SIGGRAPH 2014: Creative People and Cutting Edge Technology in a Magic City
August 25, 2014 1:40 am
“SIGGRAPH 2014 returned to Vancouver, Canada, for its 41st conference and exhibition. From 10-14 August, 14,045 artists, research scientists, gaming experts and developers, filmmakers, students, and academics from 50 U.S. states and 75 countries gathered to experience cutting-edge computer graphics and interactive techniques. There were 6,156 participants from the host country of Canada.” -SIGGRAPH 2014 Blog
Front entrance of Vancouver Convention Center
SIGGRAPH, the annual computer graphics conference, is such a large and varied event that you could go through it several times and never experience the same thing twice. This year’s 41st SIGGRAPH conference, which took place in beautiful Vancouver, BC, Canada, was no exception: for every event/meeting I attended, there were dozens I had to miss. Despite a month of careful planning, there’s always an event you kick yourself for not attending.
This was my 7th SIGGRAPH conference and if there’s anything I’ve learned from attending this marvellous event is that what’s most important at SIGGRAPH are the people you meet. Although the technology is fascinating and you’ll certainly discover a lot of new things, it’s really the people behind the technology that matter most.
SIGGRAPH 2014 attendees congregated for impromptu talks every day of the conference
My personal goal for SIGGRAPH 2014 was to discover the most interesting new technologies and to interact with as many people as possible. I enjoyed this year’s conference very much. I met all kinds of interesting people and I came away inspired. And, in the end, this is what the conference is all about: to bring people together to exchange ideas and inspire each other.Let me share with you some of the highlights of my SIGGRAPH experience in Vancouver. I’ll be writing more articles on the conference in the coming months here at renderosity.com and will share some of the large amount of photos and videos I took while I was there.
A quiet lane in the West End of Vancouver near the B&B Nelson House I stayed at
Vancouver, the Magic City
Before I discuss the conference, I’d like to emphasize how important the remarkable city of Vancouver is to SIGGRAPH. This city, in addition to having wonderful weather, contributes significantly to the mood of the conference with its world class conference center (the best I’ve ever been in), its wonderful food and its sophisticated urban culture. That makes everyone who attends the conference happy and pleased to spend time in such an exciting and fun city.
This is the second year Vancouver has hosted the conference and it was apparent that the city put its support behind SIGGRAPH in a very big way. Canadian digital industries are growing by leaps and bounds and Vancouver is in the center of it all. At the SIGGRAPH press conference during the week, the mayor of Vancouver (Gregor Robertson) said that this year’s SIGGRAPH was the “largest conference the city has ever hosted,” and I believe it. I heard so many words of praise for the city at the conference, this year’s event may prove to be a watershed, not only in Vancouver, but for the Canadian computer graphics industry as well.
Virtual Reality and 3D Printing
The line was very long to try out the new Oculus Rift virtual reality headset
The two major technology trends at this year’s SIGGRAPH were Virtual Reality and the continuing rapid development of 3D Printing. Advances in virtual technology + the hugely influential sale of Oculus Rift to Facebook has pushed this technology to the forefront of computer graphics. And, after trying out the newest version of Oculus on the showroom (big lines) the technology has made another significant leap forward compared to last year's version. The Jon Peddie Press Luncheon covered the topic of “Virtualization” in great detail, although it was apparent throughout the conference that this topic was on everyone's mind. More about the luncheon later in this article.
3D Printing has finally entered the mainstream. The average computer user can now afford a good 3D printer and, I believe, this will completely change the idea of what can be printed in 3D. SIGGRAPH 2014 Keynote speaker Elliot Kotek (Not Impossible Labs) in his exciting talk showed just how 3D printing can now impact the lives of people as far away as war-torn South Sudan. He and his team outfitted a young war victim with 3D printed arms so that he could feed himself for the first time in 2 years.
Amazing 3D printing technology was on display on the Exhibit Hall from companies like Shapeways, Stratasys, Mcor Technologies and Formlabs. Everywhere you looked, there seemed to be something being printed in 3D. There was also a large amount of programming related to 3D printing on SIGGRAPH’s main schedule, and in the Studio, where you could ask questions and look at various 3D printers closely. This technology is going to have a big impact on our world now that it has reached an international market and is more affordable.
On the Exhibition Floor
AMD booth with the new line of FirePro GPU’s on display
Although I took fewer meetings this year on the exhibition floor, it seemed like I met with more companies than ever before. AMD had an excellent booth where they were showing their 4 new FirePro GPU’s (W2100, W4100, W5100 and W7100) and related AMD technologies. These 4 new FirePro cards (aimed at the mid to low-end of the market) completes the refresh of AMD’s workstation graphics cards. They are all 4K capable now and have significant improvements compared to AMD’s previous graphics card lineup. I hope to review the entry level W2100 in the Fall.
The Foundry had one of the most striking booths on the exhibition floor. Their live programming was packed every time I came by. I met up with Ian Hall, who in addition to giving me one of the coolest t-shirts at SIGGRAPH, updated me on the new Nuke lineup for the fall. I’ll be covering the Fall, 2014 launch of Nuke Studio, Nukex and Nuke 9, and follow up with a review of Nukex.
Exciting news at the Smith Micro booth on the release of a special version of Poser: the Poser Pro Game Dev, which is designed specifically for the indie (or pro) game developer. I think this is a great idea and am especially enthusiastic about the new program's excellent workflow with Unity and the Microsoft Kinect motion capture hardware. Unity must have come up a dozen times in conversation at SIGGRAPH. The company was ubiquitous, and rightly so, as Unity is the hottest game engine/creation tool in the world right now.
