The Virtual World of Jake Rowell | CTN 2017

Aloha all! For this blog post, I’m going to deviate from my normal yarn/knitting focus, and I’ll be writing about a great convention that hubby, Jake Rowell, and I participated in the weekend of November 17 – 19th. CTN Animation Expo has been running for 9 years in the Marriott Convention Center in nearby Burbank, California and could very well be the animation industry’s top convention.


CTN Expo centers around wonderful panels from leading experts in the entertainment industry, demonstrations on various artistic techniques, recruiting efforts from many studios, as well as a venue for artists to sell their books, prints, etc.

Over the years it has encompassed much more than traditional animation and has included CG animation, interactive games industry, and this year – the virtual reality medium. Jake was invited to share the award-winning projects that he has worked on: theBlu (produced by WEVR) & Jon Favreau’s Gnomes & Goblins (produced by WEVR and Reality One). We had a special venue designated as the ‘VR Room’ in Parlor 131 of the Burbank Marriott Hotel.


Welcome to The Virtual World of Jake Rowell


We started setting up on Wednesday, November 15th. Steve Galle and Ramiro Duran of WEVR were kind enough to help with the VR Cube installation while we worked with the furniture delivery & artwork set-up.



We went well into the evening hours for calibration and testing of the system. The system uses 2 sensors (called Lighthouses) mounted at the top of the cube, across from each other. In this photo, one of the sensors is mounted in the right top corner of the cube – looks like a square black box.

On Thursday, we worked on more preparations and in the evening Jake and I were invited to a VIP Event to kick off the CTN Festivities.

This year, the presentation was with animation producer Don Hahn, director/animator Glen Keane and legendary basketball player extraordinaire, Kobe Bryant. Kobe and Glen worked on an animated short film, Dear Basketball, based on a poem Kobe wrote during his final season with the Los Angeles Lakers. A poignant and honest tribute to a sport and world he loved so much, to a mind and spirit that would not quit, and to a body that had driven too many miles with too many injuries.

Here’s the link to the short I found on youtube with Kobe Bryant narrating to John Williams conducting the LA Philharmonic at the Hollywood Bowl earlier this year (yeah, that sentence has way too many wow factors in it . . . )!


And then we were off and running! Friday started with a bang and I met with Registration each subsequent morning to find out what slots were taken. They handed them out first come, first served and we sold out each day.  By Sunday morning, we were sold out before I even got to the Registration table at 8:30am! We had people stopping by to add their name to the standby list, and word-of-mouth had spread that by Sunday the list had more names than we were able to show. Wow – just wow . . .



We were thrilled to have Lead Artist, Eric Foos, who worked on the Gnomes & Goblins Preview, fly out from his home state of Ohio to work with us on the first day. Eric had never attended CTN before and was truly inspired by the art, artists & energy of the expo.


We loved seeing people’s reactions to being in VR and the projects – many of whom didn’t know what to expect. We opened each session by explaining what roomscale VR was and what to expect during the projects. We told them this was THEIR time to experience VR and ask questions of the director and the crew who worked on it.

People LOVED having one-on-one personalized time with Jake and the crew. They asked questions while in the headset and many stayed for a few minutes afterwards for more conversation about how they can get into the industry, technical aspects of the projects (UnReal? Unity? Refresh/Frame Rate?), how to monetize these projects and more. My favorite reaction was from a European man who was so speechless after the session that it took him a few minutes to compose the words to tell us how awesome it was.

Then, each ticketed guest received a sealed special bag with some swag from Jake (signed prints from AstroBoy, Call of Duty or Superman Returns!) as well as signed posters from theBlu and G&G.




One of the videos we had looping on the monitor:


We had evening time set aside for our friends and colleagues, again, many of whom had never done roomscale VR. CTN was a great way to re-connect with our friends – some of whom we hadn’t seen in years! (click/hover over the photos to see names)

theBlu and G&G Producer Max Geiger & Jake
Lead Artist Gennady Babichenko, Creative Lead Neel Kar, Neel’s wife Camilla Kydland, Christina (me) & Design Director Nghia Lam


On a related note, this summer Jake has honored to be selected to be one of the featured artists in “The Artist Within: Book 2” by Author/Photographer Greg Preston! Greg was also here at CTN and had his “hot-off-the-presses” book available for sale.

Just a little history: about 10 years ago, Greg published his first book that showcased renowned artists in their studios. For this edition, Greg has over 100 amazing artists and he visited our home this summer to photograph Jake. We were so excited to see the book and had it on our swag table for folks to look through.


On Sunday,  CTN founder Tina Price and Greg Preston organized an amazing book-signing that had over 20 of the featured artists in attendance! I believe I heard it was the largest book signing event ever at CTN. Here’s a group photo taken by fellow featured artist, Michael Peraza (front row, second from left). Michael and Patty (front row, 2nd & 3rd from left) are featured on pages 188-189 of the book. Group photo is used with permission.

Jake was seated in the front row, second from right (Greg Preston is standing behind him in the red shirt).


Jake was seated next to incredible artist William Wray (pages 254-255) who was kind enough to join us for lunch afterwards. We learned that William worked on Space Jam with Christina back in 1996! Small world, huh?


Both William and Jake got to meet legendary artist Drew Struzan (pages 236-237) at the book signing. If you’ve ever seen the iconic movie posters for the Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Back to the Future and Harry Potter franchises then you’ve seen Drew’s artwork.


Also on Sunday, CTN Founder Tina Price came by to check out the VR Room!


By Monday morning, the event had ended and we were back in the room to tear down. Funny how things tear down much faster than they are set up!

Whew – what an amazing weekend! We want to extend our gratitude to the following people for making our first CTN experience so memorable:

Tina Price, founder – CTN

Emily Chang, talent coordinator – CTN

Nic, Tylie, Kara, Ron, Mario and the rest of the CTN/Marriott Staff in Section 14/15 who checked in on us daily, helped us with anything we needed, and basically were beyond awesome. Many many thanks.

The amazing artists, developers & crew who helped us with the VR Room and the entire weekend event: Nghia Lam, Steve Galle, Ramiro Duran, Eric FoosMax Geiger, Jon Finch, Mauricio Hoffman, Neel Kar, Gennady BabichenkoDaniyal Mirza, & Kathleen Rendon

Neville Spiteri, CEO & Co-Founder –  WEVR

Jon Favreau – creator, Gnomes & Goblins

Greg Preston, author & photographer of The Artist Within: Books 1 & 2

Donna Macanan, Event Coordinator for Burbank Marriott Hotel

Patsy Ramirez of A1 Party Rentals in Covina, CA.

Steve Reissner of Westside Production Rentals in Culver City, CA.

Mahalo Nui Loa to our friends and family whose constant support and love mean the world to us!

[Now back to our normal yarn & knitting posts . . . ]


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