Report From SIGGRAPH 2012, Part Two

"SIGGRAPH 2012, the world's premier conference on computer graphics and interactive techniques, welcomed 21,212 artists, research scientists, gaming experts and developers, filmmakers, students, and academics from 83 countries around the globe to Los Angeles this week. In addition, 161 industry organizations exhibited at SIGGRAPH 2012 representing 44,750 sq. ft. of exhibit space – approximately a 5,000 sq. ft. increase over 2011. A total of 19 countries were represented on the show floor."
-SIGGRAPH 2012 official news release

Tuesday is the day the Exhibit Hall opens up at SIGGRAPH. This usually means that the volume of people (and noise) goes up proportionately. And as you can see from the numbers listed in the above quote, there was nearly 45,000 square feet of displays, exhibits, booths, portable motioncapture booths, cars, video presentations, bookshelves, 3D printers and a jobs fair area in the back where various companies accepted applications and interviewed for professional CG jobs. In other words, it's delightful chaos that runs from approximately 9:30 in the morning to 6:00 at night.

I had a heavy schedule for Tuesday and was on the subway from North Hollywood at 6 am. After a quick breakfast at my favorite downtown deli, The Pantry, I hustled over to look through my notes and schedule while waiting for the Press briefing which was to start at 8:30 am.

Tuesday, August 7

About 30 journalists were present for the SIGGRAPH 2012 chairperson's briefing early Tuesday morning. Rebecca Strzelec, from Pennsylvania State University, spoke eloquently about how this year's SIGGRAPH came together and the spirit that informed the conference: "SIGGRAPH is not about a location — it is about the kindred spirit of our community and being able to provide cutting-edge content across many different fields. In that sense, SIGGRAPH 2012 was a resounding success whether you are an artist, a scientist, a game developer, or a student … we featured incredible content that will continue to inspire everyone into 2013."

After the press briefing, the press was given early admission to the Exhibit Hall. SIGGRAPH arranges the aisles in the Exhibit Hall with the large companies like Autodesk and Pixar in the center, and the smaller companies on the outside. I spent a lot of time in these outside aisles as some of the most interesting companies are represented there.


Michael Nikonov at the iPi Soft booth

One of those companies is iPi Soft, a motion capture company that is based in Russia. I've been following their growth as a company for several years now, so I headed over to their booth and met up with Michael Nikonov, the CEO of iPi Soft. He told me the company is doing very well and that they'd just recently released version 2.0 of their software, which, among other updates, allows for motion capture using two or more Microsoft Kinects. I plan on reviewing iPi Soft in September and so we spent a lot of time watching training videos and catching up.

Luxion was at the next booth I visited. I was interested in their KeyShot software, which is a "CPU based standalone 3D rendering and animation system for 3D data." I learned that Luxion was going into partnership with DuPont Performance Coatings to bring all of the colors from that color collection to Keyshot. Also, they announced KeyShotVR, a new tool in Keyshot that enables you to "create high-quality, touch-enabled, 3D rendered content capable of being displayed in any web browser supporting HTML5."

After Luxion's excellent presentation, I hustled over to Chaos Group and learned about a software rendering program I've been wanting to review for several years — Vray. Chaos Group celebrated its 10th anniversary at SIGGRAPH this year. With Vray being one of the standard bearers for professional 3D rendering, their announcement of Vray support for Nuke and Katana were greeted with a lot of excitement. And their updates to Vray for Maya and 3DS Max, including ptex support, interactive GPU and CPU rendering and Vray hair and carpaint materials, are spectacular. A complete list of updates are available here. Looking forward to working with Vray for Maya 2013.

Lunch was served by MAXON, creators of the 3D application CINEMA 4D, in the convention center. I've always enjoyed the hospitality (and food) that Paul Babb provides at these press luncheons. It was a pleasure to see fellow journalists like Lynette Clee from 3D Artist magazine and Paul Hellard from CGSociety. This year, Paul Babb had some amazing news about the upcoming CINEMA 4D Release 14, which will add digital sculpting, an improved modeling toolset, major camera enhancements and tight integration with applications like Nuke, Photoshop Extended and After Effects. A full list of updates can be found here. This looks to be a milestone release for MAXON, and after seeing a very well done demo at the luncheon, I'm really looking forward to reviewing CINEMA 4D R14 in September.

I spent the afternoon talking with Steve Cooper at the Smith Micro/Poser booth. Steve has become something of a mentor for me. A lot of what I know about how the CG industry works comes from the wisdom and experience Steve has shared with me. This year, our meeting was brief, but he did update me on what's new for Poser 9 and Poser Pro 2012. A very cool Zbrush GoZ plug-in will be included in the next Poser Service Release (SR3). Steve also previewed the new Miki 4 and new Tyler characters for Poser 9 and Poser Pro 2012. Another interesting development is the upcoming Reality 3 plug-in for Poser. Steve told me this was the first program that will take advantage of Poser's "add-on framework." I think this development is very exciting for Poser users as Reality 3 provides access to the Lux Render engine and materials. Look for more plug-ins like Reality 3 in future Poser development. All of the new updates and additions to the Poser family will be released globally in November, 2012.

