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Wuzhen holds 1st visual concept art competition


04-19-2017 09:01 BJT

(Source: CGTN)

Oscar-winning special effects artist, Richard Taylor visited China last week to adjudicate at the country's first Visual Concept Art Competition in the city of Wuzhen in east China's Zhejiang Province.

The Ringwraiths, Gollum, and the orcs, some of the props used in the Hollywood trilogy "The Lord of the Rings" are being showcased right now half a globe away in the ancient water town of Wuzhen. Richard Taylor, who shared in winning four Oscars for make up and visual effects for his work on the three films, says design work went on for 7-and-a-half years. He says they were constantly changing details, even during shooting, to perfect the characters.

"We built the armor, the weapons, the creatures, the miniatures, the special make-up effects and prosthetics. So that made a lot of work, about 48,000 separate things for those three movies. Only one eighth of our crew had ever worked on a film or TV film before when we started, so it was a huge training ground for lots of young people," Taylor said.

Over the years, films have inspired many Chinese artists to create characters that spring from their cultural roots. In the first International Design Competition of Future Visual Concept Art, more than 260 Chinese art students submitted designs to the judges. Each one hopes to win a six-month internship at Taylor's New Zealand-based special effects company, Weta Workshop.

"I think the Monkey King speaks well for Chinese people's character. The current images of the Monkey King are mostly cute and round, however I gave him a square shape because I want to send out the message that we should not lose our edges, not lose our own styles, just like the Monkey King," Liu Jiarun, art student with Jilin Colleg of The Arts, said.

"My idea originates from the ancient mystery novel "Hai Nei Shi Zhou Ji", which is about a creature on the island of Fengling. I think as Chinese, we need to first get to know our own stories before we introduce them to the rest of the world," Art student Chen Rui from Shanghai Institute of Visual Arts said.

Taylor says he has worked with a fair number of Chinese visual artists. And over the years, he's been constantly impressed with what they have to offer as they possess a rich Chinese cultural background that provides Hollywood a different perspective.

However, Taylor points out that special effects artists nowadays, regardless of their cultural backgrounds, need to adapt to the integration of new technology. He says everything was handmade for "Lord of the Rings" at the beginning of the 21st Century. Just a decade later when they started filming the Hobbit trilogy, 60% of the props were built with machines.

"If we had a choice, we wouldn't do that. We love the hand scale process. But it's actually the necessity of the way the film industry is today, deadlines are incredibly short, expectations of fast turnaround is incredibly high, and the cost of labor is a challenge. We've invested heavily on robotics manufacturing now. All of that adds to the work that our team still do with their hands. It hasn't got rid of any jobs thankfully because automation looks after all of the boring stuff, and leaves the artists to do the really cool stuff," Taylor said.

The competition handed out two big awards -- one for conceptual design and the other for best sculpture. The winners will be sent for an internship program at Weta Workshop in the near future.

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