SIGGRAPH 2011 Vancouver – Make it Home!
This post started out as a SIGGRAPH 2011 wrap up, but has since turned into a memoir of sorts about my friends and family inside of the ACM SIGGRAPH organization. I have separated these out into different posts I will be publishing over the next few days. Here is a link to Part 1. Here is a link to Part 2.Here is a link to Part 3. I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I enjoyed writing them. – Jeremy Photos by Adam Blair.
So SIGGRAPH 2011 has finally ended and I’m back at home in sunny San Antonio after about 3 hours of sleep. Had a bit of an airport / flight scheduling catastrophe which put me in SA about 12 hours after I had expected. CLASSIC US Airways. Although I have to admit I was impressed that my luggage had arrived when I landed at SAT, and to be fair the US Airways employee who helped me out at Sky Harbor was very polite and accommodating.
Vancouver was an amazing venue and I’m pretty sure SIGGRAPH will be heading back soon. According to Business Wire SIGGRAPH 2011 was Vancouver’s largest convention ever. I’m sure there were a number of factors behind the scenes that I don’t know about, but the biggest worth mentioning was definitely the involvement of the Vancouver SIGGRAPH Chapter. Holy crap. They were everywhere and anywhere helping to promote the conference and increase attendance. It’s almost like they had some sort of interest in this being successful. 😉 Kudos to everyone involved with the Vancouver chapter, excellent work!
As for my involvement this year, I was working with the SIGGRAPH Student Volunteer Program as the Head of Industry Relations and Outreach. I’ll get to what that job entails in another post, but suffice to say it reeks of awesomeness. In that post I’ll also give some quick background about SIGGRAPH and the Student Volunteer Program in general.
The first day of SIGGRAPH I helped organize a talk with Karen Moltenbrey, Chief Editor of Computer Graphics World. Karen invited several industry professionals to come and speak to our army of Student Volunteers about how they got where they are, and some of the things they’ve learned along the way. As a quick side note – I consider Karen a friend and a bit of a personal mentor to me, and I can’t say enough about how wonderful she is. Anyway – the panel included Greg Butler (Moving Picture Company), Troy Brooks (Digital Domain), Jason Dowdeswell (Image Engine), and Matt Ward (Rainmaker). They covered everything from the relationships they’ve built at SIGGRAPH, to their experiences working with each other at other companies like ILM, and finally to how 3D (stereo) is dead (Good because I didn’t wanna buy one of those TV’s anyway). Another thing I found particularly awesome was how confident they were in Vancouver’s film/tv/FX industry. Vancouver is a super happening spot right now! Autodesk’s Jennifer Goldfinch also gave a quick intro about some of the things Autodesk would be offering throughout the week. If you’re lucky enough to know Jennifer you know how passionate she is about giving back and helping the industry’s new talent as much as possible.
One of the hottest early venues this year was the Studio, a place where attendees can go and play with software, hardware, toys, and other cool stuff hands on! I saw lenticulars being made, 3D models being printed, games being developed in Unity, and lectures being given all in a single giant room. It was really neat to watch the vibe and atmosphere in there. Of the lectures, a colleague and close friend of mine, Zeb Wood, presented in The Studio about Real World Camera Rigs inside of Maya. I didn’t get a chance to catch the whole talk, but I’m totally trying to figure out a way to get him down here to present it to the local university! Zeb is a professor at the Art Institute of Indiana and one of the founders of Indiana Uploaded. In addition to Zeb, I also saw Newtek’s Graham Toms would be presenting later in the week… unfortunately I found out he wasn’t able to make it. Too bad really – I know he would have blown people away! We missed you Graham – maybe next year?
Right next to The Studio was the Art Gallery and Emerging Technologies. As usual, both were fantastic. E-Tech (as it’s more commonly known) had some amazing technology this year, some of them being a pregnancy suit, a water visualization device from Walt Disney Imagineering, and a laser hologram device I would describe as a Star Wars Princess Leia machine. Hands down though, the coolest presentation was from IDEEALab who presented PocoPoco. It was a musical interface device that allowed users to create music from turning, twisting, pressing, and holding 16 buttons on a small grid. It’s really way too hard to describe with any integrity – just watch this video. I stood there for at least 30 minutes watching these guys perform. Simply amazing.
I can’t talk much about the Technical Papers because they are a bit over my head. Actually in full disclosure they are WAY over my head. I’ll typically attend the Papers Fast Forward as the last 4 SIGGRAPH’s I’ve been involved in helping put it together in one way or another, but beyond those comedic 1 minute performances I tend to steer more towards the Sketches, Courses, and Talks.
