SIGGRAPH and Beyond
August 14, 2006 12:47 am
The exhibits, art in the galleries, technologies of SIGGRAPH 2006, etc. didn't point in any directions that were surprising. What was surprising to me was the degree of the emphasis in the given directions. If I could describe the main thrusts of SIGGRAPH, I would divide them into unequal fifths. The largest would be animation; the next largest 3-D programs; then rendering programs; the next hardware with an emphasis on video cards geared only toward the professional, workstations, and high end 3-D scanners, etc; and the last everything else including the very few 2-D programs represented mainly by Corel and Adobe.
When I went to one company that produces video cards, and it shall remain nameless, and enquired about a line of their products, some of which retail for over $600.00, I was told that that line was not professional enough to be shown at SIGGRAPH. The question then becomes, who is at SIGGRAPH and who are the exhibitors?
If one looked around, one would see people of all ages. There were a lot of college age people as well as people in their forties and fifties. When my husband and I first arrived to register for our press badges, we could not see the end of the line for general registration. One of the guards estimated that there were about 400 people in line.
It seemed as if the majority of the booths, as I stated, were geared toward animation-type products. These are expensive. However, if you are a student (even kindergarten in some cases), teacher, or work at a school in some capacity, you can buy this software for a fraction of the cost. Even hardware such as some of the NVIDIA Quadro graphic boards could be purchased at a special price during the show at one of the academic dealers. Other hardware products such as 3-D scanners could go for $2,500 to $25,000.
Displays of hardware and software did not make up the whole exhibition area of the show. Many schools, universities, and colleges, both undergraduate and graduate, were recruiting students. In addition, there were classes, papers, demonstrations of new technology, etc. as well as an art gallery. A lot of the classes and papers fell into the same categories as did the exhibits.
One area that was surprising, however, was the Guerilla Studio, which is mostly a hands-on work place. While it did have some unique interactive displays, such as electronic fashion, it also had some that involved rudimentary techniques using just paint and not even a computer or a printer.
One thought kept popping up as I wandered through the different exhibits and galleries. Will Computer Graphics (CG) leave some of us behind if we are not dedicated to animation and 3-D? What about 2-D photography and pictures using Corel Painter, Adobe Photoshop, and other similar programs?
In what direction do you feel the computer industry is moving especially with so much faster technology that will be available soon?
Also, where is your "comfort zone" in computer graphics?
The Paula Sanders Report is a regular Renderosity Front Page featured column, where Paula investigates and comments on graphic software, techniques, and other relevant material through her reviews, tutorials, and general articles.
Interesting SigGraph report, and even more interesting point to raise, so I though I'd offer my 0.2 Euros, speaking as a former 2D'er who is now doing static 3D (and 2,5D) ;o) Unless you're doing fine art, the usual "products" of 2D work seems to be illustration (books and mags), design (games and movies), and matte FX (games and movies again). 3D is progressing rapidly, and has long since reached the point where the average 3D artist could produce just as fine pix as the average 2D'er. Moreover, 3D is faster in many cases, and more flexible in most. And 3D apps are following Moore's law - artist skills are not! So basically it seems that yes, those not doing 3D, preferably animation, WILL be left behind. Admittedly, there's a lot of "making-of" articles that point out that a lot of 3D often becomes "2,5D", but this is because the current level of 3D is not able to produce the desired results on time and budget. Moore's law will most likely take care of that. Designers also point out the value of 2D abilities in sketching and storyboarding, but apps like Zbrush and (soon) Mudbox make it possible to do 3D "sketches" almost as quickly. Storyboarding is currently under attack from those who prefer to start with animatics or some other kind of animated storyboard. Matte painting, then? Well, ILM just recently praised Vue5 as a valuable new tool for environments, and a radically up-powered Vue6 is on the horizon. So what can one do? IMHO, basically choose between love and money ;o) In wanting to tell a story, I personally chose the webcomic format (i.e., still images) because I like it so much, but I did so knowing it was probably a mistake - anything that doesn't move won't catch much interest these days. I do not regret my decision, but then again, I do not have to make a living at it. So, while I'm certain that good 2D skills will remain valuable (sketching ability, good eye for the picture-as-abstract-shapes composition, etc.), I am equally certain that it's a very good idea to pick up some 3D skills. Or decide to be a happy dinosaur ;o)
Siggraph is definately geared towards the high end gaming and movie market. this was far more evedent in LA where it seemed half the floor was taken up by Game and Movie companies taking aplications and doing interviews. Boston was toned down a bit in that respect. there were only the top few movie houses in evedence in Boston. For the freelance CG Artist there was a lot of stuff at siggraph that was of very little interest, I know I have no interest in render farms and 3d Printers. but I was happy to see all of the software improvements. Perhaps its time that a focused Convention take place for hobbiests?
The future of the computer industry (if by future you mean money) there are two directions: Movies and Games. Nearly every movie, from the short budget to the block-buster all feature computer graphics. For example, in the movies hand painted backdrops are now an archaic art form, all replaced by CGI. I recently talked to a prominent figure in the movie industry, and he stated that there is actually a shortage of computer graphic artists. Thus, if anyone is looking for a career track in the wonderful world of computer graphics, get a degree that is geared toward working in the movie industry. As to my CG comfort zone? It would have to be in digital photography, Photoshop, and Poser. I have tried my hand at other programs, including all versions of Bryce, and I never acquired a tolerance for two days (let alone two hours) of render-time. As to SIGGRAPH, I would like to ask Paula (or anyone else who experienced SIGGRAPH this year) who do you think would gain the most out of going to SIGGRAPH? For the average CG artist, would the experience be worth the time and money, and what specifically makes SIGGRAPH worthwhile to the average consumer/artist? Dee-Marie
In art,there are multi-millions of amatuers, and a handful of professionals. It's all very well to grasp at the techno "High- ground", but modern economics is still a "volume" game. Unless a manufacturer thinks it survive on a microscopic market share, I'd say they ought to get their heads out of the clouds, and into some market research. Modern techo advances have blurred the line between the pro's and gifted amatuers. Is a high-end pricetag (read: funding barrier) the only refuge for the professional artist? In years past, such was the case in music. Been to the music store lately? Live(and learn) or perish(and learn anyway).
Hi Dee-Marie - I think the "college age" person will gain a lot because they need to know what is out there and make contacts. However, since so many schools were there, and there was a minimum admitance age (I think it was 16), I think there should be a high school day of some sort or high schools tours. Even if this was conducted for local youth, it would be very educational and possibly steer some in the right direction.
Hi Paula, Thank you for the insightful and thought provoking article. I personally think the focus on the film and gaming industry as necessary to the evolution of the graphic industry. Many of the advancements in the software comes from trying to meet the needs of film makers and game developers. Most software companies want to have their products used in high-profile and notable productions. It is in their best interest to develop tools that will meet these progressively demanding needs. While the high-end products get better, so do the beginner and hobbiest products. I now see more products available for free or at reasonable entry-level prices. There are a number of companies that realize the value in this growing market segment. Even if that is not what most manufacturers are showing off at Siggraph ;-) I am finding that my comfort zone continues to expand as I try out different products and work to learn new things. All the best, Lillian
Sincerly I still use Bryce (Bryce 4!), Poser (Poser 4!) and Photoshop for my professional artworks. My customers are international publisher from all world and some multinational industries. So, where are the boundaries and the borders between a "professional" and a "not professional" software? Why I must run after the "brand new (and ultracomplex) software"? Why I must buy every 6 months a new PC (just to run some ultracomplex sofware)? My customers are happy with the products that I make, and they do not have to pay (nor I) my expanses to be updated.