Spotlight on Mikki Rose, SIGGRAPH 2019 Conference Chair
July 18, 2019

Spotlight on Mikki Rose, SIGGRAPH 2019 Conference Chair

Recently CGW spoke to Mikki Rose, SIGGRAPH 2019 Conference Chair, about the upcoming conference and trade show July 28–Aug. 1 in Los Angeles.

What can attendees expect differently this year?

We have a big schedule change to announce this year, our Monday Night @ Live extravaganza! At SIGGRAPH 2019, the Computer Animation Festival Electronic Theater will be taking place offsite at fabulous, nearby Microsoft Theater in L.A. LIVE for one night only. Doors open at 5:30 pm and the show starts at 6:30 pm, local time, with award announcements preceding the start time. Come early to get your seat and snap a picture with SIGGRAPH mascot Pixel! The SIGGRAPH 2019 Reception will follow that event, starting at 8 pm on Monday in the L.A. LIVE plaza just outside Microsoft Theater. This will be an awesome setting to network with connections old and new, while grabbing a bite to eat and sipping a drink under the downtown lights. 

We also have a brand-new program we’re debuting at SIGGRAPH 2019: our Adaptive Technology focus area. The goal for this program is to highlight content throughout our conference that helps people in their everyday lives, particularly those with alternate ability levels. Throughout the years, we've seen research in the realm of computer graphics and interactive techniques strike a chord in this area, so this year we actively sought it! In its introductory year, we intended to focus primarily on installations in the Experience Hall with physical applications on-site, though we were pleased to find that several contributions to our Technical Papers, Talks, Panels, and Courses programs also touch on this topic. Throughout our program guides you will see Adaptive Technology content called out next to programming that fits this focus. We also have an interactive touchscreen centered in the Experience Hall for attendees to use to explore the content in an interactive way on-site. 

Additionally, for the first time ever, we will be presenting some of our SIGGRAPH conference awards as part of the Monday morning Opening Ceremony alongside presentation of the ACM SIGGRAPH organization awards. Those include Best in Show honors for Immersive, Emerging Technologies, Art Gallery, Art Papers, as well as all three Computer Animation Festival awards. The ceremony will also induct the latest class of SIGGRAPH Academy honorees and present the first-ever Distinguished Educator award as well as the prestigious Steven A. Coons award. 

Last but not least, I am particularly proud that SIGGRAPH 2019 will be providing childcare to attendees for children between the ages of 6 months and 12 years old. What’s more, we are able to do so by charging just $5 USD per child for the conference week. With this offering, we hope to make it easier for parents of young children to attend the conference, as well as to expose children to computer graphics and interactive techniques at a young age. Our thought is that children who grow up watching role models interested in computer science participate in our community will spark their own interest in STEAM subjects, helping them to get involved in their own time. We'll be here waiting for them when they do!

What will be some of the show’s highlights this year?

I'm most excited to have Victoria Alonso, Executive Vice President of Production for Marvel Studios, as our keynote. She will be speaking in a fireside chat format for a conversation that is sure to be amazing. Ms. Alonso is a powerhouse woman in this industry, and someone I personally have looked up to for a long time. I look forward to hearing about her experiences in filmmaking and her thoughts on the state of our industry as well as what comes next! 

Beyond that, I love going to Technical Papers Fast Forward each year because it is a great way to see a bit about all of the papers being presented, and helps me determine which ones I need to go see. The SIGGRAPH 2019 Mobile App is even set up with a section dedicated to helping attendees of that session follow along with that presentation so everyone can build their schedules right then and there! I suspect interested parties will notice a major uptick in artificial intelligence and machine learning content this year, too.

The Electronic Theater and Real-Time Live! presentations are also always on the top my list as favorites. There is just something about experiencing that content with a room full of like-minded individuals that you can't get anywhere else. Seeing the crowd reactions to the crème de la crème of computer graphics content in the Electronic Theater, and the live presentations in Real-Time Live! is priceless. And, I happen to know they've got some great stuff in both shows this year! 

