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- CGI n n n n A pair of frogs discover the meaning of survival of the fittest in the whimsical animated short ‘Amazonia,’ created solely on notebook computers Under the lush canopy of the Amazon rain forest is a vibrant ecosystem teeming with life of all variation and size. Amazonia, as it is often called, is home to more than two million insect spe- cies, three thousand types of fish, 1300 kinds of birds, almost 400 variations of reptiles, and just as many amphibians and mammals. From the outside, the environment—wrapped in bright shades of green, from the tops of the great trees to the thick, lush jungle floor, and speckled with the rich, primary colors of its inhabit- ants—is playful and inviting. But looks can be deceiving, as a pair of tree frogs soon discover in the animated CG short film “Amazonia.” Creating this green environment, along with the creatures that live there, was Sam Chen, who directed the five-minute short. Unlike the main characters in the movie, who partner on a dining adventure through the rain forest, Chen opted to embark on the moviemaking journey alone, scripting the story line, crafting and animating the characters, and building the environments. However, he did receive as- sistance from Jamey Scott when it came to adding sound to the picture, col- laborating with his longtime sound designer and composer to add sound effects and give “voice” to the characters. “Te genesis of ‘Amazonia’ came to me while I was in the middle of a Beethoven and Stravinsky symphony concert,” recalls Chen. “As I closed my eyes and let the music transport me, I started to see images in my head of frogs running around with big critters chasing them. Ten the scene blossomed into wild colors, dance, and song. I thought to myself that this must have been similar to what Walt [Disney] imagined in his mind when he first thought of doing ‘Fantasia’ back in the 1940s.” Based on this experience, Chen decided to set the animation to music from Beethoven, and would later narrow down the selection. A techie by education and an artist by trade, Chen graduated from UCLA with a bachelor’s degree in computer science and engineering, though he found his passion more than 20 years ago as a 3D animator. As such, he has earned industry recognition as a veteran animation filmmaker, first with his short film “Eternal Gaze,” an exceptionally moving portrayal of the work of sculptor Alberto Giacometti, for which Chen won the top award at the SIGGRAPH Electronic Teater in 2003 (see “Character Studies,” August 2003). “One of my dreams since attending UCLA as a computer science major specializing in computer graphics was to be a part of SIGGRAPH’s Computer Animation Festival and Electronic Teater,” says Chen. Having found so much success there in the past with “Eternal Gaze,” as well as with “Piccolo’s Encore” (1999) and “Cat Ciao” (2000), Chen chose the conference’s animation festival to debut his newest short. Chen completed the movie just in time for the festi- CG animator/filmmaker Sam Chen single-handedly created the colorful CG short “Amazonia,” about two tree frogs embarking on a culinary adventure in the rain forest. August/September 2010 27 ni g

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