Stuttgart, Germany
April 24 - 27

Program 2015


Weaving Mercury: Art and Science in Perception

Sergei Gepshtein (Salk Institute for Biological Studies), Alex McDowell (USC Worldbuilding Institute), Sebastian Sylwan

WEAVING MERCURY: ART AND SCIENCE IN PERCEPTION - There are multiple threads that capture, convey and characterize visual experience in the natural and cinematic perception. What do new discoveries in perception science tell us about the future of narrative media? How does the fusion of science and art open new worlds that exploit these explorations?

Sergei Gepshtein

Sergei Gepshtein, Scientist, Researcher, Salk Institute for Biological Studies

Sergei investigates visual perception bottom-up: from basic sensory processes called early vision, where primordial sensations are formed, to mid-level vision, also known as perceptual organization, where the sensations take meaningful shapes (gestalts) and enter the mind.

Sergei studied Neuroscience (Weizmann Institute, Israel), Cognitive Psychology (University of Virginia), and Vision Science (University of California at Berkeley). Now he is a Scientist at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla, where he directs the Collaboratory for Adaptive Sensory Technologies and uses experimental and computational tools to understand the boundaries of visual experience in the natural world and in visual media. 

Sergei is increasingly involved in translational studies of built environments, as the inaugural recipient of the Hay Award from the Academy of Neuroscience for Architecture, in collaboration with production designer Alex McDowell (5D Institute, USC) and architect Greg Lynn (UCLA).


Alex McDowell

Alex McDowell, Creative Director, USC Worldbuilding Institute,

Creative Director, 5D Global Studio at Wondros
Professor of Practice, USC School of Cinematic Arts, Media Arts + Practice
William Cameron Menzies Endowed Chair in Production Design
Director, USC World Building Media Lab, USC World Building Institute

Alex McDowell RDI is a narrative designer and creative director working in multi-platform experiential media. Throughout his 30-year career of production design, McDowell collaborated with directors including Steven Spielberg (Minority Report, The Terminal), Tim Burton (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory) and David Fincher (Fight Club), among many others. In many ways, Minority Report solidified his process of world building, as the film’s broad requirements for empirical context (future reality, not science fiction) demanded the evelopment of an entire narrative space, at the same time as new digital processes enabled revolutionary non-linear and immersive creative environments for design visualization.

He is Professor of Practice in Media Arts + Practice at USC School of Cinematic Arts, where he teaches world building. He is director of the USC World Building Media Lab (WbML), where McDowell and his interdisciplinary students engage in funded research to build immersive worlds for storytelling and vast collaboration for synchronous media technologies. He also leads the USC World Building Institute, renowned since 2007 as the preeminent knowledge space for designers and creators in cross-platform narrative media.

McDowell’s 5D GlobalStudio at Wondros are high-end peddlers of modern-day magic. In a multi-platform, cross-discipline design studio practice, he and his team combine emergent technologies with highly interactive storytelling to create deeply immersive experiences that surprise, provoke and delight. 5D GlobalStudio imagines a clearer vision of the future for clients and creates holistic experiences that enact those futures--now. McDowell applies world building across multiple industries with clients including Boeing, Intel, Royal Shakespeare Company, Warner Brothers, among others.

Sebastian Sylwan

Sebastian Sylwan

Sebastian Sylwan is a renowned and respected Visual Effects and Digital Media Technology Executive.

Sebastian is currently developing novel and exciting live action Virtual Reality experiences and the cameras, pipeline and tools to produce them with Montreal based Felix & Paul Studios, widely recognized as pioneers in this field and for having produced the highest quality experiences to date.

Sebastian previously served as the Chief Technology Officer at Weta Digital, a world leading, Oscar™-winning visual effects studio based in Wellington, New Zealand. Weta Digital is renowned for films such as The Lord Of The Rings trilogy, King Kong, Avatar, The Adventures of Tintin, The Rise of the Planet of the Apes and The Hobbit trilogy among many others.

During his 5 year tenure at Weta Digital, Sebastian brought structure and continued impetus to Weta Digital’s long tradition of Innovation and spearheaded a number of very advanced technology projects, including manuka -Weta’s proprietary GI raytracer- gazebo -a real-time virtual production renderer and interactive lighting tool- and a brand new technology pipeline for the Avatar sequels developed in collaboration with Lightstorm Entertainment and Autodesk, amongst many others.

Before moving to New Zealand, Sebastian set the strategy for Autodesk’s Global Film & Television Industries as their Senior Industry Manager for Film & TV. This led to the corporation’s first steps into Virtual production and Stereoscopic 3D.

Previously, Sylwan was Director of Technology at Digital Domain, an Academy Award-winning VFX facility. He successfully renewed Digital Domain’s technology infrastructure while maintaining the legacy value of over 13 years and helped it venture into new areas like the development of the facility’s first stereoscopic rendition of a CG animated film as well as well-known renditions of Digital Humans.

Sylwan famously was recruited by Paul Debevec to co-designed and build Light Stage 6 at USC’s Institute for Creative Technologies, at the time the most-advanced reflectance field capture device, which allowed the first reflectance field and geometry capture of a full-body human. Light stage technology is the most advanced method for capturing the semblance of humans for use in CG pipelines and has been the basis of many of the most realistic Digital Humans in numerous Hollywood feature films, music videos and commercials.

While living in Italy where he grew up, Sylwan designed, built and acted as the CTO of Lumiq Studios, the country’s then largest production, post-production and 3D character animation studio.

Sylwan also serves in numerous advisory boards and industry committees, such as the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences Sci-Tech Awards DITS, the VES Technology Committee where he is the current chair, and the ASC-ADG-VES committee on Previsualization where he co led with Alex McDowell the Previs 2020 group, later spun-off as the Virtual Production Committee.

FMX is funded by the Ministry of Science, Research and the Arts and the Ministry of Economic Affairs, Labour and Housing of the State of Baden-Wuerttemberg, the City of Stuttgart and the MFG Film Funding, taking place in cooperation with VES Visual Effects Society, ACM SIGGRAPH and the World Building Institute. FMX is an event by the Filmakademie Baden-Wuerttemberg, organized by Animationsinstitut, hosting the Animation Production Day (APD), a joint venture with the Festival of Animated Film Stuttgart (ITFS).