(Source: Variety) Last week’s FMX visual effects and animation conference in Stuttgart, Germany, featured presentations on “Alice in Wonderland” and the vfx of “Avatar,” as well as a presentation by Victoria Alonso on “Producing the Marvel Experience.”

While students and pros packed into the main Koenig-Karl Hall to learn about those hits, a smaller group nearby was taking in a program with more far-reaching implications: the “5D/Europe” conference.

In the FMX program, 5D is defined as “a global community of creative thinkers committed to exploring the vital role of design in the new collaborative and multi-disciplinary process of digital creation in all narrative media.”

More briefly, 5D is an effort to bring together tools and knowledge from different disciplines — movies, games, architecture and more — for the benefit of all.

As co-founder Alex McDowell explains, the seed for 5D was planted when he was working on “Minority Report.” Steven Spielberg wanted “future reality, not science fiction,” but as McDowell tried to collaborate with designers and architects, he found “the movie industry didn’t have tools to design architecture the way architects did.”

Efforts to unify those tools and concepts brought together “think-tank type people,” the Art Directors Guild, forward-looking designers and executives and eventually spawned 5D.

In part, 5D for movie production means creating a virtual version of the production space well in advance of shooting, including not just sets and props but soundstages, virtual cameras, etc. McDowell calls it “design visualization,” d-vis for short.

McDowell sees 5D principles as a boon to the movie business — though some producers have been reluctant to adopt them . “We don’t just build virtual sets, we build them in a virtual stage with an accurate grid. We can tell you how many lights you’re going to need, the space to the back wall, can you fit in a super Technocrane, how heavy is the motion control track.”

But true 5D takes a larger view of storytelling, too. Using 5D principles, a designer would create a virtual world that extends beyond the immediate demands of the script. “We know that in reality, the script changes, the director changes, the director changes his mind,” says McDowell. “What we really have to do is build this interior, logic-driven world for any project.” That provides options for the director and fodder for sequels, games and transmedia stories.

5D has its own conference every other year — the next is skedded for October — but has found a home away from home at FMX.

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