Spotlight On Emily Hsu, SIGGRAPH 2019 Computer Animation Festival Director
July 19, 2019

Spotlight On Emily Hsu, SIGGRAPH 2019 Computer Animation Festival Director

Recently, CGW spoke to Emily Hsu, SIGGRAPH 2019 Computer Animation Festival Director, about this year’s event. 

"Best Friend," ©2019 Gobelins, l'ecole de l'image (France)

How is this year’s show unique from years past? Why the changes?

Traditionally, the Electronic Theater has been a two-night show and, in recent history, has been held within the conference’s host venue. This year, we are making it a true spectacle by hosting a one-night-only screening of the show at Microsoft Theater, immediately followed by the Monday night reception in L.A. LIVE. Microsoft Theater is not only walking distance to the Los Angeles Convention Center, but also allows us to showcase the latest in computer graphics through state-of-the-art audiovisuals in a vibrant setting. As an Oscar-qualifying show, we are looking forward to honoring the award-winning work and content being presented in what is truly a can’t-miss, once-in-a-lifetime event for SIGGRAPH attendees, new and old, to talk about for many SIGGRAPHs to come. 


In addition, the VR Theater and Immersive Pavilion programs collaborated more closely than ever this year. For the first time, their juries were combined to select the best pieces that would be presented in the VR Theater screenings and kiosks as well as the Immersive Pavilion’s Arcade, Museum, and Village venues. By combining, my fellow chairs were able to ensure that each piece found its rightful fit within the conference. 


"The Bolt Connection," ©2019 Supinfocom Rubika (France)

Aside from the Electronic Theater, what other elements are there to the festival?

In keeping with our theme of “THRIVE,” there are many collaborators and partner programs that work alongside the Electronic Theater. These include the VR Theater, Real-Time Live!, and Production Sessions programs. 

The VR Theater program will feature two elements: (1) a one-hour program of screenings in a panoramic theater and (2) single-viewer VR kiosks, all of which are experimenting with new technology and levels of interactivity in this ever-evolving art form. 


Real-Time Live! is another event that can only ever be experienced once due to the nature of it being – well – live! Cutting-edge real-time technology demonstrations provide the Tuesday night audience with glimpses at how innovation is meeting the demand for more interactivity in our increasingly connected world. Anything can happen during this competition, which will feature a live audience vote this summer.


And last, but certainly not least, Production Sessions are 90-minute panel presentations with topics that vary greatly each year. This year’s behind-the-scenes sessions range from the biggest blockbuster visual effects features, animation, and television to games, streaming, and even filming VR in outer space. 

One of the best parts about SIGGRAPH is combining experiences with learning in a hyper-concentrated environment. While attendees can view and interact with pieces in the Electronic Theater and the VR Theater, they also have opportunities for deep dives with the original creators on some of these projects through Real-Time Live!, Production Sessions, Talks, and Experience Presentations.


"The Ostrich Politic," ©2019 Gobelins, l'ecole de l'image (France)

How many submissions were received for the Computer Animation Festival? How many projects were acceptedHow many are in the Electronic Theater? 

For the Electronic Theater, there were  385-plus submissions, of which 24 were accepted. For the VR Theater, there were over 70 submissions, of which 15 were accepted. In the Immersive Pavilion, there were 210-plus submissions with 33 accepted. Real-Time Live! had over 40 submissions with 11 of those accepted. And, there were more than 45 Production Session submissions, with 11 accepted. 


What genres do the work span? 

This year’s show is as diverse as our SIGGRAPH communities. Between the Electronic Theater and VR Theater, projects include animated short films, animated feature breakdowns, scientific visualizations, scientific illustrations, visual effects reels, advertising, games, real-time, and even documentary-style filmmaking. 


Were there many international works accepted?

Yes. We received submissions from every continent (except Antarctica) and accepted works from: Serbia, New Zealand, Taiwan, Germany, Denmark, Canada, Singapore, United Kingdom, France and United States.


"Expedition Reef for Educators," ©2019 California Academy of Sciences

What do you think about the quality of the work this year? 

Year after year, I am astounded by the quality of the work submitted and SIGGRAPH 2019 is no different. The show is truly a snapshot in time as it is different each year by its very nature. Not only are present advances in technology on display, but filmmakers are also capturing how they and the world are feeling at this moment in time. There are many poignant messages being explored in this year’s show. While there are truly original stories taking bold risks, the themes still remain universal: loneliness, acceptance, friendship, individuality, society, and so on. As a result, I believe that something in the show will speak to every member of the audience and will stay with them long after the show is over. 


In a way, we also get a glimpse at the future, embodied by the rising talent coming from the incredible student work. Many student pieces are some of the most thought-provoking, and it is exciting to have these young voices contributing to SIGGRAPH. 


"Stuffed" ©2019 Supinfocom Rubika (France)

What are a few of the standouts/highlights of the Computer Animation Festival presentations this year?

Every piece accepted is essential to making up a well-rounded show. Highlights, for me, include exceptionally well-done breakdowns for animated features “How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World” and Academy Award®-winning “Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse,” a premiere of “Mayday – Final Chapter” from Taiwan, a breakout piece from Serbia entitled “Passage,” and the latest short film, “Marooned,” from DreamWorks Animation. 


In addition, all three award winners (“Purl,” “The Stained Club,” and “Stuffed”) have creative teams with women at the helm. This is significant in a time when the call for diversity is at the forefront of our industry and we are striving to take “diversity & inclusion” beyond just buzzwords. New kinds of filmmakers are being recognized alongside new kinds of stories.


Has the prestige of the Computer Animation Festival grown over the years?

Since 1999, the Computer Animation Festival has been recognized as a qualifying festival by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, but it was making history long before then. The Computer Animation Festival has taken many forms through the years and evolved out of generations of pioneers, well before we knew the impact and monetization potential of computer graphics for filmmaking. This is the premier conference and festival honoring computer graphics work and the technology and artistry behind it, not just pretty pictures on a screen. When a piece of work is shown at SIGGRAPH, it is being shown to a professional and industry-versed audience that will be able to appreciate every element. 

"Share Your Gifts," ©2019 Buck&TBWA/Media Arts Lab

Are there any invited or curated pieces? 

Yes: “The Heretic,” a real-time piece from Unity Technologiesand “ILM 2019 – Behind the Magic,” a VFX breakdown from Industrial Light & Magic.


Why should attendees be sure to see the Computer Animation Festival?

Simply put, there is nothing like it. The Computer Animation Festival Electronic Theater is vastly different from other animation showcases. The range of work shown is unparalleled and unique to the SIGGRAPH conference. It is almost impossible to describe the benefits derived from experiencing the Computer Animation Festival firsthand. Some might say “you have to see it to believe it,” but it goes even further—beyond seeing—and can be defined more along the lines of “you have to experience it to believe it.” SIGGRAPH is a place where research and technology of the future meets practitioners of today. Potential and execution collide, putting the SIGGRAPH Computer Animation Festival at the forefront of what is possible when science and art THRIVE together.