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August 5, 2005

Siggraph LA 2005 Aftermath

I wanted to post my thoughts and some details of my journey to this years Siggraph in Los Angeles...

I flew into Long Beach early tuesday morning and headed on over to the Los Angeles Convention Center to start the Siggraph 2005 experience. Once there, I found a couple of compers at Tippett in line for some coffee, Craig Hayes joined us in line a few minutes later to get coffee for the crew setting up the Tippett Booth, so that was pretty cool.

Shortly after coffee the expo opened it's doors and a frenzy of crowds rushed in to grab freebies, drop off demo reels, and soak up the latest and greatest from all the vendors. I made the rounds for a couple hours just trying to see everything and note the booths I wanted to explore in more detail at a later time.

First impressions on the booths, nothing jaw dropping but a lot of them were nice.

Nvidia housed a inflatable dome theatre that showcased a story about the possiblity of life on other planets narrated by Harrison Ford. It was a journey through space and the screen was just about the entire top of the dome, it was pretty darn good.

Sony Pictures Imageworks had their usual drawing session with live models and such. It felt like Autodesk had the biggest booth, with stations around demoing the numerous software they carry, and a center theatre/seating space for the bigger demos. But the alias and Softimage booths were large as well with the big screens and demos all day long. The Disney booth was hiring big time for Toy Story III.

Apple's booth had a cool setup, a short wall that housed workstations for interactive demos, and also gave enough room for the on-lookers to watch the demo from around it comfortably. They used a shot from Starship Troopers 2 to demo a basic shake comp with, it was a shot completed Daniel Bryant from the Outpost sequence, and that was pretty nifty to see demo'd. (even if it was a very bare bones basic script, and they did things I wouldn't do, but still... =) )

As for our booth? I'd say considering the space size 10 out of 10, it was clean, stylish, and friendly. The Tippett booth was mobbed by a crowd relentlessly Tuesday, this was very exciting to see. It very much follows the website, with slices of our images rounding the top of the booth, but it gives way around a display case with 4 maquettes (Tank Bug and Warrior Bug from Starship Troopers, Robocop, and one other green guy). Our logo was backlight bright white and red on a dark gray background so that you can see it all the way across the expo floor, very nice.

Later Tuesday's events included attending a sketch on 'production rendering' the creation and rendering of the cg clouds used in "Stealth" from the team at Digital Domain.
See Also: Wookiee Hair, rendering ambient occlusions with all that fur.

In the later part of the afternoon, another Tippett artist Ari Rubenstien and myself supported Matt Jacobs with his presentation for "Highway to Hell". We found ourselves in a Siggraph prep room, where at the table right next to us, John Knoll, Rob Coleman, and Dennis Muren were preparing for the 'Star Wars Retrospective From Industrial Light & Magic' session later that day, it was the right room to be in, ;) We later went into West Hall B where Matt plugged-in his presentation and we assisted in making sure the audio and video were good to go.

After that the night consisted of making sure the Blur tickets were in hand, thank you Ari. Over the past few years Blur Studio has put on some great parties during Siggraph. I had dinner with Matt and Alan Boucek at the Los Angeles Athletic Club, after that we tried to make it out to the Houdini "Get.Hip" party, but due to some after dinner hotel room drinks we waited until later to attend the Blur Party at the Henry Fonda Theatre in Hollywood.

The Blur party was decent, The Crystal Method was great, I have seen them a number of times, and this was the first time I had seen them take turns behind the tables, it was a cool dynamic to have one behind and the other on stage pumping up the crowd along with the female dancers... Anyhow good people to meet and socialize with a bit, good techno to dance too, and after the Blur party ceased, the after party continued in Venice at Blur Stuidos. It was really cool to check out Blur's digs and hang out with some of the artists there. It was a fun night indeed.

