Animation Nights New York (ANNY) is a monthly screening event and annual festival based in New York, created by Yvonne Grzenkowicz in 2015 to bring together animation and XR professionals on the North American continent. To better support creators in these fields, Yvonne has also offered since the Covid-19 pandemic online meetups (ANNY Virtual Events) which now welcomes an international community!
ANNY, a cycle of creative meetings
Yvonne Grzenkowicz – Concerning virtual reality, it seems to me essential to put forward the quality of the animation for this medium. And to be honest about some works that are not up to the level… XR is in the same situation as short films, with an audience that is not always very well informed about what they are watching. There is a creative vocabulary to be developed, a lot of prototyping and research. We have an opportunity to create collaborative spaces for animators and developers. Our talent connect initiative, ANNY Exchange (link), is focused on connecting animation talent to these kinds of opportunities – And we received an Epic MegaGrant for it in 2020-2021!
Y. G. – I’m very happy to offer a showcase around the best XR projects that use animation. Our focus is to give real visibility to creators. Today ANNY is a monthly online event, with VOD and XR in WebXR. I hope to get back to physical events, in the real world, soon. But it’s great to have an online, community space to hang out. Content production didn’t stop during the pandemic, so we needed to find quick solutions to keep promoting it.
Y. G. – We also work with world builders, 360 film makers. The annual Animation Nights New York (ANNY) event usually takes place in the fall, with a real gallery of XR projects presented, industry meetings, a jury of 8 people… Animation Nights New York has had over 18,000 projects submitted from all around the world. We receive thousands of projects each season for consideration. We select 12-15 pieces for our in-competition screening events each month and industry jurors select 20 projects from the 150-175 selected for the season. Quality comes first, no matter what the geographical origin. I think it’s important to offer a meeting place for all creators, but also for people from the technology industry – from animators to developers, from producers to start-ups…
To help people understand the animation professions
Y. G. – There are many opportunities (jobs, etc.) for every creative industry in this overlay of talent and skills. And especially for virtual reality! Since the beginning we have invited people from animation and video games to discuss together. We need to open up formats, genres to draw inspiration from each creative industry: borrowing interactivity from video games, narrative from cinema… and produce new content for the public.
Y. G. – You have to look at the creative studios that already exist in each industry. I follow them, focusing on the quality of the work first. And it’s the animators, graphic designers and developers who make them successful in the first place! I see a production studio as a real “instrument” of creation, capable of playing several ranges. Each person can bring a real plus to a project, not just the main authors. And they don’t need to learn how to produce for VR: on the contrary, it’s all these talents that will bring great ideas to the immersive industry. I think that we need to train producers in all these technological innovations to fully understand all the creative and technical possibilities that this involves. That’s why ANNY is trying to put everyone forward.
Y. G. – Many of these talents are also freelancers, and are learning on their own about new uses (VR, AR…). They already use digital tools, even when working on traditional formats. Animation is a field with endless possibilities, but you have to understand them. Through my experiences with different start-ups, I was able to learn a lot from the work of the developers – and conversely they understood what I was doing too! The pandemic has made this difficult at times. The importance of organizing Animation Nights New York (ANNY), even online and thanks to WebXR, is this meeting point where we can exchange on our jobs. Sharing our knowledge, our prototypes, and even the way we organize the human resources of our studio, is an important thing.
Consider a WebXR environment for your event
Y. G. – Faced with lockdowns during the Covid-19 crisis, I had time to delve into these virtual worlds and look at their ability to bring a community together in real time. There was a lot of XR community discussion about this during the pandemic. I thought it was really cool! After several ANNY events in WebXR, however, I have my doubts about the ability of an audience to endure multiple online meetings on Zoom only. It’s why we jumped directly to WebXR!
Y. G. – I have been a fan of multiuser worlds since StarCraft, World of Warcraft, and Second Life. In 2017 Animation Nights New York partnered with High Fidelity, Artella, and Archilogic to hold a hybrid in-person /online screening event. High Fidelity built and hosted a digital version of our venue on their servers (link) and we set up VR stations where on-site audience members could chat with online participants. I look forward to coordinating in-person/online hybrid events with our web-based virtual platform. We are now using Mozilla Hubs Cloud on AWS.
Y. G. – There are many evolutions to bring to virtual worlds to make them really comfortable environments. The handling of avatars, the adaptation of environments, the number of users, the interactions, the consideration of audiences… There is already an underground culture around virtual worlds, an audience acquired on online video games, but we can still improve social virtual worlds to facilitate the adoption and the engagement of their audiences. That’s where animation can help to turn 3D assets into a real experience! Quality animation makes everything better.