Last year, the only thing I knew about SIGGRAPH, the annual computer graphics (CG) conference was that it was the place where Pixar premiered most of their short film works. Then in the spring, I received a gracious offer from Renderosity to report on the 2008 conference which was taking place in my home town of Los Angeles, California. Of course, I jumped at the offer and spent an entire week last August trying to keep my jaw off the floor. “Ah, this is what SIGGRAPH is about”, I thought to myself when it was over. It was like a circus, trade show, movie festival and lecture tour all rolled into one. I would run from one panel to the next and then onto something else like a madman. Then I'd end the day blogging about it for Renderosity and fall into bed exhausted. Sergio Rosa (nemirc), our other front page reporter/reviewer warned me, but I wouldn't listen. I wanted to do everything and see everything. I'm a SIGGRAPH addict now.
Which means I'll be heading out to New Orleans for the 74th Special Interest Group on GRAPHics and Interactive Techniques conference being held August 3-7, 2009, at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center near the Riverwalk section of New Orleans. This is the 3rd time SIGGRAPH has held their annual convention in New Orleans (the others were 1996 and 2000). Apparently, right after the awful disaster of hurricane Katrina, SIGGRAPH was one of the first organizations to approach the city about setting up a CG conference in 2009. Further, SIGGRAPH is reaching out to the local New Orleans community by establishing a graphics lab in a local high-school, pairing mentors and young people interested in CG and providing free admission to the convention, along with several other smart programs. Congratulations to ACM SIGGRAPH (the organization that organizes and runs the conference) for having such a big heart. Perhaps future CG artists will find their inspiration at SIGGRAPH 2009, or in one of the out-reach programs mentioned.
Every year the SIGGRAPH conference has a theme. This year's theme is “Network Your Senses”, a concept that is basically about the convergence of computer graphics and interactive digital techniques which Ronen Barzel, this year's conference chair, calls “forms of digitally mediated communication”. The approach to the theme is primarily through an emphasis on music and sound. The music part will sure fit in well with New Orleans and it's grand history of American musical styles like jazz and blues. SIGGRAPH has teamed up with the New Interfaces in Musical Expression (NIME) symposium to present a variety of content in the sound and music track. Renderosity Contributing Columnist, Dee-Marie, interviewed Ronen recently for the front page of Renderosity. Their conversation brings out a lot more detail about what the conference is about and what he hopes to accomplish.
Computer Animation Festival
This Way Up by Alice Wigley © 2009 Nexus Productions
There will be daily performances and panels, along with a special session of the Animation Festival called “Visual Music” and the Studio section of the conference will have technology, software and expert help in the current and new technologies of sound and music. Since I edit sound for animation, both areas are of particular interest, and I plan on spending a lot of time exploring this area. I'll certainly be there when Randy Thom gives his keynote speech “Designing a Movie for Sound”.
Computer Animation Festival
World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King - Intro Cinematic
© 2009 Blizzard Entertainment
Other new areas of emphasis at this year's conference include SIGGRAPH's first ever inclusion of “realtime rendering” as a track. This essentially means that the games industry is now a full participant at the conference. Will Wright will be giving a keynote address. The animation festival will be featuring films created in a real-time render environment and the Sandbox Symposium, a separate section of the conference which was devoted to video games, is now part of the full conference. The conference will feature a first-time “Game Jam,” where participants will compete to create a unique video game in only 24 hours. Of course, there are numerous panels, courses and papers on real-time rendering as well. One particular panel I plan on attending is “Building a Story in Games; No Cut Scenes Required” with Danny Bilson from THQ, Inc. and Bob Nicoll from Electronic Arts.
One of my favorite parts of last year's conference was the Art Gallery. It was an oasis of calm and quiet in the middle of the Broadway lights/sounds of the exhibitors hall. This year the theme is BioLogic art which is the intersection of nature and technology. Experiencing a beautiful installation and then being able to chat with the shy inventor standing next to the artwork is a wonderful experience. Perhaps it is even central to the SIGGRAPH conference experience.
Hylozoic Soil, Montreal by Philip L Beesley © 2009
3D technology was certainly a strong part of last year's conference and it's no different this year. Especially if you consider that the tech for 3D gaming is right around the corner. Watching Unreal 3 in 3D last year was an amazing experience. Plus, Coraline in 3D was the best theater experience I've ever had with 3D. And wouldn't you know it, there will be a Coraline panel this year (I'll be front row, center). And along with papers, courses and panels on 3D, there will be two special guest speakers: Bill Whitehill, from Pixar, will give a talk on “Visual Storytelling in 3 Dimensions” and Peter Lude, a senior vice-president at Sony Electonics will discuss “3D to the Home: What Can Possibly Go Wrong?”. Mark my words, 3D is the next revolution in computer graphics.
From SIGGRAPH 2008
This year, I hope to spend more time at the animation festival and talking with exhibitors in the exhibition hall. I spent too much time last year in classes and panels where the topics were over my head. I guess I thought it was a bit like college. And you can follow this track, say, if you are a graduate student in CG. But the secret to SIGGRAPH is that the conference is what you make it to be. It is planned with such care and thought, you can follow a dozen different tracks and each one will provide an entirely different experience. And if you don't believe me, check out this advance program for SIGGRAPH 2009 and I think you'll see what I mean. Personally, I'm planning on meeting people, experience art, talk a lot about animation and learn about new and updated software that interests me (not to mention some nice dinners in the Quarter).
And, of course, I'll be text and photo blogging here at Renderosity on each day of the conference. I hope to share my discoveries with you and perhaps give you a glimpse of the magic that SIGGRAPH 2009 will offer. But not before I have my first beignet and chicory flavored coffee at Cafe du Mond.
My sincere thanks to Renderosity for giving me the opportunity of attending the conference in New Orleans this year. I look forward to seeing Jason and Jenifer and the gang at the Renderosity booth. Pictures of Jason and his special “raffle techniques” will be posted.
I can't wait.
(PS I'll miss you at this years conference, Sergio)
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.
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