Our Immersive Pavilion and the VR Theater are also shaping up to be fantastic at SIGGRAPH 2019 as well. The VR Theater screening space has expanded to 55 seats this year in an attempt for us to meet the demand of attendees interested in experiencing the seated show. Additionally, these two programs worked very closely in planning this year to ensure we provide the best possible user experiences… Both are on my can't-miss list! There are a couple of world premiere pieces in each that, at the time of my speaking with you, are still to-be-announced, but we are excited to work with the studios to bring them to our attendees. Finally, I'm personally really looking forward to trying out "Il Divino: Michelangelo's Sistine Ceiling in VR.” This is a project that our own SIGGRAPH 2019 Games Co-chair Christopher Evans put together exclusively for the conference. I've never been to the Sistine Chapel before, but I'm going to feel like I have once I've experienced that project. 

The show is in back in L.A. – what does this locale mean for attendees?

Los Angeles is a location we know and love. For me, it always feels like a homecoming! I can't wait to get there and see palm trees and blue skies greeting me. Downtown L.A. is centrally located to many studios in Southern California and is also a great travel hub for those of us coming from afar—it's a win-win for ease of attendance. We welcome the community of immersive artists and technicians who may be missing VRLA this year to join in on the SIGGRAPH 2019 fun and are thrilled to showcase the future of immersive storytelling. We also invite all the makers out there to join us in the Studio, a hands-on space within the Experience Hall where participants can create to their heart's content!

What is this year’s theme, and how is that reflected in the conference?

This year our theme is THRIVE, which encompasses three main points of the SIGGRAPH 2019 vision: community, sustainability, and spectacle! 

First and foremost, our community is at the heart of the SIGGRAPH experience. Everyone is welcome at SIGGRAPH, and we are working hard on diversity and inclusion initiatives to make sure we are maintaining a healthy, representative community. We started this by working to recruit our conference committee, program subcommittees, juries, and reviewer pools with diversity of all kinds in mind. Those folks, in turn, did outreach to help bring the conversation to our conference. Keep an eye out for the ACM SIGGRAPH Diversity and Inclusion Summit on Sunday, a second-year workshop put on by our organization to continue the conversation on these issues; “Untold HERstories: An Homage to SIGGRAPH,” a panel dedicated to the untold history of female contributors to computer graphics; “Women in CG,” an annual panel that our International Center puts together showcasing the worldwide female experience in computer graphics; and, plenty more Talks, Panels, Birds of a Feather sessions, and projects. 

The sustainability aspect of THRIVE relates both to our environment and the future of our community. Whenever and wherever possible, our SIGGRAPH 2019 team has cut back on physical travel, printed materials, and single-use plastics. We have also encouraged the use of reusable, renewable, or digital materials. We are thrilled with the green initiatives that the Los Angeles Convention Center has put into place over the last several years, earning their event space accolades in energy and water conservation, renewable energy usage, recycling and waste diversion, and sustainable product substitution. This forward-thinking mindset also feeds into our goals for community development. Our thought process is that we need to get children and young adults excited about computer graphics and interactive techniques early and keep them interested throughout those school years, so they can join our ranks years down the road. This is why we have increased our efforts to welcome children and young adults to the conference by offering childcare, increased access for local student groups, updated our Pioneers Mentoring program, and are offering reel and resume review opportunities through our SIGGRAPH Student Services Committee, all while still presenting excellent opportunities to experience the conference from within as a SIGGRAPH Student Volunteer. There is always more to do, but I'm thrilled to have all of these options available to our young participants and cannot wait to see how we progress in the future.

The final point of my vision is spectacle, which is also my favorite! We want this conference to be exciting, sparkly, entertaining… something you will remember years from now as the first time you saw X, that fantastic thing that has since changed your life. This is an educational conference during which attendees are exposed to the latest and greatest in computer graphics and interactive techniques. The best way to learn, though, is by doing, and we want to provide that opportunity. At SIGGRAPH 2019, you should be able to learn about a new method or technique in a talk or paper, see how it was used to create some kind of masterpiece, and then get your hands dirty by trying out the technique—all in the same day. There should be fantastic things around each corner for participants to discover, which can also be discovered through our mobile app, schedule builder, and SIGGRAPH-only ScavengeAR mobile game. This conference should be as fun as it is educational, with attendees leaving inspired to go back to their work to make beautiful art or groundbreaking tools. This, in sum, is how we THRIVE! 

