Ecole Emile Cohl in France for his existential Round About, which has a confused motorist trapped on a deserted stretch of road from which he can’t escape. Meanwhile, music and sound kudos went to The Loop by Julie Rancoeur, Emilie Boyard and Charles Blanchard from Supinfocom Arles.

Scam, the commission of digital art, gave its 2004 award to 1916, a WWI drama created by Fabien Bedouel, an animation student at ENSAD. The short employs stark images and 2D animation to portray the horrors of war and trench warfare in particular. The film also received special mention for direction and sound. Another special mention went to No Limits, a 1:15 children’s rights PSA by Heidi Wittlinger, Anja Perl and Max Stolzenberg from Filmakademie Baden-Wurttenberg in Germany.

Highlights of the Best of 2004 screening included The Microwave, a hilarious take on popular films set in the microcosmic world of a kitchen. The short was created by Jérémy Passerin. Pierre Lopes, Houtin Benoît and Nhieu François-Xavier from EESA (Ecole Européennne Supérieure d’Animation) in France. Another crowd pleaser was Twin on Speed, Mickaël Sanlaville’s (Ecole Emile Cohl) anime-style, 2D comedy that explores the exciting secret lives of to twin toddlers.

Another important feature of e-magiciens is the chained animation program, which this year saw eight different teams working on individual parts of a short film to be assembled at the end of the festival. Each team was responsible for producing 10 seconds of 2D or 3D animation that incorporated a single word, which was part of a complete phrase revealed later when all the parts were edited together. The chained animation was done in conjunction with a web jam, which had another set of teams working around the clock for three days to produce interactive websites that offer fun with the alphabet, since Typography was a major theme of the conference.

e-magiciens is held every year at the Phenix Theater in the northern French city of Valenciennes. More information on the festival can be found at www.e-magiciens.com.