One of my favorites was the Sketch from Texas A&M’s Department of Visualization and Dreamworks Animation SKG. The premise was simple – Dreamworks would sponsor artists to come and speak to TAMU students for a week at a time for the length of time the course was being taught. Students were in groups of 5 and responsible for producing a short film based on certain guidelines set by the course and the Dreamworks artists and animators. The results were fantastic, but according to TAMU the process was what really shined, and I believe them. As an educator who has taught the spectrum of 3D animation and game design courses at the University level, this type of class is a dream. To have a big studio showing up and basically saying, “This is what we’re looking for when we hire you, do it this way” is priceless. On the Dreamworks side, when I saw the names Jim Conrads and Marilyn Friedman – the Dreamworks Outreach overlords, I wasn’t surprised they were involved. These 2 are consistently finding ways to give to students and help people get a foot in the door in the industry. I’ve worked with both of them during my tenure as Industry Relations and Outreach Coordinator on the SV Committee, and people like them are few and far between. They are losing sleep to help us organize, skipping lunch to give us studio tours, and dodging flights to talk to our SV’s onsite at SIGGRAPH. A truly sincere and heartfelt thanks to both of them.
The Keynote this year was given by Cory Doctorow. A quick bio; Cory is a Canadian science fiction writer who has sort of championed copyright law and is a proponent of the Creative Commons organization. His main message was how copyright does nothing to serve content creators. In the current ecosystem, content creators have no authority over how their work is owned, distributed, or redistributed. All of that power lies with publishers and other entities like iTunes and the AppStore. It probably doesn’t do it any justice to try to describe it to you, you can hear it from the man himself below.
Other topics covered were things like how Disney handled hair and water in Tangled. Some of the technology behind Rapunzel’s hair was based on some r&d done on Bolt back in 2008. They also talked about the water sequence after escaping from the Snuggly Duckling and breaking the dam loose. Impressive stuff. And for the record, Tangled is one of my favorite 3D films to date.
Dreamworks gave a lot of insight into various parts of making Kung Fu Panda 2. I have yet to see the film but it looks nothing short of amazing. Rob Vogt came and spoke about the approach to rigging Lord Shen’s tail which I found particularly fun. The PDF’s of these sketches are available on the SIGGRAPH Full Conference DVD by the way incase you grabbed one. If not you can find them here.
Dreamworks had two other very interesting talks about how they produced cities in Megamind and Panda 2. Using the same technology behind Procedural’s City Engine, they were able to build entire cities and make them look completely fantastic. Here at Geomedia we’ve been playing around with the CityEngine technology and we were floored by just the demo scripts and rules!! I can’t imagine seeing how the pipeline worked over there at PDI/Dreamworks. Imagine setting up rules, laws, frameworks, etc., and after drawing some roads having a fully populated city! That’s sort of what CityEngine does. It’s a very unique piece of software and also started as a SIGGRAPH paper back in 2001!
Finally, Pixar had several awesome presentations about how they lit vehicles in Cars 2. The write ups on the DVDs for those are great if you can snag one. They also talked about the Ocean Mission in Cars 2, and how they created the water surface and interaction, as well as their approach to lighting it with volumetrics.
Ok, I have a confession to make. I actually missed the Electronic Theater this year. I was so busy between working with all my buddies up in the SV Office, swapping shifts for Student Volunteers, trying to make sure I secured Autodesk party tickets, and taking 20 minute boost naps that I never got a chance to catch it. I saw parts of the CAF and it was impressive so I can’t imagine how good ET must have been. If you missed it as well, make sure you pick it up on DVD!!!
Finally – the Exhibition Floor. There was a lot of different things going on this year, and a few noticeable absenses. Newtek and Lightwave were nowhere to be found, something I thought strange after their awesome performance with Lightwave 10 last year. Maybe they’re still coasting off all that success. As a fellow San Antonio company we wish them nothing but the best!
I noticed several studio absences from the show floor, and many of them had relocated to the job fair. I’m sure the rent is cheaper there, and most of them are only taking demo reels and looking for new talent anyway. Companies like Pixar though who still have services and products like Renderman were definitely visible. And of course, they can’t handle a 2000 person teapot line in the job fair anyway.
Speaking of the teapot, this years generic teapot was particularly cool. Sporting a race helmet and flames this thing was made to move! I’ve heard stories about the Renderman version having a Canadian flag on the top, although I have yet to see it. I managed to snag 2 on different days, but gave the second away to a friend. Also handed out this year was a really great double printed Cars 2 poster. I swear one of these days I’m going to go into my closet and pull out all 20 Pixar poster tubes I’ve got in there and get them properly framed. I just cant bring myself to tacking them to the wall.
There’s no way I could possibly tell all the awesome happenings in Vancouver this year, and probably no way I should tell everything either! Make sure you’re in Los Angeles next year and join the family!! I’m home!