SIGGRAPH: Only One More Day

Posted By David Blumenfeld on July 29, 2010 12:00 am | Permalink
Good evening loyal readers.Wednesday is rapidly coming to a close, and so is this year’s SIGGRAPH exhibition and conference.Tomorrow is the last day, and there are a few classes left I might try to attend. ’ll also be spending a fair amount of time on the expo floor, talking to different vendors about new products I’m currently interested in while learning about how some of the newest technologies, such as the multi-GPU video cards, actually work and how my studio might be able to take advantage of them.

Today, the front lot appeared filled by the time I arrived, so I had to resort to parking down in the bowels of the underground parking structure. I had planned on attending a number of courses and talks, but I ended up running into a number of old friends and colleagues and getting into conversations which overlapped the start time of some of the courses, so alas I skipped a few. I did however attend a “birds of a feather” special interest group on 3D printing. This was essentially an open session, complete with full introductions from everyone present, where everyone was free to discuss their knowledge of both 3D printing and subtractive rapid prototyping (the technique I am most interested in). Although the two are definitely related (one builds up a three-dimensional model in successive layers using a polymer deposited into some sort of removable support matrix, while the other takes a solid block of material and eats away at it until the resulting milled object is complete), they have different uses, benefits and drawbacks, and relatively separate user-bases. The ensuing conversation was informative and fun, with brief discussions on laser cutting, paper folding, sign manufacturing, and molecular model representation. This year, there is a new 3D printer called the Objet ( which allows for printing in other materials, including metal. There was a lot of discussion as well about a do-it-yourself 3D printer called the MakerBot ( which is obtainable for as little as $750. While this needs assembled by the user, it is definitely an affordable entry level 3d printer with a loyal fanbase and user support community.

Around midday, I attended a press event for Jon Peddie Research (a technically oriented multimedia and graphics research and consulting firm). This was held at the Palm restaurant, an upscale eatery located only two blocks from the convention center. I have been to this particular restaurant nearly a year ago for my birthday, where my wife took me for a fantastic dinner consisting of a tender filet mignon, a 4-pound lobster, and one of the best Singapore Slings I’ve had outside of my home bar. This was definitely a terrific location for a press event, and the lunch served was quite delicious. The panel of speakers was also quite impressive, including Eric Demers (GPG Chief Technology Officer at AMD), Brian Harrison ( Director at SolidWorks Labs), Rolf Herken (CEO and CTO at Mental Images), Bill Mark (Senior Research Scientist at Intel), and Paul Stallings (Vice President of Development at Kubotek). In addition to market forecasts, the discussion revolved greatly around the notion of an HPU, or Heterogeneous Processor Unit, which is a multiple core processor chip with integrated CPU and GPU cores and what impact this will have on graphics computing over the next few years. Some talk also revolved around cloud computing and what benefits and drawbacks this will have for users, as well as its impact on the industry as a whole. At one point during the talk, there was an interruption and the doors to the private section of the restaurant where we were sitting swung open and a commotion ensued. Before anyone knew what was happening, into the room walked William Shatner and Dick Van Dyke. It turns out they were presenting later in the day at one of the expo booths, speaking on their thoughts of how the visual effects industry has changed and impacted their careers. I can only assume that they came to the Palm for lunch before that event, and learning about the type of meeting we were having upstairs, decided to crash the party and have a little fun. It was definitely quite entertaining to see both of them, and it really made the lunch something to remember.

From there, I returned back to the expo, where I decided to walk the floor for a bit. I was lucky enough to run into some more old friends and catch up on things for a little while. Once the evening came, it was time for the annual Renderman Users Group meeting, held this year at the brand new Marriot at the LA Live center. While I won’t recap all the new features coming in the next release of Renderman Studio and Renderman For Maya, suffice it to say that there are a great number of fantastic improvements and I am really looking forward to this new release. The new Tractor job queue management system was also demonstrated (this is a replacement for the older Alfred queue system), and as a clever trick for everyone before the show, where attendees could log into a local wifi and play a trivia contest about renderman, what was actually happening was Tractor was being used to perform distributed rendering of a mandlebrot fractal image, demonstrating not only the flexibility and power of the new system, but finally bringing to fruition the often joked about notion of using everyone’s iPhone on the farm to render images. The presentation finished up with the requisite “Stupid Renderman Tricks” and a raffle for some various Pixar stuffed animals, hats, and t-shirts. Of course, no Renderman Users Group meeting would be complete without receiving the wind-up teapot toy in a tin. This year’s version was red with a black hat.

Tomorrow, I might try to check out a studio presentation on “Hi Res Rapid Prototyping for Fine Metals and Jewelry”, a course on “Global Illumination Across Industries”, or a talk on “Fur, Feathers and Trees”, time permitting. If any of you are still interested in seeing the show, make sure you go tomorrow, lest you miss this year’s event. Thanks for tuning in, and check back tomorrow for my final wrap up.