We got back around 5am on Wed, so we slept in a bit, and made it back to Siggraph around Noon... checked out a few more booths, and then made my way to the Gurilla Studio to check out Nuke. I sat down with an intern at Digital Domain who ran me through the Nuke interface and we talked about some of the features and pipeline usage. Some things I found of great intersest is the toggle into 3d space with 3d cameras, projections, tracks, and tons more. It's really easy to take a plate strip its parts, project it back onto some rough geometry, and create a new camera move.

Another is Nuke's Gizmos, so what the heck are Gizmos? well they are basically a smart grouping of node tree that has a switch and slider GUI for control of everything in the gizmo, for example, the Lead Compositors would build a gizmo for the look of the robot in I-Robot, and build in all the parameters that would need tweaking for the robot, then pass this gizmo onto the other compers for them to use. This is great for the lead, but for the general compositor, it means to some degree just monkeying around sliders, and not building, ceating, and problem solving most of their shot. I realize that everyshot is different and has it's own issues to solve beyond the gizmos, and they are a great way to maintain good continuity between shots in a sequence, but come on, let the comper comp! =)

I did some more booth browsing, and briefly checked out a demo of Autodesks Toxik. They were demoing the use of HDR images and the controls for expousure for the image, with the ability to take down hot parts of the image and bring up the darker regions, complete control, very neat.

Wednesday evening was my Electronic Theatre Ticket night, the pre-show entertainment was a live performance hand drawn driven piece by J Walt, with the use of the latest Nvidia technology had the ability to draw in 3d space with the ability to move the camera and place tubular shapped organic shapes like a garden. Autocosm: Gardens of Thuban was quit the trip... lots of groovy colors and shapes and a bit of a build up and climax. Very geeked out, but cool.

The rest of the show was pretty darn good, I always enjoy the VFX company showcase and breakdowns, ILM is still top dog, showing the work on the Lemony Snickets baby, EPIII, and War of the Worlds. DD showed us some good stuff with Stealth and some others... I feel our animation theatre Constantine reel could have been shown here as well. Anyhow, on to the shorts. "9" stood out, very well animated, and it was in a very cool environment with decent art direction.

Other highlights was an abstract piece "Helium", "La Migration Bigoudenn" which follows some old women's ritual of making some sort of flat bread that has to be perfect for approval of the head lady. They showed "Gohper Broke" and that was great to see up on the big screen, that has a great halarious ending to it. "Dice" was an awesome short piece following one die rolling across the ground adding it self to other dice, creating patterns and such, very, very neat stuff. "Cubic Tragedy" was great! It was a pologonal low rez piece where a women in the vanity mirror attempts to smooth out a hard edged cheek bone, she uses 3d modeling tools to try and smooth it out, but ends up merging verticies and ultimatley ends up as the basis of cubisim, awesome short.

"Fallen Art" was great, awesome art direction, interesting charachters and a very interesting story, it's a must see. "Learn Self Defense" was quit funny. "Workin Progress" was brilliant, this one you just have to see for your self...

I however didn't care for the beavis and butthead characters represented by a brain and a crumpled up piece of paper as in-between time fillers... thumbs down.

All though there were a few parties on Wednesday night, EA and Zoic, but I caught up with about 8 others from the Academy of Art days, and we went to Korea town and ate some dinner at a great Korean place. Good food and good friends catching up.

Thursday was more or less my last chance to check out anything I wanted to before my flight home... So I walked around the emerging technologies, but wasn't very impressed with this years geeky gizmos, there was a lot of cool stuff, but nothing that great. I went and saw "Discover" in the animation theatre to watch Tippett Studios Constantine work, and to see the breakdown I did for ha090. The audience liked it, but the gamma and saturation was mush, it looked like mud, flashed and had no 'hell' red in it... that was unfortunate.

All and all it was a fun trip to Siggraph, I'm not sure if I'll go to Boston next year, but it is an excuse to travel to the east coast and visit Boston, so who knows...


Posted by dschnee at August 5, 2005 3:13 PM