SIGGRAPH: Days Three and Four

July 30, 2010 1:48 am

Tags: 3D, 3DConnexion, 3ds Max, Autodesk, ICE, Lightwave, Newtek, SIGGRAPH, Tron

Sergio at SIGGRAPH: Days Three and Four

Days three and four have been pretty intense. SIGGRAPH is one of those events where there's a lot to see and not a lot of time. Sometimes, I think it would be nice for the event to run a little longer so we can get to see more, but we all know that's impossible.

The second keynote was by Jim Morris. He talked about how movies have an impact on us "people behind the pixels," and how they drive us to pursue this life as computer graphics artists. He also shared how movies actually affected his life and took him to where he is now.


On a personal note, I have to say I'd never seen Jason and the Argonauts on the big screen, so seeing the skeleton battle was something I'll definitely never forget.

I then went to the Autodesk press event, where I finally had the chance to meet Natasha Wang in person. The Autodesk people gave us a quick introduction to what 3ds Max has been for these 20 years (as you may or may not know, Autodesk is now celebrating the 20th anniversary of 3ds Max). Max was pretty much one of the first apps to appear on the PC, while the dominant 3D platform was the Silicon Graphics computer, and that helped Max to become one of the most widespread applications out there.


They also gave us some insight into the future of 3ds Max (something many people already know, if they've been following the developments made to Max). I am talking about Project Excalibur. Project Excalibur is meant to address different aspects, like start-up speed, architecture, UI, workflow, and viewport interaction. They don't have anything to show right now, but we can be sure this will not be a completely new application, as they don't want to alienate their current users.

The job fair is the same as always, but I have to say it surprised me to see way too few companies there. This was a completely different experience to the one in 2008. They were all big players, as usual, but there were only a handful of companies over there this time, which was surprising, considering I always get news of job openings via the CreativeHeads mailing list.


As you may know, they had a Tron Legacy production session, something I couldn't really miss. To me, it was really special, as Tron was the first effects movie I ever saw (or at least the first one with in-your-face visual effects). We were lucky enough to watch 8 minutes of the movie in a special screening before the whole panel began, and I have to say those 8 minutes of footage completely blew me away. I will not be posting any spoilers, but I can say it's one of the most amazing things I've seen in my life. Tron was so special because it was unlike anything you'd ever seen at the time, and Tron Legacy offers exactly the same. I can't wait to watch the movie.


The show floor is always a nice place to be. I had the chance to visit Allegorithmic. They have this amazing procedural texture creation tool. It's completely node-based, and you can use either procedural nodes or file textures. The software uses a paradigm similar to ICE, where the procedural nodes are "compounds" built with different functions. You can build your own procedural nodes, or modify the existing ones, to get various results. The final texture can be used inside any host application via plugins they also provide.


I also paid a visit to the Planar booth, where they are showing this monitor array using a beamsplitter rig. They also have 3D LED displays using the Nvidia 3D Vision kit (similar to the 3D setup I use). Beamsplitter-rig monitors are a little expensive, and to tell the truth, I wouldn't be a big fan of having such a big device on my desktop (a large setup can be as tall, if not taller, than a full tower computer).


As you know, I am not a Lightwave user, and I never spend too much time at the Newtek booth. However, this time it was different, as we had the chance to see William Shatner and Dick Van Dyke do a presentation about how visual effects can drive the industry.


I also ran into AgentSmith (AKA Kirk Dunne) while I was at that booth.


I am very keen on pushing the industry in my own country, so this time I took the time to find out about chapters, visit the international center, and even paid a visit to the Costa Rica and Italy booths just to get ideas on what they are doing to push the industry forward. Hopefully, that information is going to be useful when I get back to El Salvador.


3DConnexion has made a big announcement this SIGGRAPH. They are implementing this smart automatic navigation technology in 3ds Max. Basically, you won't have to deal with camera rotation points anymore, as the software will try to pick the best rotation spot for you, and manipulate the camera based on that point. They have plans to port that functionality to other applications, but there are no dates for that yet.

My last visit was to the Intel booth, where I got the chance to check out Unity 3. Unity is a game engine that blends power and simplicity in a very nice way. That doesn't mean you can do a game in a week or something like that, but rather you don't need to deal with extremely complex and obscure codes (such as Unreal Script) or asset-importing hassles. Unity 3 will be out by the end of August, and it's packed with a lot of very nice features, such as automatic light baking, UI improvements, search, sound manipulation tools, etc.


The funny part was when this guy from Blizzard showed up with a very special gift for Tom (the Unity guy). It turns out Tom is a big Starcraft fan, and the gift was the Starcraft II Collector's Edition.


So far, this has been one of the best SIGGRAPH conventions I've been to (this is my fourth time here), although there's been some downsides to it.


Be sure to also read:

Sergio Aris Rosa [nemirc], is Sr. Staff Writer for the Renderosity Front Page News. Sergio discusses on computer graphics software, animation techniques, and technology. He also hosts interviews with professionals in the animation and cinematography fields. You can follow him on Twitter, and if you want to see what he's up to you can visit his blog.

July 30, 2010

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