ACM SIGGRAPH Local Chapters: Los Angeles

Ricky Grove [gToon] - Staff Columnist

ACM SIGGRAPH Local Chapters: Los Angeles

Within their local areas, chapters continue the work of ACM SIGGRAPH on a year-round basis via their meetings and other activities. Each ACM SIGGRAPH Professional and Student Chapter consists of individuals involved in education, research & development, the arts, industry and entertainment. ACM SIGGRAPH chapter members are interested in the advancement of computer graphics and interactive techniques, its related technologies and applications. They gather throughout the year at meetings, site visits,conferences, video screenings, art shows and special events.

-ACM SIGGRAPH Chapters Statement

Most people in the computer graphics field have heard of SIGGRAPH, the week-long computer graphics festival/conference, but not as many know that the ACM SIGGRAPH organization, which produces the event, relies on thousands of passionate volunteers from all over the world to organize and staff their world-class event. And the great majority of these volunteers come from the over 90 ACM SIGGRAPH chapters located at colleges and in cities all over the world. From Austin, Texas to Taipei, Taiwan, there are professional chapters and student chapters who meet practically every month to share films, presentations, special speakers and much more.

Although I've known about SIGGRAPH chapters for several years, I haven't had the opportunity to attend any events at my local Los Angeles chapter until this last week. The Los Angeles chapter of ACM SIGGRAPH invited me to attend a special screening (part of their scheduled monthly meetings/presentations) of the recent SIGGRAPH 2010 two-hour Electronic Theater. As readers of my articles may know, I missed this showing this last August because of over-scheduling, so I jumped at the opportunity to see this collection of some of the best animated films in the world.

But also, I wanted to meet local volunteers and let them know about Renderosity and my own particular interests in Machinima and CG technology. I was wondering if the local chapter would be a good place to connect with others who are also as passionate about computer graphics, and maybe even find artists who would want to collaborate.


SIGGRAPH chapter meeting (Sydney, Australia)

The Los Angeles chapter of ACM SIGGRAPH (founded in 1991 and currently with over 700 members) is unusual in that it has greater access to professional production studios and prominent individuals in the computer graphics field than other cities, simply because so many of these companies and people are located in Los Angeles. The LA chapter has a monthy program of meetings, which feature events like the screening I attended, along with presentations and discussions that take place in a variety of locations across the city. Future programming for the LA chapter includes:

  • Alice in Wonderland (Tim Burton) in October, 2010 - "The animation director and visual effects supervisor of the film show and tell all about the challenges in bringing the inhabitants of Underland to life"
  • An evening with ILM on "Bending the Elements" in November - "Industrial Light & Magic has always done amazing, award winning things with water, earth, air and fire effects. Join us for an evening with ILM and learn everything you need to know to bend elements"
  • A discussion with the Disney animation team who created the upcoming film "Tangled" in December - "The R&D team will discuss the pipeline and elements created for Disney's retelling of the Rapunzel story"


Carlye Archibeque, Chair LA ACM SIGGRAPH

The SIGGRAPH Electronic Theater screening took place at Valley College in Los Angeles (and not far from where I live). Valley College is a growing, 2-year community college with a fairly large, open campus and a good art department. I was fortunate in getting good parking and arrived early for the "mixer," where members could mingle while sampling local pizza, drinks and cookies on the patio of the school's art museum.

A very pleasant atmosphere (and some interesting student art in the gallery) prevailed, and I had a chance to meet and chat briefly with the new chair for the LA chapter, Carlye Archibeque, an energetic and intelligent woman who brings a long history of work in computer graphics to her position. Among other notable accomplishments, she chaired the SIGGRAPH Computer Animation Festival in 2009. She was obviously very popular among the 40 or so members who attended and was very busy making sure the program ran smoothly. I found myself wishing I had more time to talk with her about animation and computer graphics in general.

Eventually, we all moved into a large classroom with a large screen at one end. I overheard that the films were going to be projected using a Bluray disc (yes!), so I knew the quality would be very good. Unfortunately, I missed the introduction as I had to move my car (I knew the parking was too good to be true), but got back just in time to catch the entire reel.


Screen capture from LOOM

Over the course of two hours, the audience was treated to some extraordinary animated films, commercials and selected CG work on feature films, like Iron Man, Alice in Wonderland and Avatar. Despite the increasing stuffiness of the room (wish we could have had a short break for air at the hour mark), I think only 1 person left. The quality was literally staggering. You can catch a glimpse of some of the variety of films at the SIGGRAPH YouTube site where there is a trailer for the 2010 Computer Animation Festival.

It's hard to single out particular films, as they were all of such high quality. My favorite film, however, was the last film on the reel: "LOOM" from the CG company Polynoid. This cross between a science/nature film and a dark, horror/fantasy is a remarkable achievement in style and imagination. One of the best animated films I have ever seen. You can catch a trailer for the film, along with an interview with the creators here.

I was amused to hear someone say as we were filing out of the classroom and gulping down fresh air that "This year seems so dark. I like the lighter films they were showing last year." I suppose because "LOOM" is such an intense film it lingers in your memory, but the films all seemed to me to be just right, regardless of being light or dark. I enjoyed them all thoroughly and appreciated that the LA SIGGRAPH chapter set up this special screening. My payment for membership ($40 a year) is on it's way.

I enjoyed meeting people at the LA chapter meeting and am grateful for the invitation to come to the special screening. Particular thanks to Diana Lee for helping to make my visit possible, and to Carlye Archibeque for her hospitality and interest. I hope to report on more events with the LA Chapter in the future.

Note: for a full list of SIGGRAPH chapters around the world, go here. You can apply to start your own SIGGRAPH chapter by following instructions here.


Ricky Grove [gToon], Staff Columnist with the Renderosity Front Page News. Ricky Grove is a bookstore clerk at the best bookstore in Los Angeles, the Iliad Bookshop. He's also an actor and machinima filmmaker. He lives with author, Lisa Morton, and three very individual cats. Ricky is into Hong Kong films, FPS shooters, experimental anything and reading, reading, reading. You can catch his blog here.
September 20, 2010

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