The View from the Floor

High­lights from SIGGRAPH in Van­cou­ver show the im­por­tance of at­tend­ing the show — and get­ting the most out of it. By Todd Sheri­dan Perry.

Animation Magazine - - Visual Effects -

I’ve been at­tend­ing SIGGRAPH ever since I be­came a pro­fes­sional in the in­dus­try. Over those decades, I’ve put to­gether a men­tal check­list of how to use SIGGRAPH to its fullest. So, this will be one-half trav­el­ogue and one-half sur­vival guide.

Day One: Ar­rival This year, day one had a sur­pris­ingly di­verse se­lec­tion of deep dives into up­com­ing tech­nolo­gies: NVIDIA tech­nol­ogy re­view, imag­ing with time-of-flight cam­eras, We­bGL pro­gram­ming, at­ten­tion-aware ren­der­ing … pretty heady stuff, each bro­ken up into sec­tions that would ba­si­cally take up the af­ter­noon. Even The LEGO Movie pre­sen­ta­tion fo­cused on the tech­nol­ogy An­i­mal Logic built to main­tain the LEGO brick struc­tures in their cur­rent pipe­line. You should at least pay at­ten­tion to what th­ese cour­ses are dis­cussing, be­cause in three years or less, that tech­nol­ogy is go­ing to be per­va­sive.

If you do any­thing on day one, at­tend the Tech­ni­cal Pa­pers Fast For­ward. If you don’t know what it is, take a highly tech­ni­cal TED Talk, give it some Ad­der­all, and smash it into un­der a minute. That is one pre­sen­ta­tion. Then mul­ti­ply that by 127, and you have the Tech­ni­cal Pa­pers Fast For­ward. Ba­si­cally, all the smartest peo­ple cur­rently in com­puter graph­ics are solv­ing prob­lems for us “users.” Some of those prob­lems are ones that we com­plain about ev­ery day. Most are prob­lems that we didn’t even know were prob­lems. Th­ese brainy folks sub­mit their ideas to SIGGRAPH, which then picks a hand­ful to present their thoughts in roughly 60 seconds to 5,000-plus peo­ple.

If you can, al­ways make this event. I’m not gonna lie to you — it’s a two-hour plus slog. So, grab a triple espresso be­fore head­ing in. And get there kinda early. This year was stand­ing room only in the largest venue in the Van­cou­ver Con­ven­tion Cen­ter. Take a look at the full list of first pages of White Pa­pers here: s2014.siggraph.org/sites/ de­fault/files/first­pages.de­fault.pdf Day Two: Classes, Cour­ses and Pan­els Please take ad­van­tage of your ac­cess to the classes at SIGGRAPH. I re­al­ize that it’s ter­ri­bly cool to be able to catch pre­sen­ta­tions on Grav­ity and Guardians of the Galaxy and The LEGO Movie, but try not to get wrapped up in the spec­ta­cle. This isn’t Comic-Con. There are things hap­pen­ing around you that have been in­cluded in the show be­cause they will el­e­vate you as an artist, or tech­ni­cian, or pro­ducer in this space. Choose wisely and pri­or­i­tize.

Day two also in­cluded the SIGGRAPH key­note pre­sen­ta­tion, another thing you should try to get to. This year’s speaker was ex­cep­tional — not be­cause he is an ex­cep­tional speaker, but be­cause he is an ex­cep­tional per­son. El­liot Kotek of Not Im­pos­si­ble Labs dis­cussed how his company takes com­puter tech­nol­ogy and the tal­ents within the field to help peo­ple – one per­son at a time. In fact, their motto is “Help One. Help Many.” His company put 3D print­ing to use to build pros­thetic arms for chil­dren in the Su­dan who had been caught in ex­plo­sions dur­ing the cur­rent up­heaval in the African coun­try. And as if that didn’t di­min­ish my role as a visual-ef­fects su­per­vi­sor enough, Kotek went on to ex­plain how they gave a graf­fiti artist who is now par­a­lyzed be­cause of ALS the abil­ity to cre­ate again, and how they are work­ing with a ro­bot­ics club in a San Fer­nando high school on build­ing a low cost tread­mill to as­sist in mus­cle ther­apy to ac­cel­er­ate the process of train­ing peo­ple with cere­bral palsy to walk again. This pro­vides a very im­por­tant con­trast to the per­ceived glam­our of an­i­ma­tion and visual ef­fects, and teaches a valu­able les­son in pay­ing at­ten­tion to how the tech­nol­ogy we are fa­mil­iar with in one con­text is be­ing used in dif­fer­ent ways.

Days Three to Six: The Floor The floor this year was smaller that some

past SIGGRAPHS, but still seemed larger than last year’s con­fer­ence in Ana­heim. The big guys like NVIDIA, Au­todesk and The Foundry were all present with demon­stra­tions of how they con­trib­ute to the high­est pro­file projects in the in­dus­try.

And lots of new an­nounce­ments were get­ting peo­ple very ex­cited. Chaos an­nounced that VRay would be­come avail­able for The Foundry’s Nuke and Modo prod­ucts. Maxon re­vealed their new Cine­ma4D ver­sion. Nex­tLimit came out strong with a patch for their ear­lier re­leased 2014 ver­sion of their fluid sim­u­la­tor, RealFlow. Shot­gun, one of the in­dus­try’s lead­ers in pro­duc­tion man­age­ment tools, re­leased a phone app that lets you lo­gin to your projects, view artist con­tri­bu­tions and make notes. Cool tech on the one hand, but now we can never get away from our work.

A cou­ple of my per­sonal fa­vorites on the floor were Dolby’s rev­e­la­tion of a high-dy­namic range mon­i­tor that can dis­play the range closer to what we nat­u­rally can per­ceive, pre­sum­ably con­tribut­ing to a more im­mer­sive view­ing ex­pe­ri­ence. NVIDIA is pro­vid­ing com­pact, pow­er­ful GPUS, the Te­gra K1, for the Google Project Tango tablet, pro­vid­ing re­al­time, dy­namic feed­back as it an­a­lyzes your sur­round­ings. A lot of new, bud­ding mo­tion­cap­ture tech­nol­ogy that doesn’t re­quired the ex­pen­sive hard­ware and cam­eras: XSens and Per­cep­tion Neu­ron be­ing ones of in­ter­est. In fact, Per­cep­tion Neu­ron is crowd sourc­ing their prod­uct de­vel­op­ment.

Lastly, try to get out and get to the par­ties at SIGGRAPH. It is the best place to net­work and meet new peo­ple. You never know if you are go­ing to be talk­ing to the young kid look­ing for their first job who grows up to ac­cept an Os­car statue, or whether you are hav­ing a beer with the guy who wrote the ren­der­ing soft­ware that you use ev­ery day. And who knows? Per­haps the per­son you held the door for is the HR per­son for the company you’ve been dy­ing to get a job at. I can tell you from ex­pe­ri­ence that noth­ing hap­pens if you go back to your ho­tel room and go to sleep. Take ad­van­tage of ev­ery minute you are at SIGGRAPH. You can sleep when you get home.

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