Silicon Valley Comic Con 2016: Through the Eyes of an Animator

By Phill Powell

(Editor: The recent Silicon Valley Comic Con was an incredible event for entertainment fans from several industries – especially the comic book, animation, video game and filmmaking industries. While many observers only see the amazing cosplay that takes place at a Comic Con, there’s a lot more going on. To get his valuable perspective, we asked a professional illustrator and animator – and DMA instructor – for his reactions to this year’s show.)

SVCC Through the Eyes of an Animator

By Arturo Miramontes

I am a recent graduate of San Jose State University and currently work as an illustrator and animator for the Defense Language Institute in Seaside, Calif. Essentially, I help develop content for language-based learning games used by the military. I have also worked as a freelance artist and animator for major companies such as Adobe and United Airlines.

SVCC_Warhammer
Warhammer was there! All Comic Cons are known for the full-on cosplay they inspire in attendees.

For the last three years, I have worked with Digital Media Academy, as an instructor and teaching assistant for courses in both 3­D animation and graphic design courses.

Aside from my aspirations to one day work for a major animation studio, I live and breathe comics. I am a huge fan and passionate consumer of DC, Marvel and just about any brand of comic book.

San Jose’s debut of the Silicon Valley Comic Con presented a collision of the tech world and the comic book world for the first time in this city. Until now, I had only experienced small conventions such as the CTN (Creative Talent Network) Expo in Burbank, Calif. These conventions served more as a means to network with fellow professionals in the animation industry, but not so much a place to celebrate pop culture fandom.

DEADPOOLS EVERYWHERE!

I truly live and breathe comics. Ever since I was a kid, superheroes and comics were always a major part of my artistic inspiration and life. I spent countless hours studying comic book panels and art books, trying to recreate my favorite superheroes.

For a very long time, I had wanted to go to a comic­ book convention to experience the madness of being surrounded by passioned costumed fans, amazing collectibles and industry professionals. The Silicon Valley Comic­ Con was my very first convention like this, and I have to say I was extremely impressed and inspired!

The mad, mad rush came like an unexpected storm. Arriving to the convention center at 10 a.m., there was already quite a presence of authentic Wolverines, Batmans, Halo Spartans, and, of course, Deadpools. But nothing could have prepared me for the explosive increase in crowds as the day continued.

DRAWN TO COMICS

One of the many highlights of the convention was the various panels that presented very intriguing subjects related to the comic/entertainment and tech industries.

SVCC_TMNT_comic_art
SVCC was a collector’s paradise, complete with lots of original artwork for sale.

As a fellow artist striving to work in both the animation industry and comics, one panel that really got my attention was titled, “Cartoon Art Museum and the South Bay Spotlight.” In this panel, comic artists spoke candidly about their careers.

Panelists included Norm Felchle (former comic book artist from the 90’s currently working as a concept and storyboard artist for games), Mick Gray (winner of the Eisner Award and inker for DC comics for over 25 years, currently best known for working on Batman and Robin) and Alex Sheikman (comic artist known for titles such as Moonstruck, Bloodlust, and Robotika).

ON THE SAME PAGE

Two of the most important topics mentioned during the panel were: 1) the benefits of being a part of an artist community; and 2) the philosophies behind traditional versus digital art.

When it comes to community, this concept is actually quite vital in any industry, not just for artists but also programmers and game designers. If you think about it, when you go to summer camp at DMA you are surrounded by like-minded classmates and instructors who are there to learn and who have an extreme passion for creative growth and knowledge.

Being part of an artist community has helped me grow through various critiques on my own work, and has also granted me new opportunities for jobs and projects.

When it came to the philosophies behind traditional versus digital, the panel discussed that while digital technology may be a time-saver, it ultimately is just a tool. Traditional methods are something that can be very helpful for a beginner to learn so they can develop a strong foundation on the basics.

But like digital, traditional art techniques is also another set of tools in the artist’s arsenal. While I often encourage students to draw and learn traditional art, a tool is a tool, and all that matters is how you can take the tools and make something all your own.

VIRTUAL REALITY AS A STORYTELLING TOOL

One of the standout panels at the convention was the discussion on virtual reality and how this new technology can be explored as a tool for storytelling. It is absolutely insane to think that we live in a time where this kind of tech is already a real tangible thing that continues to excel and expand at a rapid fire rate.

But what is even more interesting is considering what artists and storytellers might use this tech for. Baobab Studios CEO Maureen Fan presented a short animation at the show that featured a small rabbit and two alien characters interacting with the VR user.

This particular example of VR prompted questions for me: How does one market this particular product? We typically watch films with a crowd (an audience), so how does something like a VR experience with a film effect that dynamic? It turns a social event into an isolated one, a solitary experience.

SVCC_Baobab_VR_demo
The Baobab booth stayed busy, with lots of visitors wanting to sample its stunning VR.

Then there is both the game and film aspect of VR, in terms of how much control to give the user. How much minute detail do you place into your world for users to explore? If you have ever played an open world game or an expansive first-­person game, often some of the more intricate details you find during your exploration help give you the full story of the game.

The panel concluded with the idea of VR being compared to a “gold­ rush.” This tech is still quite fresh and new and because of this there haven’t been any rules set up or previous examples for newcomers to follow and study. Everyone is essentially on an even playing field, but those who are most creative will be able breakthrough successfully.

DRAW YOUR OWN CONCLUSIONS

Silicon Valley Comic Con 2016 was an incredible experience filled with inspirational visuals and discussions.

While it was fun to geek out over the pop cultural explosion of comic book superheroes, toys and artwork, it was just as amazing to see the beginning of Silicon Valley’s technical innovations merging with the entertainment and comic ­book industries. I would highly recommend anyone interested or remotely curious to check this event out next year.

If you are interested in getting into this industry through art, writing, programming, etc., this is an excellent opportunity to learn more about your craft and have some fun while doing so.

As technology continues to advance and our culture further expands interest in the comic ­book realm, it’s important to stay in the loop. Future opportunities and exciting potential lie within these new innovative ideas and projects, such as virtual reality.

Stay connected, my friends, and like we say at DMA, “create the next!”

SVCC_Iron_Patriot
SVCC 2016 featured super-cool exhibits like this salute-worthy Iron Patriot bust.

R U Ready for SUMMER?

Summer vacation is a just a couple of months away. Do you know what you’re going to be doing? Are you ready?

We are. This is going to be Digital Media Academy‘s 15th summer of inspiring the tech thinkers and makers of tomorrow, and we couldn’t be more psyched about it.

So are our campers…who are registering in record droves this year.

This is the last week to take advantage of DMA Spring Savings camp discounts, and many classes are getting close to their maximum capacity (which we keep low, to ensure students get the hands-on attention they need).

Register for DMA animation tech camps today and discover how magical it is when your illustrated creations come to life through animation!