Each year, thousands of professional artists and animators take time from their busy schedules to attend the annual SIGGRAPH conference on computer graphics and interactive techniques. They are there to see demos, hear from leading researchers, learn about new techniques, and more. Indeed, SIGGRAPH is their mecca for discovery and education.
While it’s hard to believe, we are celebrating the 44th SIGGRAPH, which is taking place in Los Angeles once again. Why is the conference so special to our industry today, as it has been for more than four decades? This year’s conference chair, Jerome Solomon from Cogswell Polytechnical College, offers an answer, shares his connection to SIGGRAPH, and provides a primer as to what we can expect this year.
What can attendees expect differently this year?
I’m so excited about all the new things we have in place for our attendees. There will be a real, live giraffe named Tiny that will be a model for a drawing class. We have a VR Theater venue featuring VR Storytelling experiences from the world’s best storytellers utilizing high-end VR headsets and equipment: Baobab Studios, Penrose, New York Times, and Google Spotlight, to name a few.
We will have a Production Art Gallery featuring props and costumes from many of the most memorable films by studios like Sony and Marvel. We have totally redesigned the standard SIGGRAPH mug into the shape of a teapot, emphasizing our roots in computer graphics! We have a collectible Shay D. Pixel bobblehead. (You can follow my main man Shay D on Twitter @ShayDPixel.) Also, there is a company demonstrating a technology that allows you to throw away your keyboard and mouse, and instead, put on a special cap and use your brain to play games and do other things. And, we have a Syrian studio presenting on the challenges of doing work in a war zone.
What is this year’s theme, and how is that reflected at the conference?
This year’s theme is ‘At the heart of computer graphics and interactive techniques.’ It is reflected in every part of the conference. We have done many things to show our love for computer graphics and our attendees. SIGGRAPH is a loving non-profit volunteer organization.
How does this year’s theme resonate with you on a personal level?
The theme means a lot to me. I have been attending SIGGRAPH since 1987, and have spent 17 years in the industry. Now I’m at Cogswell College, trying to help students reach their goals. For me, having ‘heart’ means caring about people while also being dedicated to computer graphics. I have dedicated my life to CG. So, for me, it is really an honor to be the chair of such a great conference representing this wonderful community.
How has SIGGRAPH influenced you personally and professionally?
Personally, I have grown and learned a lot. I have met friends and professionals who gave me faithful guidance through my whole career. In 1993, I worked on a short film that made it into the Computer Animation Festival, and this started my professional career. Professionally, I have been able to contribute to the conference both in the industry and while at Cogswell College. So, these opportunities to participate as a contributor have been the foundation of my career.
What positions have you held with SIGGRAPH in the past?
I’ve served as production session chair, outreach chair (New Orleans), and Computer Animation Festival director.
The show is in L.A. What does this locale mean for attendees?
It is a major destination city with so much to do. In addition to the tourism, there is a big technology community in LA in Silicon Beach. Hollywood is there. Also, there is a growing VR community in the LA area. We are getting great participation from many companies and studios in the area.
What are some of the show’s highlights this year?
OK, since you keep prying, I’ll tell you more! We have an augmented-reality mobile game that dovetails with the conference, allowing attendees to visit key locations while also collecting virtual items. Our VR Village will feature 21 installations and 21 presentations. The technical papers are incredible and push forward our industry’s technical underpinnings. The Computer Animation Festival looks incredible – the world’s best work from around the world will be shown. We have work from Weta Digital, ILM, MPC, Pixar, and some incredible student projects.
Epic Games has pulled together a VR Film Jam and a VR visualization of Michael Angelo’s David statue using high-res 3D data never seen before with such detail and texture. So, you can see David at SIGGRAPH! We will have a unique and intriguing Art Gallery featuring work from Latin America. And to top if off, we have the makers of Pokemon Go presenting and also releasing a rare Pikachu. I honestly would come to the conference just to get the rare Pikachu!
Are there any further reasons why a person should attend?
It is a one-of-a-kind event. You simply have to be there to be involved, network, learn, and experience the demonstrations. There are so many things that happen at SIGGRAPH that truly do not happen anywhere else in the world. It is a can’t-miss event.