Sountrack for the day: “Saturdays=Youth” by M83
Tuesday started off with a press conference with SIGGRAPH 2009 chair, Ronen Barzel, who essentially presented his SIGGRAPH overview, but with more detail. He said that despite the rough financial situation, the planning committee decided that they did not want to cut back on the content of the 2009 conference. It sure seems to me that the conference is just as full as last year. The only thing I noticed was that when the exhibitors opened early for the media, it seemed that there were a lot fewer companies present. However, it was much easier to get around and meet people at the booths, since last year in Los Angeles it was wall to wall people (and very loud). I wonder if some of the companies that weren't there simply chose to skip New Orleans and come back when SIGGRAPH is in Los Angeles again (where the CGI industry is huge). I understand that thinking, but it seems a bit self-serving as SIGGRAPH is less of an opportunity to sell and more a place to network and learn.
I did get a chance to speak to Mr. Barzel one on one. I've been burning to ask him if machinima was considered for this years conference since real-time rendering is one of the themes. He gave an encouraging answer, which was basically that they wanted to focus on actual real-time demos for the first year. Perhaps in the future machinima could become a part of SIGGRAPH. Certainly encouragement for all of the iClone and Moviestorm users out there. I recorded the interview and will post it once I get back home and can edit the rough spots.
Then, onto the Poser 8 demo, with an excited and articulate Steve Cooper. Man, the improvements in lighting alone are worth the upgrade it seems to me. I've got it on audio as well, so more on that when I get back. I plan on doing a full review once I get a chance to test the program thoroughly. Steve did mention a “hot fix” that is coming this weekend. He told me that Poser 8 users should check the Smith Micro site for details.
Spent a lot of time wandering in the Exhibit Hall passing out Renderosity cards and gathering cards in return. The Focal Press booth was very receptive to reviewing their books. Focal Press publishes some of the best looking and well-designed CGI books on the market. They are also innovative in the titles they are producing. A recent Blender Animation book is on my shelf waiting for me at home. So glad to see them at this SIGGRAPH conference.
Next up was a wonderful demo of a fascinating new 3D program called Groboto. Darrel Anderson took me through the basics (some of which I have on film) of this simple, but very elegant software that uses 3D bots to build elaborate organic shapes. Hard to describe, but I'll be reviewing the program in the next month or two and will have much more to say then.
Hooked up with the Renderosity crew (Jason, Debbie and Jenifer) and it looked like the booth was jumping with interested people. Those Rendersity T-shirts were flying off the shelf. Also, a nice place to catch my breath and have a cup of tea.
The MAXON C4D luncheon was very enjoyable. The New Orleans style Po-Boy sandwiches were just right and the hospitality was just like last year. Paul Babb spoke of a study that showed that approximately 40% of After Effects users go to C4D for their 3D needs. He also spoke of a reworking of the Cineversity.com online training for MAXON including a huge set of tutorials by Dr. Sassi covering the entire process he used to create a short 3D animated film. The short film titled “JET: Junior Extratesstrial” was the subject of Dr. Sassi’s MAXON booth presentation.
One of the high points of the day was an informal meeting with digital artist Florian Witzel, who I discovered while researching SIGGRAPH. His beautiful title designs for the SIGGRAPH animation festival first caught my eye. And after spending time at his equally cool website and watching some of his unique personal short films, I knew I had to talk to him if he was coming to SIGGRAPH. Turned out he was presenting at the Autodesk booth, so I wrote to him and suggested an interview. After his presentation we found a quiet place upstairs and talked about creativity, digital media, music, his films and his work with Psyops in New York. I was delighted to spend time with such a smart and creative person. I recorded the interview and will write up a profile of Florian soon.
Since last year's SIGGRAPH was a rush of activity, I wanted to have some space for serendipity to happen. You know, that wandering that leads to something unpredictable. Well, it worked. I ran into James Martin, iClone master and Bukowski acolyte who, between chain smoking outside in the muggy New Orleans afternoon, made me laugh harder than I have in weeks. I think maybe he was a brother they cut off me when I was a baby (and never told me about). Then James hooked me up with the rest of the Reallusion crew, John Martin and CEO Charles Chen. Eventually we were joined by power iClone users Damien, Mark and Dulci. We had a ball chatting and joking most of the afternoon. Damien and Dulci have an excellent machinima podcast every Monday night called the “Wolf and Dulci Hour”. I think they single-handedly create the cement that keeps a disparate machinima community together. They plan on a live show tomorrow at the Reallusion iClone 4 demo.
Serendipity also led me to iPi Soft, a small, Russian start up company with a tiny booth in the Exhibition Hall. Michael Nikonov, the CEO, presented his markerless motion capture program that looks to be an answer for those indie production houses or solo filmmakers who want motion capture, but can't afford the technology. At under $500, iPi Soft appears to be able to create excellent motion capture. I was especially intrigued by the fact that the program exports motion files natively to Valve's Source Engine. When I asked him why, he said he was a big fan of Half Life 2 (a Valve PC game). This is exactly why I love small companies like iPi Soft, they create things because they are fun and interesting, not just because they are profitable. I hope to present a full review of the product at Renderosity.
After an afternoon shower and quick nap, we all piled into a car and headed out to the Garden District for a big Renderosity/Reallusion dinner at Juan's Flying Burrito restaurant. I was a bit chagrined when I first heard we were going to a Mexican restaurant in New Orleans (great Mex food is legion in Los Angeles), but I quickly changed my mind when I saw the menu. Mexican food by way of the Creole tradition. Fabulous food and a hard rock atmosphere. Plus, any restaurant that plays “In Like Flint” on an LCD screen over the bar is OK in my book. I think the drink menu was even bigger than the food menu. One drink description is typical; the “Ay, Caramba” is “two half pints of guinness beer with two layered shots of Jameson's and Bailey's Irish crème. Drop it in and drink it down”. My goodness, serious drinkers in New Orleans it seems.
We had a blast talking over the hard rock and movie soundtrack. On the ride back we laughed the whole way. A very nice ending to a great day.
Ricky will be reporting on daily events at SIGGRAPH 2009. Be sure to check the Renderosity Front Page News each day this week for updates!
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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