Issue: Volume 33 Issue 8: (Aug-Sep 2010)

Editor's Notes


SIGGRAPH Sideshow

This year, the annual SIGGRAPH conference was not so much about super-new technology, but rather, better ways of using it. In a word, "efficiency." The other big thing continued to be stereoscopic 3D (no surprise there, given the number of films created for this medium released during the past 12 months). On the CGW Web site, we covered a plethora of new products and upgrades released during the show, some of which are also highlighted in our Spotlight and Products sections. A number of new offerings caught our eye, so much so that we have singled them out for a Best-of-Show designation on page XX.

The conference, however, is far more than just new products. It is about art, technology, applications, education, and research. It is about sharing concepts and ideas to push the industry further. It's also about building relationships and having fun. To this end, I wanted to take this opportunity to highlight some things that I thought were of particular interest. Let's start with education. CGW kicked off the show with its third annual SIGGRAPH student volunteer address, as top industry experts (Avatar's Rob Powers, Zoic's Les Ekker, Microsoft Game Studio's Paul Amer, and DreamWorks' Craig Ring) spoke to the students about the recent trends in the industry and offered advice for breaking into the job market. Yes, I am biased, but the feedback I received from the speakers and the students was positive. The students were engaged and appreciative, while the speakers were gracious and eager to pass along relevant tips and advice.

The day before the exhibition floor opened, Don Marinelli gave one of the most interesting and engaging keynotes I have witnessed in quite some time. Executive producer of Carnegie Mellon's Entertainment Technology Center (ETC), Marinelli relayed how this successful initiative, which dared to unite two seemingly opposite disciplines--fine Arts and computer science-came to be. Think of it like the relationship of the characters Day and Night, in the Pixar animated short film Day&Night: Each initially wary and untrusting of the other (see "You Are the One," pg. XX). That is, until they got to know and understand each other. Once they learned to appreciate and embrace their differences, they found they had something novel to offer. Now, substitute in place of the characters Day and Night, Marinelli and the late Randy Pausch (of "The Last Lecture"), ETC co-founders. Throughout the keynote, Don made reference to tornados: It is in the title of his book, and it is the basis for his many analogies, one of which is that every now and then the world needs a tornado to shake things up and tear down the old, outdated concepts so that new ones can grow. Not only were the "tornado" references appropriate for his presentation, but also for Don himself, who is a true force of nature. Not only did his talk meet with the appreciation of students, but also with industry veterans, who could not help but be inspired by his enthusiasm and vision.

On the show floor, Nvidia made quite an impression with its all-digital booth-a first for SIGGRAPH. There were no printed signs, just amazing displays with amazing content (thanks also to Barco screens and HP and Dell machines). Not only did the area look sleek, but it really helped illustrate the complexity facing today's digital content creators across various industries. The booth featured Nvidia's new Quadro line, based on the Fermi architecture, and the company touted this as "the perfect platform  for 'computational visualization' - the combination of advanced visualization with computational simulation. There were demonstrations by Bunkspeed, EON Reality, RTT, and others, but the one that stole the show was by Jim Henson's Creature Shop. The puppeteer demonstrated how the Quadros enable the digital characters to come alive in real time-and now, thanks to the new Quadros, in stereo 3D. Plus, the guy was hilarious! His quick wit drew laughs and smiles from all those who ventured by.

Not to be outdone, AMD also vied for attention with its huge video wall, with its 40 displays and more than 92 megapixels of resolution-all powered by just 10 ATI FirePro V8800 cards. 

NewTek, which had been fairly quiet the past few shows, certainly made a lot of noise this year. Recently, the company brought on Rob Powers, who had created and supervised the virtual art department for Avatar, as its new vice president of 3D development. Rob certainly brings his own star power to the company, and, it seems, to the show as an engaging speaker and demonstrator. In an interesting movie, NewTek teamed with precision motion technology company InterSense to debut the industry's first off-the-shelf 3D virtual production system: LightWave 10 with VCam, integrating NewTek's next-generation LightWave 3D software with the InterSense patented virtual camera technology for 3D virtual production-something Rob is particularly familiar with given his experience on Avatar.

On Wednesday, NewTek had tongues wagging and cameras clicking when two special featured guests arrived: William Shatner and Dick Van Dyke, who discussed the past, present, and future of visual effects. Indeed, Captain Kirk would know a few things about holograms and such. But what few people realized is that he and Van Dyke are longtime LightWave users.

There is so much more, of course, but I only have so much room. What did you find interesting? Share it with us in the CGW blogs.

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