Thursday, December 14, 2006

New interactive storytelling masterclass at FITA '06.

FITA 06 logoAngouleme, France

FITA stands for the International Forum for Animation Technologies (the acronym is French), and it's held annually in the same cool place that the Ateleiers Jeux Video (Video Game Workshops) are that I attended last April: the National Center for Comics and the Image in Angouleme, France. Although the conference is primarily about computer-generated animation, they held a number of breakout sessions, and I was invited to present a one-day masterclass on interactive storytelling and emotion. I didn't have one prepared, so I had to put one together, bearing in mind that the attendees didn't necessarily know much about video games.

I took the Eurostar over the preceding day, arriving just in time for a nice dinner with several of the speakers, including Ken Perlin, whom I know fairly well, and someone new: Gitanjali Rao, a Bombay-based animator who creates films using hand-drawn animation, though on the computer.

The next day was my class, and it turned out that almost the entire group were not animators, but students from the video game school there, ENJMIN! So in fact they already knew quite a lot about games and game design. Nevertheless, we worked through all the material and I got a chance to fine-tune my content a little.

The day ended with one of those long winy dinners that the French enjoy so much, at no less a venue than the Chateau de la Rochefoucauld, a glorious castle that could easily have served as Disney's inspiration. A couple of hundred of us had dinner in the very room where the treaty that ended the Hundred Years' War was signed. All the game students gravitated by my table, so while I didn't learn much about animation technology, we had a good time chatting about games over dinner. The most dramatic moment, however, was when the Duchesse de la Rochefoucauld herself -- a striking lady in her mid-70s, with a manner both charming and imperious -- took about twenty of us on a tour of the castle. We saw the libraries, the map room, and a number of other rooms all filled with furniture and art from a variety of periods, and heard tales of the family as we went. Apparently the Rochefoucaulds were instrumental in helping the Americans defeat the British in the American Revolution, although La Fayette gets most of the credit.

The following day I headed back to the UK again, very much enjoying the speed and amenities provided by first-class travel on France's TGV trains and the Eurostar.