Joe Marks Celebrates SIGGRAPH 2007

July 22, 2007 11:00 pm

Sit Down with SIGGRAPH 2007 Conference Chair, Joe Marks

SIGGRAPH 2007 Conference Chair (and Vice President of software/research and development with Walt Disney Animation Studios), Joe Marks, reluctantly succumbed when pressed (with gentle persuasion) to reveal his picks for this year's "top ten can't miss" conference experiences. If you are attending the SIGGRAPH 2007 conference, in San Diego, this August, I suggest that you not only visually digest the following interview, but also take it with you as a printed conference guide.

Dee-Marie: Congratulations on your Conference Chair appointment for this year's SIGGRAPH conference. With your current position as Vice President of software/research and development, with Walt Disney Animation Studios, how were you able to find the time out of your busy schedule to accept the Conference Chair appointment?

Joe Marks: To be an accepted and fully informed member of any R&D community, you have to be an active participant in that community: publishing papers, collaborating with academics, and volunteering for professional service activities. Senior management at Walt Disney Animation, and at Pixar, understands this and is very supportive of the kind of external engagement listed above. In effect, it’s part of my job, even if it does entail many late nights and weekends away from home.

DM: Something new this year for SIGGRAPH is replacing the Keynote Speaker with three Featured Speakers. In the past you have had such industry giants as George Lucas. Now that you are back on the West Coast, why change the format?

JM: SIGGRAPH serves multiple diverse communities. When we had a single Keynote Speaker, one community inevitably had a deeper connection to the discussion than the others. With multiple Featured Speakers, we can address the interests of more of our constituents.

DM: Who will the Featured Speakers be?

JM: In the first year of this new format we have Glenn Entis, Chief Visual and Technology Officer at Electronic Arts; Scott McCloud, the well-known author and graphic novelist; and V.S. Ramachandran, world-renowned researcher in neurology, cognition, and visual perception. No matter where you are in the CG universe, one or more of these speakers will be relevant to you and what you do.


World of Warcraft: The Burning Crusade © Blizzard Entertainment Cinematics
Director: Jeff Chamberlain, Producer: Scott Abeyta
Blizzard Entertainment [USA] PSYOP, Inc.
Image Courtesy of SIGGRAPH 2007 Computer Animation Festival


DM: That is an exciting lineup. Also new this year is the Intellectual Property (IP) Marketplace. Please give our readers a brief explanation of this new SIGGRAPH event. background to the IP Marketplace? . Can anyone peruse the Marketplace, or do you have to pre-register (or be affiliated with "the industry") to experience the experience?

JM: Companies and universities increasingly want to see a return on the investments they are making in R&D. Patents are the preferred method for protecting these investments. As such, patents can promote commercial activity. However, to fully realize the value of a patent, it may be necessary to license it or sell it. Big companies have done this for years. But small companies or universities often do not have the resources or the expertise for effective IP exploitation. Our hope is that IP Marketplace will provide a low-cost, focused forum for those wishing to buy or sell intellectual property related to computer graphics and interactive techniques. Well, that’s the theory ...

DM: Has there been a lot of pre-conference interest into this new venture?

JM: In reality, we have had almost no interest in the program! I think that we’re probably a couple of years too early. The entertainment industry in general has been slow to understand the value of IP, as has academia. Hopefully by simply trying to launch such a program we’ll lay the groundwork for success in 2008 or 2009. We will still have a reception for IP Marketplace, and there will a very interesting panel on IP and Patents for Art, Technology, and Entertainment. Hopefully these two events will offer some clues regarding the lack of active participation in IP Marketplace, and help us figure out how to develop this program in future years.

DM: Perhaps another venture (whose time has come) is this year's FJORG! animation competition. How big of a draw do you expect FJORG! to be, and do you think it will entice first time attendees to the conference?

JM: In contrast to IP Marketplace, the new FJORG! program has attracted a lot of active interest. We will have 15 teams of three people each competing to create a short animation over 32 straight hours. It’s a great opportunity for some young animators to attract the attention of their peers and potential employers. And it will surely be entertaining to watch. Some SIGGRAPH programs are very serious business, so it’s good to balance them with something that’s just plain fun.


Happiness Factory © PSYOP, Inc.
Directors: Todd Mueller and Kylie Matulick, Producer: Boo Wong
PSYOP, Inc. [Germany]
Image Courtesy of SIGGRAPH 2007 Computer Animation Festival


DM: What other new and innovative events can conference attendees expect this year? What specifically sets SIGGRAPH 2007 apart from past conferences?