How does this year’s theme resonate with you on a personal level?

Honestly, I am all over this conference theme! One of the first things you do as a conference chair for SIGGRAPH is work on your vision statement and recruit a committee to help you execute it. My ideas around community, sustainability, and spectacle were pretty well set for me, so my task was to find fellow volunteers who share those ideals and run with them. I can't say enough good things about the team of people I've been fortunate enough to work with over the last two and a half years as we have put together SIGGRAPH 2019. Each person came on board and immediately adopted this vision, while simultaneously building on it for their individual programs. We spent some time really working through the concepts together and arrived at one word that encompasses what we were working toward: THRIVE. To me, THRIVE describes everything I've gotten out of SIGGRAPH in my time as a volunteer: a deep network of friends and colleagues I can rely on for fellowship, information, and support; expertise in the areas I study; my career itself; love of travel and exploring different cultures; love of volunteerism; and, continued inspiration. 

How has SIGGRAPH influenced you personally and professionally?

This will be my 18th SIGGRAPH conference and my 17th full year of volunteering with the conference and organization. In that time, I've gone from student to professional, Student Volunteer to Conference Chair, novice to expert. I have a hard time imagining what my life would look like without SIGGRAPH in it, as it has become such a huge part of what I do. I credit SIGGRAPH not only as the catalyst for my decision to continue my education in a graduate program or the lead that got me my first job, but also my continuing career, a network of lifelong friends, leadership, team-building, public speaking, and project management skills…and constant inspiration. Being part of this community is what keeps me going in my day-to-day work.

What positions have you held with SIGGRAPH in the past?

So many! I started out as a student volunteer in 2002, did that for a couple of years, and moved up to Team Leader within the Student Volunteer program in 2005. I volunteered on that subcommittee in 2007, then served as an XSV (ex-student volunteer) in 2008. The year 2009 saw the beginning of our ACM SIGGRAPH Student Services committee, and I signed on to help manage communications, SV program support, reel and resume reviews, and mentoring with that group for several years. I chaired the Student Volunteer program itself in 2012, which was a highlight for me, and then decided maybe it was time to branch out a bit within the conference. I did a special project called SIGGRAPH After Dark for SIGGRAPH 2013, an outdoor interactive movie experience which was a lot of fun! For SIGGRAPH 2015, I took on the role of Computer Animation Festival Co-Director, working with my partner in crime, Joe Takai, to put on our Electronic Theater and Daytime Selects programming (plus a pretty spectacular pre-show if I do say so myself!). In 2016, I had the honor of hosting many fantastic presentations by artists and technicians as Production Sessions Chair, and then later that year I was named Conference Chair for SIGGRAPH 2019. 

Why should a person attend?

There are countless fantastic experiences, installations, talks, sessions, and panels to attend, but the real reason people should attend SIGGRAPH 2019 is for the community. We are all about our people and that is truly the biggest thing you will miss out on by not attending the conference in-person. You can read this year's papers in the ACM Digital Library, but you can't hear the passion in the presenter's voice or ask questions of the authors unless you're there physically. You can watch some of the shorts, VFX breakdowns, advertisements, games, and real-time renderings from our Electronic Theater and Real-Time Live! shows online, but you won't have the same shared reaction if you're not there to watch among several thousand of your peers. You may be able to download some of the VR/AR installations we're showcasing in the Immersive Pavilion or VR Theater to try at home, but you won't get to experience it with other like-minded individuals and interact with the creators. Come to SIGGRAPH to be part of our community!

Anything else you want to point out?

Our conference content is live on the website right now, along with a brand new online schedule builder that attendees can use to mark favorites and build their schedule. The web schedule syncs directly with our mobile app, so you can browse content easily online, mark it as a favorite you want to attend, and then sync that to your phone for use on-the-go at the conference. SIGGRAPH 2019 is right around the corner, so go ahead and register if you haven't already, build your schedules, and get ready for a week of reconnecting with the community, learning from peers, and getting inspired all over again. Sunny SoCal awaits, and I’ll see you there!