SIGGRAPH 2009 in New Orleans

Posted By Joshua B. Corken on August 05, 2009 12:00 am | Permalink
Well, to be honest it's not small at all. The Special Interest Group on GRAPHics and Interactive Techniques, shortened to SIGGRAPH for obvious reasons, got its start in 1974 and has grown to see attendance numbers rise to 40,000 people. That's a lot of computer geeks! This year, the city of New Orleans, LA will be hosting the 36th international conference.

But we couldn't be more proud of what we do. Yes, we may be a geek in your mind, but we fit right in at SIGGRAPH! But why go to this? What do you learn and how can you spend an entire week there?

So, why attend SIGGRAPH?

SIGGRAPH has a long standing history of being a showcase for cutting edge displays of the newest animation, architectural, illustrative, editing and design software and much more. In addition to an extremely impressive roster of industry-leading exhibitors such as Pixar, Lucas Film, Autodesk, Disney Animation, Google, Sony, and ILM, to name a few, it consistently brings the audience engaging programming and events.

So, let me ask you this: Why the hell not?!

What is Josh doing at SIGGRAPH?

I will be a student volunteer at the conference, the lifeblood and driving force that keeps SIGGRAPH going year to year! I'm proud to say this is my third SIGGRAPH and my second time volunteering. Take my word for it, my fellow student volunteers are some of the greatest, most talented, generous, kind-hearted, and downright awesome people you and I will ever meet! Trust me, I don't say that often.

What next?

As the week progresses, I'll be updating my blog with the best stuff and experiences from SIGGRAPH. And let me tell you a little secret. Come closer so you can hear me. Ok, that's good. Some of the stuff shared at this conference is never shown again or open to the public! On top of that, I will be writing a few posts for the well-known Computer Graphics World, so make sure to stay tuned there, even though I will probably be stealing information from this blog. Shhh! They don't need to know that.

Running on 3 Hours of Sleep Without a Care

First, I would like to make a suggestion: Never go to a theme park the day before you leave for an early plane ride to a week long computer graphics conference. Let's just say, if my feet could talk, they would be cursing my name and more. I guess the $2.50 flip flops from Old Navy wasn't the best footwear choice either. Blame that one on me.

As a student volunteer, we start working way before the conference even begins. From setting up the store, hauling boxes through what seems to a mile long hallway, and filling 10,000 goody bags for attendees. We really know how to get things done though. Can anyone say assembly line? I'll thank Henry Ford for that one. Here's a shot of the gang behind the scenes. Fascinating what a few student volunteers can accomplish together! I know what you're thinking; "that's a lot of boxes!"

New Orleans is new to me. Never before have I seen such busy night life! Well, maybe Poland competes, but I would definitely put this towards the top. Every pub has a live band playing in it and on every balcony are people eagerly throwing Mardi Gras beads down to the drunken street dwellers of Bourbon Street. I'm actually looking at my pair of purple dice beads that I earned just a short hour ago. Don't worry, no skin was shown. Get your head out of the gutter!

Tomorrow begins registration and another wave of SIGGRAPHers pouring into the already packed city of New Orleans. Will we all fit? With an expected attendance of around 10,000-15,000 geeks, they may need to make some extra room. Watch out 'Nawlins,' SIGGRAPH's in town!

Benjamin Button, Randy Thom, and Much More

Computer Animation Festival, Courses, Talks, FJORG!, Keynote, Birds of a Feather, Geek Bar, Emerging Technologies, Posters, The Studio, The Sandbox, Posters, Panels, Game Papers, Exhibitor Tech Talks, Technical Papers, and the Exhibition. These are the names you hear most throughout the entire week of SIGGRAPH!

There is now way I'm about to explain them all because, let's be honest, if it's too long, you won't read it. Thought I didn't know, eh?

Today was busy. And when I say busy, I mean BUSY! That's pretty much the whole week in a nutshell. There is literally just too much to see, so you have to run from one event to the next to cram as much information into your brain as possible. Mentally draining? Yes! Fatigue is setting in already and it's only 10:15pm. Here are some photos I took of the conference and even a sneak peek at the Exhibition floor, which opens tomorrow morning!

So, what did I see today? You're going to like this. Maybe it'll induce a bit of jealousy. (Rant in the comments section)

First, to start off a wonderful week of learning, the Computer Animation Festival held a Production Session covering "Building Benjamin Button." I must say that Digital Domain did an absolutely incredible job bringing this character to life! They even showed us a 50 mega pixel picture of Brad Pitt's face and zoomed in so close on his face we could see his pores in extreme detail. Gross, but how many people can say they saw that?

Next, the first Keynote speaker of the week, Randy Thom, gave a talk on "Designing a Movie for Sound." He worked on such films such as Star Wars, Forest Gump, The Iron Giant, Cast Away, Harry Potter, The Incredibles, and Coraline to name a few. This guy knows what he is talking about! This was a really insightful and new type of talk that I think gave the whole conference a perspective on designing sound for film.

I was able to see a little bit of a panel on "Getting a Job in CG for Entertainment," but had to leave early because I had student volunteer duties to attend to. The red vest continues to call my name. You would have to know SIGGRAPH to get that one.

Lastly, I was able to check out the Technical Papers Fast Forward event. Now, these are the kinds of people who innovate the programs you are using this very instant. Technical Papers cover the most detailed of new techniques that have been discovered by researchers from all over the world and it is stunning some of the work they produce! As you can see from the picture below, it was a full house. They even had to open another room for crowd overflow.

That is the first day very briefly. There is no comparison to actually attending this event. Reading about it just doesn't do justice. My advice: come next year or fall behind! This community is by far the most inspiring and motivating in the entire industry and possibly the world. No other place will provide all of these resources and opportunities like SIGGRAPH does!