Student Volunteer Blog #7

Posted By Amanda Young on August 10, 2009 10:36 am | Permalink

Tuesday evening marked the end of the Fjorg adventure, and from then on the room next to the Geek Bar Voodoo Lounge was transformed into Gamejam. Gamejam, being an entirely different beast than Fjorg, required different mascots. Since Gamejam is a sort of sneaky contest all in its own, for obvious reasons Vikings don’t quite fit the whole ‘sneakiness’ option. So what sort of creatures did SIGGRAPH get? Why, the allusive ninja of course.

It’s hard to say whether there was one or a hundred ninja’s promoting Gamejam this year. Mostly you wouldn’t know they were there until their ‘GAME JAM!’ sign almost smacked you in the face. Just as your mind had time to register the bold sharpie on the white poster they carried with them, it disappeared. Seeing a Gamejam ninja was, I imagine, something as amazing as getting a special edition black Pixar teapot—although since you never actually knew if you truly saw a ninja or not, that comparison is up for discussion.

I spent my Wednesday morning sitting in the SIGGRAPH Asia booth trying to spot the allusive ninja, and not having much luck. The booth was a nice relaxing shift, since all it required was sitting behind a counter and handing out cool posters and pins to excited SIGGRAPHians and, of course, answering the occasional question.

Little did I realize just how awesome the day would be. At around 12pm, a man came up to the booth to help represent the SIGGRAPH Asia spirit. Being a good little SV, I looked at his badge to see just who I was sitting with. For a good ten seconds I think my heart stopped when I read the name ‘Pixar’ on the badge—I couldn’t be bothered to read anything else on it for a minute like, say, a name.

Once I had recovered from my temporary shock, I learned that sitting next to me was Tony Apodaca who is the Supervising Technical Director for Pixar. He also happens to be the Courses Chair for SIGGRAPH Asia and the author of the book, Advanced RenderMan. And really, he just looked like he worked at Pixar—handsome in a charmingly geeky way, bubbling personality expected from someone in the animation field, and accompanied by the general wave of awesomeness that seems to follow all of the Pixar crew.

I knew I had to play it cool, and in twenty seconds I had played about sixty conversations in my head which ranged from giggly fan-girl to slightly stalkerish Pixar wannabe, to professional just looking to hold an intellectual conversation. Unfortunately, as my mind settled on the ‘professional’ option, my mouth once again proved it doesn’t wait for my brain to tell it what to do. To my dismay, “SoISeeYouWorkAtPixarOhMyGoshSoTotallyAwesome,” left my mouth before I could blink. My heart sank down to my knees and I wanted to curl in a hole and die, but I responded by making the situation even more awkward by immediately closing my mouth and flashing Tony what will probably go down in history as the most creepy stare ever.

He probably gets it all the time, though, because he responded with a joke and easily lightened the situation up. Once I stopped being all awkward and horrible, I actually had a really awesome time. We talked about a variety of things, and exchanged business cards. For a good hour and a half we sat in the booth chatting about everything from the new Disneyland California Adventure attractions to the convention in general.
Tony was a magnet for VIP’s in the industry, too. Through him, I met some of the higher-up’s at ILM, Technicolor and Intel. It really put into perspective just how small this industry really is. I got a lot of questions answered, and it totally validated my Student Volunteer experience. When he left, I’m pretty sure I sat in my chair for half an hour just smiling at nothing. If I happened to jump off a building in that moment, I’m pretty sure I would have floated.

My next shift was not so awesome, but not terrible either. I worked in the back of a warehouse type area unpacking boxes and folding t-shirts for SIGGRAPH 2010. It was the first type of behind the scenes work I had to do since all of my other shifts involved talking and interacting with the people, so it was a change of pace if nothing else. The interesting part was taking stuff to the dumpsters, because you got to walk behind the exhibits which was kind of neat. The area was by the Autodesk booth too, so I danced to the music they were bumpin’ and it made the shift breeze by.

Over Thrusday and Friday I worked in Emerging Technologies, or E-Tech, twice. My first shift was helping to promote the ‘Sound Scope Headphones’ which were really cool. When you put them on, the direction you turned your head determined what instruments would play louder and, if you covered the headphones, you could isolate a single instrument. The second shift I worked was for a 3D Teleconferencing device which scanned my face from behind a curtain and allowed me to converse with the crowds that would come up through a 3D scan of my face involving mirror projections. From behind the curtain, I had a camera that allowed me to see the crowd, but the cool thing was when I made eye contact with whatever was on screen, so would the projection of my head. The mouth moved when mine did, and it really looked just like my head was floating in space.

Later on, I worked the Computer Animation Festival during a screening and talk about an animation project that was animated on the internet by people around the world. I also had two door guarding shifts during a medical animation talk and screaning, and a 3D screaning of Pixar’s short: Tokyo Mater and a few clips from Sony’s new movie, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs—which was also shown in 3D.

I spent my free time in the Geek Bar which Disney had transformed into the Voodoo Lounge. The decorations were from their new movie, The Princess and the Frog scheduled for release in December. The lighting consisted of sinister greens and purples complete with signs for Dr. Facilier’s Voodoo Emporium. Dr. Facilier, who I can only assume is the villain in this masterpiece, made several appearances throughout the lounge in expressive cut outs that left everyone intrigued and enchanted. Around the walls were pictures of dancing voodoo dolls that were complemented nicely by a jazz band playing lively in the corner when talks were not in session.

On Friday evening everyone checked out and lined up for a huge raffle. Among the prizes were all three of the Autodesk titles (3Ds Max, Maya, and Softimage), an Eve doll from Pixar’s Wall.E, and a Wacom Bamboo Tablet. I happened to win a Gnomon DVD and a copy of Autodesk Maya, so I was super excited! Besides all the prizes, though, it was awesome to see all of the SV’s together. Everyone had become such good friends and I think I speak for everyone when I say it was truly an amazing experience.

If anyone is reading this blog and wondering weather they should volunteer next year in LA, the answer is YES! There are plenty of job’s for SV’s to do besides the ones I got to experience, and once you become an SV you can apply for a Team Lead position and from there…the sky is the limit! Not only that, but the SIGGRAPH conference is an amazing networking experience in general. I met two guys from Microsoft while out and about exploring New Orleans, so it just goes to show you never know who you might be standing next to. This conference really brings all of us together and I hope that plenty of youngsters get to experience what I did. It was an amazing opportunity, and something I will never ever forget.