e-Newsletter Issue 57
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“Angel Star” Wins the Fourth Annual NCHC HPC Kung Fu - 3D Animation Challenge!

The awards ceremony for the 2015 NCHC HPC Kung Fu –3D Animation Challenge, organized by the National Center for High-performance Computing (NCHC) under the National Applied Research Laboratories (NARLabs), was held on September 3rd, 2015 at Taiwan’s Public Television Service headquarters. The event was co-organized by Taiwan’s Public Television Service, the Taipei Film Commission, Micro Movie Association, and the Institute for Information Industry.

“Angel Star,” produced by Wei-Cheng Hsu of National University of Tainan, took top honors receiving a prize of NT $150,000 (USD $4,550). The works submitted by Kun Shan University’s team, “Cuckoo Chu,” and Ming Chuan University’s team, “Bonne Nuit,” took second and third places respectively, receiving NT $80,000 (USD $2,430) and NT $50,000 (USD $1,520) in prize money respectively. The winners of this year’s challenge were also awarded internships at Brogent Technologies Inc., Cheer Digiart, and White Rabbit Entertainment, Inc.

the photo of champion team and judges
■ The group photo of champion and judges

The competition’s winning work, “Angel Star,” is a warm and touching fairy tale that uses a pop-up storybook-style format to tell an endearing tale of friendship and the strong bonds it creates. The role of the angels in the story and the sophisticated use of “flip page” animation make the story quite intriguing.

the photo of second place team
■ The group photo of second place team and judges

Both the second and third place winners’ works describe stories about everyday life. The second place winner, “Cuckoo Chu,” tells the story of a puppet theatre that uses a Cuckoo Clock as the story’s background. It integrates images of clock cycles and home to illustrate the lapse of time as well as the “circle of life.”

the photo of third place team
■ The group photo of third place winner and judges

The third place winner, “Bonne Nuit,” tells a story of how scientists use cutting-edge technology to bring extinct animals back to life, albeit in skeletal form, and build a 21st century zoo for them to live in. One night, a little skeleton monkey steals the master keys to the zoo and releases all the skeleton animals. Havoc ensues. At the end of the film, there is a scene where the little skeleton monkey is standing next to a stuffed monkey in the souvenir shop pondering the days when he was once a real monkey. The film’s director included this final scene as a way of expressing his personal view on how important animal conservation is.

At the awards ceremony, NARLabs Vice President, Tzi-Dar Chiueh, stated that since the first HPC Kung Fu Challenge was held in 2011, there have been more than 120 teams and more than 400 students participating in the Challenge. He went on to say that it has been directly responsible for much growth in Taiwan’s young computer-rendering talent. He also said that the NCHC’s Render Farm has been used by Taiwan’s film industry to successfully produce special effect scenes in many very high quality domestically-produced films such as “Ripples of Desire,” “Zone Pro Site,” and “MIDA.” In 2015, the NCHC also provided rendering services for the movie “The Assassin,” the animated film “Taichi Cats - Rising of the 1st Squad,” and the TV show “Honey e-paper.”

The Render Farm project’s Principal Investigator, Dr. Chia-Chen Kuo, stated that the NCHC will soon begin working with Taiwan’s Public Television Service in the post-production of the TV series, “A Touch of Green,” as granted by Ministry of Culture. For this project, the NCHC will assist in special scene productions such as mass military aircrafts flights, war scenes, and explosions. It is expected that this cooperation will bring about a new chapter in multi-disciplinary production by combining TV with high speed rendering technology.

the group photo of judges, guests, and NCHC's staff
■ The group photo of judges and VIPs

This year’s esteemed judges came from domestic sectors of government, industry, as well as academia and included Vice Premier San-Cheng Chang of the Executive Yuan, Director Tsai-Yen Li of the Department of Information and Technology Education, Ministry of Education, Vice President Leh-Chyun Lin of Taiwan’s Public Television Service, and Secretary General Shary Lai of the Micro Movie Association. The panel of judges also included General Manager Lieh Lee of One Production Film Co., Johansson Lo, the founder of JL Design, Deputy Manager Chih-Wei Li of Central Picture Corporation, Director Kent Chang of Kent Animation Digital Independent Production, Inc., and Professor Ming-Huei Shih of Taipei National University of Arts.

Vice Premier San-Cheng Chang has paid particular attention to the development of technology and cultural creation. He stated that in the US, several well-known animation companies recently faced a financial crisis and that this serves to illustrate how the animation industry business model has not yet fully matured. He went on to say that the crisis in the US is also an opportunity for Taiwan to gain footing in the industry.

From the Oscar winning film “Life of Pie” and the winning film of Festival de Cannes, “The Assassin,” Taiwan has gradually begun to emerge in the global film industry. The NCHC has also done its part to foster domestic rendering talent by hosting various animation-based competitions. The extremely talented students in these competitions will create future opportunities for Taiwan’s movie special effects industry to grow and thrive!

Director Tsai-Yen Li, Chief Judge of the competition, concluded the event with his observation that there were many more teams competing in this year’s competition than last year’s, and that this year’s teams better represented Taiwan’s overall student talent in that participants came from all regions of Taiwan including the northern, central, and southern regions. He also acknowledged that many non-animation departments assisted in producing the works in the competition as well. Finally, Director Li encouraged the contestants to utilize the NCHC’s computing resources to improve their technical skills and abilities.

In terms of the students’ creative ability and skills, the senior film producer, Lieh Lee, stated that both the number of animated films, as well as animation’s roll in the making of films overall, are on the increase. She went on to say that she hoped that the contestants would continue their efforts to produce more animated films. She also encouraged them to be the driving force in Taiwan’s domestic animation industry.

Director Jennifer Jao of the Taipei Film Commission indicated that animated special effects are the future trend in film production and that the Taipei Film Commission assisted in more than 300 films shooting in 2015; about 100 more than the previous year. She stated that this goes to illustrate just how much the film industry is growing. She said that she hoped that the NCHC and this year’s contestants would continue to improve the quality of the films produced in Taiwan.

President Yueh Chiou of Taiwan’s Public Television Service (PTS) indicated that, as a co-organizer of the competition, PTS expected to see more and even better works from the students in the future. He went on to say that the television industry also needs new animation talent, and that the PTS will cooperate with the NCHC to cultivate even more talent. Finally, he stated that it is his hope that more young talented people will join PTS’s TV show production.

In order to enrich the contestants’ experience and encourage them to pursue their dreams, the NCHC arranged a “Meeting the Masters” session that was hosted by professor Kuo-Ning Chiang of National Tsing Hua University. During the session, the NCHC invited experts from PTS, Cheer Digiart, and TWR Entertainment, Inc. to share their practical experience with the contestants. The NCHC also invited winners of past years’ challenges to talk about their creative journey as well. The NCHC’s rendering experts shared their special effects simulation technology and experience with the contestant also.

This year’s winning works will be not only broadcast over Taiwan’s PTS station, but also displayed at the 2015 Information Technology Month exhibition to be held in Taipei, Taichung, Tainan, and Kaohsiung, Taiwan. The NCHC expects more students, cultivated by the NCHC’s Render Farm service, to create an even brighter future in the animation field.

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