As the SIGGRPH conference celebrates thirty-five years...the conference chair, Jacquelyn Martino, promises that this year's event will evolve into an outstanding experience for both amateur and professional CGI artists. JM (as she prefers to be called) should know, as she has been involved with SIGGRAPH since she first attended in 1990. Since 1993 she has worn many conference hats; starting out as a volunteer, and going onto program chair of courses, to juror and contributor. Along with her background as a conference staff member, her artistic prowess, and her experience within MIT, Microsoft, and IBM, makes her the perfect person to chair the 2008 SIGGRAPH Conference.
Dee Marie: First, on behalf of the Renderosity community, I would like to congratulate you on your SIGGRAPH 2008 Conference Chair appointment. Each year SIGGRAPH has a specific theme surrounding the conference (2006~Join the Revolution—2007~Face Tomorrow), what is this year's theme, and what was the theme's back-story?
Jacquelyn Martino: Well, I think, like the theme suggests, it was an evolution to get to it. I was just finishing my PHD experience, when I was named conference chair. It was a very broad, opening, and receptive moment for me personally, and my experience at MIT was very unbounded in many ways. So I was thinking of no boundaries.
So many things that happen in the SIGGRAPH world, in the SIGGRAPH realm, are not bounded in the classic sense. That kind of openness and thought, worked its way into the theme of evolve.
We also did activities within the committee, talking about our vision. Then the creative director, who was ultimately responsible for the developing the graphic identity, worked with us in terms of color and terms. All these ways of brainstorming developed into the 2008 conference theme of evolve.
DM: This year's site design is exceptionally striking. It is even more exciting to see Scott Draves' work prominently featured within the site design. As well as the inventor of Fractal Flames and the leader of the distributed computing project Electric Sheep, Scott Draves is a well-known and very respected artist within Renderosity's Fractal community. Who was responsible for the design and layout of the SIGGRAPH 2008 web site?
JM: Q LTD is the contractor we work with. The creative director of Q LTD is Todd Szymanski. As you mentioned, Scott Draves' artwork is highlighted on the web...which is particularly nice, as it is a painting titled Evolve...which was very appropriate.
From the art series "Paintings that Evolve" © Scott Draves
DM: As the SIGGRAPH Conference enters its 35th year, what have you and the conference committee done to make this year's conference fresh and innovative? What is new and exciting this year that will make past, as well as new, conference attendees want to revisit this year's event?
JM: The constants for every year are the content and the people that you meet to network with. We have the latest and greatest in so many fields...and the people responsible for that work...so that is why you would keep coming back.
How things will differ this year over previous years; we've spent a lot of energy as a committee to look at space design...how people interact with the space. At IBM (where I am currently employed), I am an interaction designer; primarily I research how people interact with space and design. We have also reorganized schedules to make things more unified. This will resolve in fewer conflicts for people with "subject area" interests. That way you will not find yourself up against two or three things, that in your mind, should not be competing in the same space and time.
I am not promising that conflicts will not happen because we have so much content and we have so many people, but we have really worked hard to think about that very issue that we hear about every year. I would say that space design and time design are the major differences in this year's conference.
DM: Along the lines of evolving...rumor has it that one of the big changes this year to the conference revolves around the Computer Animation Festival. What is the new format to the CAF and why the change?
JM: Basically, the newness is that we are striving to make it an actual festival. So we will have daily presentations. There will be competition screening which is the juried work. There will also be a showcase screening, which is the couriered work...and will match very nicely with talks and panel discussions involving the creators of those actual pieces. Artists can talk about their process and their technical challenges, production, trials and tribulations.
DM: I am sure that I share my enthusiasm with the 2007 SIGGRAPH attendees at the return of the FJORG! animation iron-man competition. By SIGGRAPH standards, how popular was the turnout for last year's competition and the interest for this year's? Are there any new twists to the 2008 FJORG! event?
JM: The premier of last year's FJORG! animation iron-man competition was hugely popular. It was one of those events that typifies the SIGGRAPH Community—the raw energy and the spirit. We are all looking forward to doing it again this year.
The most successful aspect of FJORG! is that it touches so many different types of people. The event has appeal for everyone: if you are an artist, an animator, or if you are in production. If you are interested in the multiply levels of what SIGGRAPH people do, then FJORG! is one of those places that bundles a lot of it.
DM: Is there anything else new and exciting that you would be willing to share with our readers?
JM: Oh, and you can scoop everyone with this—we have a brand new project—the inaugural year of what we are calling the Geek Bar...which, I am very excited about. I'm sure that you are familiar with the aspects of a sport's bar; you walk in and there are loads of television screens transmitting sports events.
We have ten technical session rooms and we are going to pipe those events into one space, with an actual bar. We will provide headphones, and attendees will be able to tune into one of ten stations. The Geek Bar will have a single location where you can do your human networking, get a beverage, and see what is going on in any of the technical session rooms.
DM: Wow, thanks for the scoop! Between the return of FJORG! and the initiation of the Geek Bar, do you expect to draw new and perhaps a younger demographic to this year's conference
JM: Yes, that is an interesting analogy that you draw...because in the physical space FJORG! is right down the corridor form the geek bar, which again goes back to the notion of what's different and how we are co-locating things spaciously.
DM: One of the highlights of the past SIGGRAPH experience is the keynote speaker during the awards ceremony. This year is no exception, with the immensely popular Ed Catmull (a pioneer in the entertainment and film industry and co-founder of Pixar Animation Studios). What is the selection process for the keynote speakers?
