As events go virtual in the pandemic, they risk becoming indistinguishable: online, everything looks much the same. View Conference is an exception. This year’s edition of the conference for digital arts, which runs October 18–23, stands out through the sheer strength of its line-up. It helps that access is completely free.

The event, which is based in Turin, Italy, has built a reputation over two decades for drawing big names from a wide range of disciplines: animation and vfx, but also vr, video games, music, and academia. This year is no different, with 160 guests congregating in virtual space for 125 talks, workshops, masterclasses, and panels. Events are free to live-stream; on-demand access can be purchased.

Among the keynote speakers is Ed Catmull, co-founder of Pixar, who will be giving what we think is his first talk at an animation event since retiring as president of Walt Disney Animation Studios and Pixar in 2018. Catmull is a complex figure, at once a visionary pioneer of cg animation and a central figure in an industry wage-fixing scheme that deprived thousands of animation artists of potential wages and career opportunities. His talk promises to be interesting.

The program boasts directors of some of the biggest animated films of recent years, including Tomm Moore (Wolfwalkers), Peter Ramsey (Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse), Kris Pearn, and (The Willoughbys), Jérémy Clapin (I Lost My Body). Céline Desrumaux, production designer of Glen Keane’s debut feature Over the Moon, and Shannon Tindle, creator of Netflix’s forthcoming series Lost Ollie, are also on the bill.

Pixar's "Soul"
Exploring The Great Before in Pixar’s “Soul.”

Pixar accounts for a few other enticing events. Alvy Ray Smith, an oft-neglected co-founder of the studio along with Catmull and Steve Jobs, will preview his new book The Biography of the Pixel, which is due to come out next spring. Pixar’s new feature Soul will be the subject of a panel, in which animation supervisor Bobby Podesta, lead lighting technical director Max Bickley, and technical director Markus Kranzler will discuss their artistic and technical approaches to creating the realm of The Great Before.

Also notable is a panel reflecting on the 40th anniversary of Pacific Data Images (PDI), one of the pathbreaking cg animation studios of the 1980s that was later bought by Dreamworks to make films like Antz, Shrek, and Madagascar. Studio co-founders Carl Rosendahl, Richard Chuang, and Glenn Entis will all take part in the panel.

The vfx industry is represented by two titans: Phil Tippett, the master creature designer whose credits include the Star Wars, Jurassic Park, and Twilight films, and nine-time Oscar-winner Dennis Muren, who is creative director at Industrial Light & Magic. The pair famously collaborated on Jurassic Park, developing the breakthrough cg techniques that were used for the dinosaurs.

The artists are joined by executives from leading studios. Speakers include Conrad Montgomery, Nickelodeon’s newly anointed vp for current series, animation; and Karen Toliver, exec vp of creative at Sony Pictures Animation. A panel on Women in the Animation Industry will feature Mireille Soria, president of Paramount Animation; Disney’s Osnat Shurer, producer of Raya and the Last Dragon and Moana; and Maureen Fan, co-founder and CEO of vr production house Baobab Studios.

Maria Elena Gutierrez, the conference’s director, has a strong track record in boosting the visibility of women in the industry. She touched on this in a statement: “This year, I’m especially proud of the diversity of topics and speakers. For example, 43 of our speakers are women, including studio heads, animated film directors, producers, visual effects artists, and game developers.”

For a full program, head to the conference’s website. Register here for access to the free live-streams.