It has been nine years since New Orleans hosted SIGGRAPH, and since that time, a great deal has transpired. The city itself has undergone drastic changes as it continues to struggle to regain its former flair following the devastation suffered at the hands of Mother Nature a few years back. In terms of computer graphics, a technological hurricane has since whipped through the industry, forcing studios large and small to rebuild their CG infrastructures using reliable, affordable, state-of-the-art hardware and software.
Looking back at some of the SIGGRAPH 2000 Sketches and Applications, the topics were just as relevant as they are today: motion capture, hardware rendering, visualization, image-based rendering, and more. At that time, SGI still ruled the studio roost when it came to hardware options, while on the software side, Autodesk’s Maya (then from Alias|Wavefront) was finding its way into many production facilities, Discreet was peddling its 3D Studio Max, and Avid had just introduced Softimage XSI. The big visual effects focus and the subject of SIGGRAPH presentations that year was Hollow Man, which featured a digital “invisible” human created by Sony Pictures Imageworks. The other hot topic: the amazing digital sea created by ILM for The Perfect Storm. One Sketch even promised a first look at the animated film Shrek.
Fast-forward to 2009, and the contrasts are readily apparent. SGI O2s and Onyxs have been replaced by Windows-based PC workstations packing more power than ever, boosted by quad-core technology. Today, Autodesk holds most of the professional design and 3D modeling/animation cards: Maya, 3ds Max, Softimage, MotionBuilder, Alias Design, AutoCAD, and more. And across the board, pricing for these hardware and software systems are a fraction of what they once were, making DCC tools available to just about anyone. Expect the buzz at this year’s show to be on 3D stereo production, both in entertainment as well as in science and biomedicine. Also, a digital human will be a topic of interest, as it was in 2000, this one being Ben Button, which set a new bar for the creation of realistic digital actors playing a starring role in a film.
What else is in store for attendees this year? “How can I pick the ‘best of the best’ when that pretty much describes everything at the conference?” answers Ronen Barzel, chair of SIGGRAPH 2009. “As always, what is great about SIGGRAPH is the breadth, variety, and multidisciplinary nature of the community that gets together and showcases its work.”
SIGGRAPH will continue to offer the Technical Papers, Emerging Technologies, Courses, and Exhibition, satisfying attendees’ technical appetite as it relates to computer graphics. On the creative arts side, the show will feature two galleries: the computational design gallery featuring design and architectural work, and the BioLogic art gallery, consisting entirely of interactive installations. Combining art and technology, the Information Aesthetics Showcase highlights the convergence of graphic design with information visualization. As for animation and effects, the Computer Animation Festival will be full of juried and curated works featuring developments in these areas. “I could keep going, from the Music perspective (listing performances, courses, panels) or Games (the Indie-cade, games papers, courses), or education (educator’s plenary, panels, talks), and more,” says Barzel.
“SIGGRAPH is an amazing experience—the combination of world-class research, art, science, and technology in an intense weeklong, interactive, inspiring, and educational event,” Barzel continues. “It truly is like nothing else on the planet. Now set all that in New Orleans, and the result is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Don’t miss it!”
Go to www.cgw.com for an in-depth Q&A with Barzel about this year’s event.