JM: It is definitely a process. As you noticed, last year, we have increased the number from a single keynote speaker to three featured speakers. We involve the committee in this from the outset. First, we collected ideas from people. We looked at the conference's content landscape and how it was shaping up, which included looking at the various themes that we could emphasize though the message of the featured speaker.
What we are interested in first-and-foremost...does the speaker have a message that would appeal to our broad audience? Then at that point, with the promotional team (Brian Amy, and Marsha), we look for examples, primarily on the web, of where individuals have given talks. We listen to them talk and we see where that all plays out and then we make a short list. Lastly, we start contacting people.
DM: Will there be additional featured speakers at the awards ceremony?
JM: We have just confirmed that Irish artist and director, Catherine Owens ( best known for her staging and film work with the Irish rock band U2), will also be a featured speaker. Catherine will present "Giving Technology Emotion: From the Artist's Mind to U2 3D,"which details her co-directing and producing experiences during production of the film U2 3D, the first digital 3D, multi-camera, real-time production. Catherine's ground-breaking work with U2 3D is an excellent example of how the computer graphics industry continues to evolve and push the boundaries for the next generation. Even the most complex technologies and films begin with an idea and emotion. Catherine's work illustrates the artist's process perfectly—from imagination to fruition.
DM: Has your position as Conference Chair given you a different perspective on the conference?
JM: Absolutely, I think you always wind up learning more things that you thought you knew a far amount about.
DM: From both a conference chair and a digital artist's perspective, what do you consider this year's “top-eight can’t miss” SIGGRAPH experiences?
JM: [laughter] My top eight? Oh my Gosh!
DM: Yeah I know, it is always a killer question.
JM: Yeah, that's hard.
DM: Ok, how about the top five then?
JM: No. I was thinking I might give you my top fifty. [more laughter]
DM: [joining in the laughter] Since we only have a limited time for the interview I think fifty might be a wee bit excessive…
JM: Let me think of it from the days of the week. I am really excited about the 3D Stereoscopic content that the festival teams are pulling together. I personally have never seen any of that content and I am sure there will be many, like myself, in that same situation so that is very exciting.
We have two art and design galleries. One focusing on the theme of slow art, which is a very unique approach giving the pace of life these days. The other is a design computation wholly curated; and will bring in a lot of topics dear to my heart, in terms of computing and art design making.
The new Technology Area will be in the same physical space as the Art Design Galleries, which has amazing content like the Rome Reborn Project. We also have a great collection of robots. Cynthia Breazeal's multiply dextral social robot among them.
There will be a number of classes...again to the theme of computation, there is the Computation in Journalism class, and an Introduction to Shape Grammars class, complimented by a workshop and hands on studio.
In addition, there will be a number of papers. The Fast-Forward Technical Papers Preview is a very popular favorite. It's a great way to spend your Monday evening and get a perspective on the technical research landscape. That should be at least five.
DM: Thank you for the recommendations for this year, and although SIGGRAPH is still a couple of months away, what about next year? Two years ago the conference was held in Boston…will future SIGGRAPH conferences be held in California?
JM: In 2009 the conference will be held in New Orleans. In 2010 we are back in LA, and in 2011 will be in Vancouver, Canada.
DM: Do you think there has been enough recovery in New Orleans, since the destruction of Katrina, to support a convention the size of SIGGRAPH?
JM: Absolutely, we have been there a number of times in our pre-work…in deciding on a conference city. I have no doubts.
DM: It will be great for the economy to bring SIGGRAPH to the Big Easy.
JM: We try to do our part.
DM: Talking about doing your part…between working at IBM and your conference chair duties…how do you find time for your art?
JM: Art, in the classic sense, right now, I'm not finding a lot of time for…but this process for me is very creative. I satisfy a lot of my needs that way right now. Even though my hands are busy, my eyes and my mind are still taking things in all the time, so, as I drive, or do other tasks, I have these ideas for other projects that are brewing. I do not know if they boil down to anything specific.
DM: Your digital artwork is breathtaking. I especially enjoyed your Form and Elements series. What are the primary software programs that you use in your creations?
JM: If you jump into the process of the software point, I used Coral Painter. I love that package, I have about every version of that program on my computer somewhere here. Each one affords a little bit different experience.
The process before I even pushed the first pixel on that started a lot before I even got on the computer, daily drawings, observing shapes in nature, as you have indicated, the reference to organic shapes. I have books and books of pencil drawings of shapes that work their way into the layered images that you have seen.
* ~ Moon * ~ * ~Thunder ~ * ~ * Air * ~ * ~ * Fire * ~ * ~ * Earth * ~ * ~ * Sun * ~ *
Form and Elements series © Jacquelyn Martino
DM: Outside of computer-generated imagery, what is your favorite medium to work in?
JM: I love my pencils, and jewelry design. I have some pieces that I enjoy, so the 3D, small sculptors stuff, is very interesting for me. I haven't worked in wood or clay, but I have tried a lot of things. For me it is not so much about the medium, and I think I am, kind of, medium agnostic at this point. It's about the concept, about the feeling that I am trying to bring forward to other people, that comes first. The next question is how to realize it.
DM: Thank you so much JM, for taking time out of your busy schedule for this interview, and congratulations again on your SIGGRAPH Conference Chair appointment. Before we go, do you have any parting words?
JM: It has been a wonderful and exhilarating experience to work with the committee, and forge this new territory of restructuring this conference. It is looking really amazing and I think it will surpass any image of the conference that I have had in my mind. After working with multiply people, and collaborating, you take in all of that extra richness and I think it is reflected in the show that we are putting together.
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Get to know industry leaders and professionals
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Contributing Columnist, Dee-Marie.
June 9, 2007
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