Steve also introduced me to Brian Haberlin, who is the author of a fantastic new graphic novel, Anomaly. Brian, who is a digital art teacher and veteran author of graphic novels, used Poser to create the hundreds of panels in this beautiful book, which he touts as being "the longest original graphic novel every published." It certainly is a remarkable looking book. Brian told me that Anomaly would be available in September, but can be pre-ordered now. In addition, Brian is making the book available as a tablet application, and as a free ios/Android "augmented reality" app. Point your Android tablet at the book and 3D figures spring to life out of the pages. It's a jaw-dropping experience. His personal demo to me of this application was one of the most amazing things I saw the entire week at SIGGRAPH. Anomaly should make a big splash this fall. I'll be pre-ordering my copy for sure. More info at the beautiful experienceanomaly.com website.


Brian Haberlin at the Poser booth with his graphic novel Anomaly

My head still spinning with the Anomaly demo, I headed over to the imposing NewTek LightWave booth which had pride of placement right in front of the center doors of the Exhibit Hall. I met with Rob Powers, the newly appointed president of the LightWave 3D group within NewTek, and congratulated him on his appointment and on the addition of Dominick Spina (formely of NVIDIA) as Vice President and head of worldwide sales and marketing for the new LightWave 3D group.

Rob was clearly very excited about the new developments, but he was especially enthusiastic about the fall, 2012 release of LightWave 3D 11.5, which features a new Genoma character and animation and rigging system, new modeling tools, soft body Bullet dynamics and Instancing, to name only a few. You can find a full list here at the new LightWave 3D site.

Although my meeting with Rob was short, I was drawn to the LightWave 3D booth and enjoyed several presentations by noted LightWave 3D users. Rob made sure that all of the presentations were streamed live during SIGGRAPH. You can catch the archived versions here. I met a lot of people at SIGGRAPH this year, but there was no better advocate for their product than Rob Powers. Look for my review of LightWave 3D 11.5 sometime in December or January, here at renderosity.com.


One of the great demos at the LightWave 3D booth

Finally got a chance to catch my breath at the press room where many of my colleagues were writing up articles and conducting interviews. I've always found my fellow journalists to be a friendly group. In fact, it's fun to trade information we've picked up at SIGGRAPH. I've often changed my schedule because of a recommendation by another reporter.

Closing out the day was a class I was very much looking forward to: "Deliverying Creative Feedback: A Workshop on Critique," conducted by Evan Hirsch, who I recognized as the same person who's been running the "Real-Time Live" sessions at SIGGRAPH for the last several years. I've been interested in learning more effective ways of offering criticism for some time now and was hoping for some new ideas. I had no idea that this workshop would be the highlight of SIGGRAPH 2012 for me.

Unlike other classes/workshops at SIGGRAPH, Evan used small group participation to make a very important point about criticism: it has to have a context to be useful. He did this by passing out paper and drawing materials and having us draw a part of the room without picking up the pencil from the paper. After that, we got together in small groups composed of people who were all sitting in the same area. Of course, critiquing the work of a total stranger was awkward, but made even more so by the fact that we had nothing to base our critiques on.


Delivering Creative Feedback Workshop description w/Evan Hirsch

Next, Evan began going over how criticism can go bad and pointing out that good criticism needs to have an objective point of view (he refers to this as a "brief," since his focus is on critiques in the professional world of CG). "The goal is to be honest and effective," Evan pointed out in his highly effective PowerPoint presentation. Another quote I liked was, "Giving feedback that someone can't act on is just mean." Evan admitted that some of his ideas were drawn from Tony Hull, a noted artist who has been conducting Critique Workshops all over the world for several years.

At the end of the workshop, Evan had us do another drawing of the room and then get together in our same group, only this time he gave us a brief, "the drawing had to be fun and match the proportions of the room." With this focus, the group I was in lost all of the awkwardness of the previous meeting and focused in on whether our drawings met the criteria that we were given. It was pretty clear which ones got them right and we had so much fun talking that it was hard to pull away and get back to Evan's final comments.

This workshop was an absolute joy to be a part of. I've come away with ideas and principles which have already helped me in offering better criticism. Evan's appeal to us all to be "careful, constructive and considered" when we offer criticism related to a clearly stated brief will remain with me mostly likely for the rest of my life. Thank you, Evan Hirsh, for a wonderful SIGGRAPH 2012 class.


Catching the subway near the Convention Center

As I was plenty tired, I decided to call it a day and headed back home on the Los Angeles Metro line. Thank goodness they call out the names of the stops, because I don't think I was paying much attention. I was busy taking notes and thinking about what a great day I'd had at SIGGRAPH 2012.

Wednesday would be another big day for me as it featured the heaviest schedule for the whole week. I didn't get much sleep, but somehow it didn't make any difference when I rolled out of bed at 5:30 am the next morning, notes in hand and Janelle Monae on the headphones. I was really looking forward to SIGGRAPH on Wednesday.

Quick links:

SIGGRAPH 2012 Part Three, coming soon... Be sure to read Ricky's Report From SIGGRAPH 2012 Part One.


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.


August 27, 2012

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