A shot of the Akeytsu GUI at their booth
My favorite demo of the conference was at the Akeytsu station at the French Pavillion in the SIGGRAPH Exhibit Hall. Aurelien Charrier gave an exciting look at what I think will be breakthrough technology in animation. Having worked in the game industry for a decade as an animator, he decided to re-imagine animation and rigging from the ground up. His passion was so obvious while he gave me a tour of this remarkable new application (launching in the Fall, 2014) that I remember our meeting more clearly than any other. I hope to review the software sometime early next year.
Interviews and Meetings
Whenever I plan for an upcoming SIGGRAPH conference, the first two events I automatically schedule are the Maxon Cinema 4D and the Jon Peddie Press luncheons. In addition to getting an excellent lunch, both companies strive for relevance and brevity, which is a welcome combination to tired journalists.
Jon Peddie always features a topic that is just ahead of the curve in computer graphics. This session was devoted to Virtualization, a technology he predicts will dominate the industry for the next 5 years. His five panelists (all significant names in the field) answered questions and spoke at length about Virtualization. I found comments by Dr. Lincoln Wallen to be particularly insightful. As usual, after a Jon Peddie event, I came away with my head spinning and a dozen topics to follow up on. This was his 14th annual Press Luncheon and it was one of the best.
The annual Jon Peddie Press luncheon featured a distinguished panel talking about “Virtualization”
Maxon also held their annual Press Event where they introduced the newest version (R16) of their increasingly popular 3D modeling, rendering and animation program, Cinema 4D. Paul Babb, the President and CEO of Maxon USA, gave a sharp introduction to the program’s new additions which affect practically every aspect of the program. Favorites include the new motion tracker, interaction tag and the new reflectance channel. Maxon live-streamed their presentations at the Maxon booth. Be sure to check C4Dlive.com to watch some of the presenters (especially m dot strange).
I was also impressed with Xsens, a newish 3D motion-tracking company based in the Netherlands. Sebastian Terra, their Entertainment Sales Manager, gave an entertaining demo of this high-quality, but affordable, motion capture package (suit, markers and software). The company is obsessed with quality. Sebastian gave me a peek at some future innovations to Xsens that will push them well ahead of the pack, in my opinion. This is a company to watch.
Scott Ruppert gave me a tour of Lenovo’s new P-series workstations
Lenovo gave me a very friendly and very thorough tour of their brand new P-series modular workstations, which left me very excited. Scott Ruppert proceeded to tear down one of the workstations to show me the design and components. Lenovo wanted to refresh their workstation line and innovate at the same time, so they started their redesign from the ground up. Although I can’t give any specifics (embargoed info), I can tell you that coming from a man who builds all of his own workstations, one of these new workstations just might be on my Christmas list. Look for my review of the entry level P 300 this Fall.
The meeting that meant the most to me though, was my interview with Jerome Solomon, the chair of the SIGGRAPH 2014 Animation Festival. I’ve long wanted to talk with the chair of the Animation Festival in order to learn more about the process that is used to select the films chosen to screen at SIGGRAPH. Jerome and I were delighted to discover that we both had the same idea. Jerome felt that the selection process needed to have more transparency, and I was eager to learn from him.
Still from my filmed interview with Jerome Solomon at SIGGRAPH 2014
Jerome, who is the Dean of Cogswell Polytechnical College, as well as the Director of Game Design & Development, spoke at length about the logistics of the Animation Festival in addition to other topics. I really enjoyed talking with him and our half -hour seemed to rush by. I did film our conversation, and once I’ve edited it a bit, I’ll post it here at Renderosity, along with a short profile of Jerome.
These meetings and events are only a sketch of my full SIGGRAPH 2014 experience. I dearly loved my (now annual) dinner with John Martin and Charles Chen of Reallusion (creators of iClone 6 and Crazy Talk 2), where the conversation is wide-ranging and very amusing. I also spent a great deal of time with my friend, filmmaker M dot Strange, who presented at the Maxon booth. He has moved into game creation using Unity and I couldn’t get enough of what he thought of the Indie game movement, and of Unity in particular.
I also didn’t go into detail about the Art Gallery, the Studio and the Emerging Technologies booths, which are always some of my favorite places to visit. I managed to sit in on a few panels and attended an excellent press conference (see some of the SIGGRAPH 2014 statistics on the quote that is at the top of this article).
The Animation Festival itself was enjoyable, as usual. I especially enjoyed the Rise and Fall of Globosome, a strange sci-fi animated film created by students at the Filmakademie BadenWurttemberg. Another stand out film was The Science of Stage Fright, a witty and stylish docudrama about how we panic when speaking in public. This film was directed by Robertino Zambrano for TED Ed. impact of unity on indie gaming.
Finally, I want to encourage any Renderosity members to attend SIGGRAPH at some point. It is well worth your time. Tickets for the Exhibition hall are relatively cheap and you’ll have an incredible experience. I’m so grateful that I get the opportunity to attend this inspiring conference/festival every year
SIGGRAPH’s YouTube channel has many recorded events from the 2014 conference, including the Keynote speech by Elliot Kotek.
A full list of programming at this year’s SIGGRAPH is available at the main SIGGRAPH 2014 website. It’s worth your time to browse.
Photos were edited and processed through pickmonkey.com, an online photo-editing site.
I’d like to thank my editor, Nick Charles, and Renderosity for their support in getting me to SIGGRAPH 2014 in Vancouver. It really means a lot to me.
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 25, 2014
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