As stated, my name is Jen Hurler, and I'm a graduate student at the School of Visual Arts (SVA) in New York City (going for my MFA in computer animation). I'd best describe myself as an aspiring producer, CG artist, and animation historian. Everything about this industry fascinates me, which is why I was so keen on becoming a Student Volunteer. There's no way I can give a recap of last week in one post. SIGGRAPH made a great video about Student Volunteers.
I'd like to share with you a bit of the roller coaster, and insist you get on this ride.
For 30 hours of my time, I was given a place to stay and full access to this wonderful conference in Anaheim. Not a bad deal, really. Students were flocking to the convention center the day before the conference began, and I couldn't help but imagine what it would look like in full swing the next day. 'Surreal' would be a very fitting word to describe mine, and I'm sure, other SV's emotional states. Even now, with a bit of time to recover, I'm left wondering if it all even happen.
There was so much to take in, with not enough time. Dividing up one's time, delegating who among new friends goes to what event as to get as wide a range of coverage, and remembering to eat were all challenges we willingly took up. Fortunately, most of my shifts were integrated into the conference; each shift, I got to see a presenter and learn something. I did have to man the doors to a closed event (which I'd have loved to listen in on), but that was ample time to get to know fellow students. Again--and I don't mean to sound cliche--there really was always something going on during the conference's main hours. More likely, there were too many things going on. By no means am I complaining. Yes, there were many panels I wish I could have gone to... a course in ray tracing was happening at the same time as both a course on storytelling and a special Student Volunteer panel run by Disney Animation. I had a different shift during this time and couldn't attend any of the three.
If you're like me, you love the behind the scenes footage on Blu-rays, and devour it as soon as you've finished the film. That was essentially what SIGGRAPH felt like to me, only even better as it was geared toward us CG folks, going into the nitty gritty details only we would love and appreciate.
The whole thing was terrifying and eye-opening. Never have I been among so many people who were interested in the same things as I am, who have similar goals and opinions and backgrounds. Yet never once did I feel my environment was too homogenized. Quite the opposite really. The diversity was staggering. Despite there now being so many similar companies and programs in schools, everyone's story is different. There were friends looking for jobs, friends looking to explore new avenues of computer graphics, friends who'd barely scratched the surface of CG, and friends who were hoping SIGGRAPH had the answers about the careers they sought. Sounds corny, but I was/am one of the latter. It's intimidating and inspiring. You check yourself, reflect inwardly while your senses get completely assaulted. SIGGRAPH makes you question if you're really mad enough to join this industry. But it also makes you want to more than anything else.