TotalChaos 2019 brought together the elite of the CG industry in Sofia for the second time

Nikolay Mihaylov
May 26 · 6 min read
The main stage backdrop featured a very beautiful eye

To make 1000+ crowd of the worldwide computer graphics and VFX elite put your event in their must-be schedule is no small feat. To book the best presenters on the subject, which will be showing their work with the same slides and footage during Siggraph — even more. Chaos Group’s mighty team held their second annual event, Total Chaos, just several miles from their headquarters in Bulgaria’s capital.

Being a 3D graphics enthusiast and V-Ray trainer myself, I can say I’m a totally biased, both of their achievement, but also of the level of confidence and humility required to make it happen and stay №1 in the long term. It feels like yesterday, when I witnessed Vlado and Peter’s meetings with their first clients and fans at 3D Festival in Copenhagen back in 2004. Two years later, they managed to fill a 100+ seat room at the CG Architect conference in Boston, right next to the hall where Autodesk had only about double the audience. A few days prior, they were showcasing their achievements just a few steps away from the Pixar booth at Siggraph, and it took them just a few years to blow away one of their competitive products — Renderman. Many international artists and studios recognized and valued the technological and creative dedication of Chaos Group, which now has a 300+ people team across four countries, not including the companies it acquired in the past few years.

The event kicked of at Thursday with Masterclasses held in three separate rooms, which I circled quickly to grab some shots.

Victor Hugo is an illustrator making the covers of the Marvel comic books, using a whole bunch of software and rendering in 3dsMax with V-Ray. He lives in Brazil and still makes the unique visuals, like many artists in today’s cloud based, connected world.

The halls were packed, with some people standing, not because there were not enough seats, but I guess people were exhausted from flying or preferred to stand upright.

Jake Williams is part of WeWork’s team, responsible for the visualizations of the finalised designs the architects have already with the clients. He was commenting his workflow using a tablet and some sketches.

WeWork’s team prefers making one point perspectives “because they just work”.

Margarita Valova is part of Zaha Hadid’s Design team. She finished her M.A. in Architecture at UACEG back in 2003 and works since 2006 for the studio. The signature project was the design of an interior for a German company where each concrete mold had to be transported on single trucks.

Carlos Martinez creates parametric buildings in Grasshopper which are fleshed out interactively with V-Ray in front of the client’s eyes during presentations. Although this sounds quite conceptual, it is also very practical. Based on a set of node based rules and small amount of code, which is quite slow to prepare in the beginning, it gives a huge possibilities for on the go changes and unique control.

Early in the morning, at the second day of the conference the keynotes kicked in, with some new announcements both from V-Ray’s team, as well as Corona’s.

One click caustics presented by Ondra Karlík — yes, please! It’s actually the first time I’m considering to really bring Corona to my workflow.
Marvel universe — eye candy for the VFX artist’s

The big room was split into three small ones — art, craft and tech tracks, with people switching between.

Light fields explained from Paul Debevec at Google + VR Demo corner

Light fields sphere was really cool looking and key image in the whole presentation. The technology presented by Paul Debevec from Google is interesting, but even more, for the first time I see a good use of VR and imagine the impact it could have in exploring historical, hard to reach and fictional sites. At the the VR corner they setup some branding was lacking, wishing there were more demos of awesome places next time :)

At the V-Ray corner there were several machines, pre-loaded with assets for this year’s Render challenge. I’m thinking of running something like that at some point, will have to see what kind of objects I can muster and make them available for the students at my courses.

There were several panel discussions, including one on education for computer graphics with Anthony Christov, an 18-year Pixar veteran that returned to Bulgaria recently. At Total Chaos, he announced the birth of Arc Academy , a much needed new education platform that may serve to be Easter Europe’s Gnomon, Ringling or Supinfacom. Unfortunatelly I missed both his talks, hope to see them online and interview him for the next edition of BAICAA’s catalogue.

Pros:

  • Kickass presentations, although I barely had the time to watch 4–5 entirely. Will catch up with the recordings for sure.
  • Excellent crowd from all over the world, some new friends we’ve made.
  • Awesome event app helped bring everyone and set reminders for the different topics. Definitely looking to use something like that for the next filmchallenges we plan to make.
  • The final party was really cool and I even managed to relax which I hadn’t done in a very long time.

Cons:

  • Too little students from schools and universities, will try to help on bringing more of those for next year;
  • The space felt a bit underutilized — both in terms of branding, as well as installations and exhibitions. Maybe Sofia Tech Park can loosen up a bit and provide more branding opportunities;
  • Event coverage by media was quite limited, many people couldn’t understand the scope of the event and its value, maybe because it coincided with Webit, but also too little people in Bulgaria take visualization, CGI and VFX as a serious part of art or technology.

I’m writing all this with that I’ve had about 5–7 hours of daily work on finalizing the editing and animation of my upcoming documentary “Angels in Action”. Because of that, I couldn't attend most of the presentations and mix with the crowd as much as I would have liked to.

As mentioned above, nowadays there’s a lot of hype about AI, blockchain, medtech or fintech. I personally hope more creative companies like Chaos Group emerge with the urge to believe in themselves like too few outstanding Bulgarian companies, and it’s about time for more people to take notes and achieve their attention to detail and confidence in all things digital.

Nikolay Mihaylov

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Animator, Producer, Director