Sunday, 11 December 2016

CTN-X 2016

So I just came back from CTN Expo 2016, and it was a blast.

It was my first visit to an animation convention. My first time in LA, and my first time in the United States.

Los Angeles was a place I had known before, yet new to me. Seen a million times in movies, videos, TV shows and collective imagination. On top of that, the landscape and the weather was uncannily similar to what you'd find back in Andalusia, southern Spain, where I come from.

Here I present some observations about visiting this event. They come from a compilation by Oatley Academy friends Dan Kelby Rich Chabot, this video by the amazing MarĂ­a Paiz and my own notes during the event.

Getting to the convention

If you are coming from abroad, you're very likely to fly into LAX, Los Angeles airport. I highly recommend you to book a shared van ride, like Super Shuttle, to get to and from the airport. It's affordable, pretty efficient and the drivers are quite nice.

Moving Around

It’s super inconvenient to move around (compared to European cities). Uber was a wonderful way to get around for short trips, but if you are planning a lot of travelling it may be more economical to rent a car. Be sure to bring along an international driver's licence though.

Eating

Food is generally bad. It’s tasty indeed, but unhealthy. You will need to research good places to eat. It’s OK to indulge here and there, but c’mon, you can do better than pancakes every morning. That body of yours needs to keep functional for many years to come.

If you’ve booked lots of panels you will probably have to skip lunch at some point, so make sure you have healthy snacks and water in your backpack! A great tip by Chris Oatley: nuts! They are very filling and easy to carry around.

Accommodation

Many hotels let you book a reservation with cancellation at no cost up to 24 hours prior to check in. There might be an available CTN-X discount as you read this, so you might as well check out the website today and see if it's still up!

There are many reasons to choose the Marriot Hotel. You might think you’ll save money by staying in a airbnb nearby, but really, you’re not. Moving to and from the convention is money I didn’t account for, for example. The ability to pop back to your room mid-afternoon to dump all your new books/prints, visit a quiet bathroom or just chill away from the crowds for a while cannot be overstated! The Marriott has a shop where you can buy water, snacks etc. but it is SUPER overpriced, so consider the 7-Eleven down the road for supplies.

Business Cards

Business cards are essential, specially in a convention like this, where there are a thousand events taking place at the same time. People don't always have time to sit down and chat for half an hour, so a great way to continue a discussion or a critique is to take it online. This was one of the things I wish I had prepared well in advance.


As well as handing them out to people, there are tables you can put them on between the pool and the new fire pit area (next to the elevators). It’s worth checking if you need to put some more when you’re passing between workshops, too.

Registration

There was a two-hour wait in the sun for registration this year, which kind of sucked. Apparently, that was down to a technical fault on the part of CTN. Hopefully it will be better organised next year, but bear in mind it’s possible something similar may happen and plan to be at registration EARLY on day one, or even the night before. Panels don't start until 12 on the first day, but don't get overconfident. Also, bring water and sunscreen just in case.

Workshops

Arrive at least 15 minutes before each one, especially if they are popular speakers/panels. I experienced something pretty crazy, actually. I had booked and paid for a ticket into a private workshop at a certain time. I was there a good 10 minutes before, but they told us the presenter had decided to start early, and let in a bunch of people that weren't even booked. At first they told us there was really no room left, but after speaking to the people inside, we reached a solution, and either standing/sitting everyone did fit in. Never under-estimate how early people will queue!

Budget

Bring more money than you think you’ll need, if possible. You WILL see something you want to buy from an artist you never knew existed, and realise you have to actually make sacrifices. Never sacrifice food. That candy, though? Yeah, that was optional!

Make a plan on whose booth you absolutely have to visit and write it down, like a shopping list. Prioritise those on day one, then spend the rest of the con visiting other booths. Also, make sure you buy those “must have” books and prints FIRST, so you don’t miss out. I wanted to buy Shadowline by Iain McCaig, waited one day to get it and it was gone. Also, allow extra space – and more importantly WEIGHT – in your luggage coming home. A top tip from Dan's roommate: bring a hard folder with you if you can, to get all your prints home unscathed.

The People

People were super friendly and warm, specially people from the Oatley Academy. It's no wonder the group photo keeps growing and growing every year! I had not imagined how down-to-earth these superstars were, though. It makes me realise just how human we all are, with our flaws and worries and gains.

Wifi

Make sure you have roaming data activated, and if possible, buy some extra for this trip. Internet is super unreliable at the hotel, and you're going to need it, be it to find places to eat, communicate with others or even check the time schedule for the con. The Marriot hotel offers paid wifi, but it's super expensive!

I hope this encourages people to come to CTN-X in the following years, and maybe we get to catch up there as well.

Thanks for reading!

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