SIGGRAPH 2021: Delivering Virtually
Karen Moltenbrey
August 6, 2021

SIGGRAPH 2021: Delivering Virtually

Since its inception in 1974, SIGGRAPH has served as a bonding experience for those passionate about computer graphics and interactive techniques. It has evolved from a small event with a few hundred attendees to nearly 50,000 at its peak. While attendance has gradually decreased since then, it has remained relatively steady over the years, no doubt due to the evolving programming that keeps the conference relevant and on-point in this ever-changing industry.
What can we expect from SIGGRAPH 2021? Here, 2021 SIGGRAPH Conference Chair Pol Jeremias-Vila provides an overview of this virtual event.

What can attendees expect from the virtual format this year?
Attendees can definitely expect some surprises. In terms of what will be the same, we will mirror the structure and format of much of 2020’s event via a combination of both live, simulive, and on-demand session content. On-demand content will again be available longer (starting August 2 and concluding October 29).

For what’s new, the list is long. To offer just a taste: We’ve partnered with ohyay to offer spaces for networking/social hours. We have improved time zone management within the virtual platform to better suit our international community, and we are also offering improvements to the chat functionality to better facilitate dialog between attendees and speakers. Finally, we’ll be offering a new format for the Technical Papers Q&A sessions, and we’ve opened ticketing for the Computer Animation Festival Electronic Theater to the public — no conference pass is needed to get a ticket for the animated shorts showcase. Plus, the Electronic Theater is offering a director’s cut of the showcase that will contain bonus content as part of an all-new premium ticket.

Why should a person attend this year?

If you like computer graphics and interactive techniques, this is the event of the year, hands down. Nowhere else can you learn about both the past and future of the industry, explore the latest scientific research and digital art, or hear from the most brilliant minds across the globe. The scope and variety of this year’s event is spectacular!

What are the pros/cons to having the show virtual?
Some of the biggest advantages are no-brainers. With a virtual show that is available beyond just one week, participants can attend more sessions than would be humanly possible during the in-person event, where you are forced to pick and choose. Further, given our global audience, the fact that there is no need to travel is a huge plus for the community’s pocketbooks. People have also responded very positively to the at-home Electronic Theater.

But, of course, the flipside — or downfall — is not being able to gather in the same physical space. Our community, myself included, really misses the community of it all and the networking that just cannot be replicated virtually.

What are some of the show's highlights this year?

There are so many! It would have to be the Technical Papers contributions that will be showcased as well as the new Q&A format I mentioned earlier — which will facilitate excellent conversations with researchers throughout the conference. Beyond that, we’ll have incredible featured speakers every day of the conference. Kicking off with 2019 ACM A.M. Turing Award recipients Ed Catmul and Pat Hanrahan. We also are introducing a new program, Retrospective, that is designed to honor the history of computer graphics, and will have cutting-edge content that covers the latest trends and technological advancements — from behind the scenes of the latest movies and games through Talks and Production Sessions to advanced like attendee-favorite “Advances in Real-time Rendering in Games.”

What did you personally miss most about having a live show?

I miss the camaraderie of gathering among my peers in one giant space most. But, I am so excited to still bring live content to our community virtually this summer — for example, Real-Time Live! and many of the sessions between August 9 and 13 will be broadcast live. Of course, I do look forward to when we can physically gather again.