Bangkok animators win world contest

The Prestissimo” team

The Prestissimo” team

A group of Thai animation developers has focused the world animation and multimedia spotlight on Thailand by beating nine other teams to win the world’s largest animation and multimedia competition.

Called the “International Animation Contest: FJORG 2009“, the competition was held at SIGGRAPH 2009, the world largest International conference and exhibition on computer graphics and interactive techniques, in the United States early this month.

The Thai group, calling itself “The Prestissimo” team, consists of three new-generation animators: Sasapitt Rujirat, 33, Lee Croudy, 34, and Phon Thiramonkol, 24.

They worked at the same company, a two-year-old Bangkok animation and multimedia studio called The Monk Studio, and long dreamed that – just once in their lifetime – they would take part in the world’s largest animation and multimedia contest called FJORG.

Sasapitt, who has seven years’ experience in animation, said the members of the team had a common goal: they wanted to be one of the teams chosen to spend 32 hours locked away to create their attempt at the FJORG 2009 title.

“We decided to join as a team with the name The Prestissimo,” Sasapitt said.

They brainstormed together every day until they decided to develop a two-minute demonstration reel and submit it, along with more than one-thousand other animation teams from around the world, to win a place in the top 10, thence to be locked away for 32 hours to create what they hoped would win the crown.

“In our demo, we decided on characters, developed a story and created an animated piece following the main criteria, such as physical basic acting of the characters and physical basic animation,” he said.

About one month later, their demo reel won them a place among only ten final teams to contest the FJORG 2009 competition in New Orleans.

“We were very excited. We prepared our readiness by searching for and studying our competitors’ animated demo reels as well as practising our development with the theme we expected to follow,” Sasapitt said.

Their dedication and carefully practised teamworking routines paid off when the door closed behind them and their creative effort began.

“We received ‘The Great Expectation’ as a competition theme and a sound file of a 1920s phone dialing, with a busy signal. We had to develop an animated piece of 15 to 45 seconds by using this material. That was very challenging for us,” he said.

Most of the team’s resources and time were spent deciding on the how their piece would tell a story. They began by brainstorming their story line while other competitors began by creating their animated characters.

“Our piece, called ‘The Great Expectation’, told in 45 seconds the story about the great expectations of most people when playing a slot machine,” he said.

Ultimately, they surpassed their wildest dreams by not only being chosen as one of the top 10 teams from more than one thousand around the world to take part in the 32-hour non-stop final, but they also won the event.

“We received financial support from Thai Beverage’s “ThaiBev Thai Talent” programme to take part in FJORG 2009 and that gave us the big chance,” Sasapitt said.

As the winners, they received full SIGGRAPH 2010 conference passes, gift certificates worth US$200 (Bt6,811), first place medals and a place on a New Orleans parade float.

Croudy said the team gained a lot of valuable experience and made many friends at the competition. There was a chance to meet well-known animation professionals because the FJORG judges included industry experts such as Arno Kroner from Walt Disney Animation Studios and Dori Littell-Herrick from Woodbury University.

“A lot of commentators were also industry experts, and their comments gave us valuable experience to improve our development,” Croudy said.

Phon said the event was not only an achievement for the team, but also showed the world that a small studio could develop good animation. It also told the world that Thailand had a lot of these kinds of animation studios.

“Telling a story in a short [piece of] animation – 45 seconds – is a very challenging task. It is not only about the animation and computer-graphic techniques, but also about team work, and that is our strength. We are specialists in different skills with experience in the whole animation-developing process. So, we are a fulfillment to each other,” Phon. said

The Prestissimo may be a new-generation team of animation developers, but they are not new to their career. On the way to becoming the winner of FJORG 2009, the team’s animated work has been shown on a large TV screen during Christmas festival at Times Square in New York; selected to join the California Independent Film Festival from entries submitted by new-generation filmmakers from around the world; and screened at the Hiroshima International Animation Festival, Asia’s biggest animation festival. The nation.