40th SIGGRAPH Wrap
George Maestri
August 6, 2013

40th SIGGRAPH Wrap

SIGGRAPH turned 40 in Anaheim this year. The conference has really come a long way in that time, and a lot of the attendees were way too young to remember the first. This year's conference was close enough to Los Angeles to attract a lot of local artists and talent, which gave it a hometown feel.

The trade show had a lot of new products and technology on display. Maxon debuted their latest version of Cinema 4D (R15), which has some great features for motion graphics artists, including new text tool with real kerning and a very robust beveling feature. Side Effects was showing off their new Houdini engine, which allows Houdini's amazing toolkit to be used within other software, such as Maya and Unity. Pixar was showing Renderman 18, the latest version.

On the hardware front, Canon was showing their Mixed Reality products, which allow graphic overlays on to real world scenes. On the 3D printing front, Shapeways had a booth filled with all sorts of 3D prints in a variety of materials. Nvidia showed off their latest and greatest graphics card, the Quadro FX 6000, which is faster than you can imagine. They also showed some very cool emerging technology that utilizes near-eye light field displays to create very vivid and lifelike 3D glasses. These allow the eyes to focus naturally on any part of the scene.

Conspicuously absent from the trade show floor was Autodesk, who still had a few announcements. One was that they are open-sourcing all of their documentation by releasing it under the creative commons license. They also showed a nice little FBX viewing app that runs on Windows 8 desktops and tablets.

Outside of the trade show, there was a full conference and film show. The conference had a number of interesting papers. Probably the most interesting was Disney's AIREAL technology, which allows gamers to have tactile feedback in thin air. This is done using compressed air jets that give you the impression that you're touching the objects on screen. Another interesting set of papers covered...paper, and ways to simulate it. Ohio State had a paper on how to simulate tearing paper, while UC Berkeley had on how to crumple it.

In addition to the papers, the Computer Animation Festival is another big draw for the conference. This year saw a lot of European films take the top honors. The best film went to À la Française Directed by Morrigane Boyer, Julien Hazebroucq, Ren Hsien Hsu, Emmanuelle Leleu and William Lorton, France. Marcin Wasilewski's Lost Senses won the jury award. All of the films in the main show were excellent, and there were also some gems to be found in the screening rooms. SIGGRAPH also had outdoor screenings of Toy Story and Jurassiac Park, two classic films that revolutionized computer animation.

One of the more fun parts of SIGGRAPH is the emerging technologies exhibit. We mentioned Nvidia's new display technology, but there were also many other innovative ideas. HapSeat was a chair with haptic technology that allows for the full sensation of motion, kind of like simulator ride in a chair. The TransWall was a semi-transparent two-sided touch screen that seemed like it was right out of Minority Report. There was also a water-based display and lots of other nifty gadgets.

Overall, SIGGRAPH 2013 was a success, with a lot of interesting new technologies, creative films, and plenty of networking. We're looking forward to SIGGRAPH 2014 in Vancouver.