SIGGRAPH: Before The Show

Posted By David Blumenfeld on July 25, 2010 12:00 am | Permalink
Well, here we are again.Another year has passed, and it’s time for SIGGRAPH once more. I tend to only visit every other year when the show is in LA, so it’s been two years since my last foray to the convention.The extra gap between conferences usually means that the focus changes enough to make it substantially different than my previous experience, which keeps it fresh and new.

I’m assuming the focus on the floor this year will be mostly on stereoscopic, including glasses, projectors, encoders, displays, creation tools, and new research into more immersive presentation methods.It also appears that there will be a large amount of talk regarding accelerated graphics processing via the new type of GPUs being offered by the major graphics card vendors. While being able to program custom shaders and methods via their APIs has always been of interest, I’m most excited to hear about utilizing the chips and toolsets for greatly accelerated raytracing and rendering.

As before, there will likely be a fair amount of wireless, markerless motion capture devices being demonstrated, as well as small-scale 3D scanning devices and additive rapid prototyping machines (3D printing).While it seems there will be a number of vendors with different types of layer deposition printers, it would be nice to see a few examples of subtractive rapid prototyping (SRP) as well, utilizing machines that are basically advanced CNC mills to cut away from a block of material such as wood, metal, or plastic, as opposed to putting down layers of specialized materials to build an object up.Both types of machines have their place and advantages, so it would be good to see them equally represented, but who knows what the show will hold.

In the course/presentation arena, it looks like there will be a fair amount of talk regarding natural effects and simulation.While this will surely prove to be informative and interesting, much of this development (as before) will be largely a presentation of custom developed in-house solutions, either written from the ground up, or a large set of custom software written on top of a commercially available product. From a production point of view, it would be nice to see some additional talks of people cleverly using some off-the-shelf software without much in-house development to create these effects, but for now, this is just where the state of the industry is at.

After working for many years on large feature films, I was always used to working on this type of development, but recently, working at a smaller facility almost exclusively on short term commercial projects, the resources and schedule simply doesn’t permit this in most cases. However, I’m still looking forward to hearing how some of these effects were made.There seems to always be the desire for volumetrics, cloth, fur, fluids, and the like in all the work that comes through the door, so ideas and techniques are surely good food for thought.

HDR lighting and global illumination techniques are a hot topic as well, and I’m excited to hear about some of the advancements that are being made, especially on the sampling and rendering side.It would be great to find some better techniques for speeding up occlusion rendering, sample reduction without visible quality loss, and optimized lighting setups which create photorealistic results in a number of different conditions.Similarly, there is some discussion about optimized texture creation and tile randomization, which is always helpful for background items and filling out large sets of digital assets, so this sounds interesting as well.

Overall, the show is the venue where I run into old friends and colleagues from the various studios I’ve worked at, and it’s always nice to see what people are doing these days, both professionally and personally.As our industry ages and matures, it’s always fun to see the once eager all-nighters with children and families of their own now.Sharing production horror stories becomes mixed with diaper tales and photos of the kids, making this high-tech, unique business seem a little more normal.

This year, I used the online scheduler to try and plan every day out, though I have a few courses which are currently overlapping.I’ll make the decision when I get there, or have a backup in case something gets cancelled. I would’ve liked to have been able to view this schedule in a chart format or time view, but that didn’t seem to be an option (or I just didn’t dig deep enough to figure this out).

I also downloaded the iPhone app for the convention as well. This seems to have some nice info in it, as well as maps and phone numbers etc.One thing I would’ve liked to have been able to do is log into the SIGGRAPH site with my username/password and download my schedule to the app, but it doesn’t seem to have this functionality, so I guess I’ll have to go through the schedule again on there and add them all separately.Again, maybe I’m missing something and there is a way to do this, but I haven’t figured that out so far.With a show such as this one, where hi-tech is the name of the game, and the race to stay current with the latest tools and resources is always on, it would be nice to have some of these features fully implemented to properly take advantage of them to the highest degree.But like the work we create, we try and learn to make it better each time we go.

I’ll be heading down to the convention center to get my badge in a few hours.Not wanting to lug a briefcase or backpack type thing around, I’m simply bringing a few pens, a notepad, and my iPhone.I’ll find out quickly enough if this proves to be a wise move or not.Check back in tonight to see how the first day went. For everyone else getting prepped to head on down, I’ll see you there!