JM: In past SIGGRAPH conferences, almost all the content was chosen by rigorous peer review. This year most of the programs will also include significant amounts of curated content, invited at the discretion of the program chairs. I believe that the combination of juried selection and curation is the best way to ensure coherent, informed programs. So in addition to urging your readers to check out new venues, I suggest that they reconsider the standard ones, which have been overhauled via curation. I think they will notice the difference.


Haptic Telexistence © Katsunari Sato
Dept. of MEIP, The University of Tokyo [Japan]
Image Courtesy of SIGGRAPH 2007 Emerging Technologies


DM: What other new and innovative events can conference attendees expect this year? What specifically sets SIGGRAPH 2007 apart from past conferences?

DM: There are so many exhibits, presentations, and events this year, how would you recommend a visitor get the most out of their SIGGRAPH 2007 Convention experience?

JM: I recommend looking at the schedule for each day, picking out two or three presentation sessions to attend; i.e., sessions from the Courses, Papers, Panels, Special Sessions, or Sketches programs. And be sure to include the Featured Speaker sessions too. With all that scheduled, fill in the gaps with visits to Exhibits, Emerging Technologies, Art Gallery, Guerilla Studio, and the Animation Screening rooms. And save one evening for the Electronic Theater. If you’ve done it right, you’ll feel like you have packed a year or more of education, training, and networking into just one week!


Salad © Till Nowak [artist]
Image Courtesy of SIGGRAPH 2007 Art Gallery


DM: Outstanding advice. Thank you so much for spending your valuable time with us. One last question … what do you consider the “top ten can’t miss” experiences in SIGGRAPH this year?

JM: This is a very difficult question, because it’s a very subjective list—but here goes:

1. Go to one of the co-located events on the weekend before the main conference: the Symposium on Computer Animation; the Non-Photorealistic Animation & Rendering workshop; the Graphics Hardware workshop; the Sandbox video-game symposium; or the Emerging Display Technologies workshop. These smaller, intimate events are a great way to delve deeply into a subject and to meet others who share the same interests.

2. There are two sketch sessions, a half-day course, and a couple of papers devoted to the technology of Ratatouille, the recent Pixar movie. Collectively they provide an unprecedented account of the many technical innovations that went into the making of this motion picture.

3. The Papers Fast Forward session on Sunday evening is the community’s annual celebration of the past year in R&D, as well as a great way to pick out the paper presentations that you want to attend later in the week.

4. The Emerging Technologies program includes demos of about a dozen amazing display technologies. These are technologies that can only be appreciated properly by seeing them with your own eyes.

5. This year Guerilla Studio has an ‘Artists in Residence’ program. Six well-known artists, three of whom have never used digital techniques, will work in the Studio all week. I am very curious to see how the three non-digital artists take to new media.

6. The Featured Speaker sessions: I have had previews of all three presentations, and they will be fantastic!

7. I have also seen a preview of the Electronic Theater program, and it is stunning—definitely not to be missed.

8. Computational photography is maybe the most-exciting research area in computer graphics at the moment. The Papers session on Computational Cameras will be very interesting.

9. The focus of this year’s Art Gallery program, Global Eyes, is artwork that expands our awareness of people and nature. Several of the artists are from the developing world. I am interested in seeing how they are use digital media to express their cultures and identities.

10. Sitting in the last paper presentation with the other members of the conference committee, sharing in the feeling of a job well done—that’s the highlight I’m looking forward to most!


Flow © Masa Inakage
Image Courtesy of SIGGRAPH 2007 Art Gallery


We invite you to view the following:

FJORG! Animation Competition Chair Interview
Computer Animation Festival Chair Interview

SIGGRAPH Visual Presentations:
SIGGRAPH 2007 Introduction
Computer Animation Festival
Art Gallery
Emerging Technologies

Supporting images are copyright and have been used by permission from SIGGRAPH 2007. Images cannot be copied, printed, or reproduced in any manner without written permission from the artist.

Get to know industry leaders and professionals
as they sit down and talk candidly with
Contributing Columnist Dee-Marie.

July 23, 2007

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Article Comments

ClintH ( posted at 12:00AM Thu, 26 July 2007

Joe, Thanks for taking the time to share information about Siggraph 2007. I always get very excited about Siggraph...almost like a kid in a toy store! I look forward to meeting a lot of our members at the conference.. Dee-Marie, Thanks for a great interview!

SndCastie ( posted at 12:00AM Thu, 26 July 2007

Thank you Joe for giving us who have never been to Siggraph a look into this year events. This will be my first year going so am really looking forward to it. Great interview as always Dee-Marie

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