Monday, October 8, 2012

SIGGRAPH 2012 Mini Trip Report

[This post will be regularly updated as I think about things to add.   I have put a comment in italics about a test that I saw that I was not supposed to see.  It was by far the best thing I saw at SIGGRAPH].

I always try to get my friends to write trip reports of conferences they attend so that we can all benefit from the experience.   Of course they never do, its too much trouble.

So, to lead by example, here is my micro trip report of SIGGRAPH 2012.

It was a plausible and useful addition to the long line of national SIGGRAPH conferences. It was a worthy addition to the "new SIGGRAPH" I might argue, one that does not demonstrate breakthroughs per se, but does let colleagues talk to each other and does have new ideas and some progress on some fronts if you concentrate on the technical program. The best part of SIGGRAPH was the individual conversations and relationships that occurred, as always. This is also often hit and miss.

The worst part of SIGGRAPH was that, as far as I can tell, there is no economic opportunity there. If you went to SIGGRAPH to get work you were going to be disappointed as there was none there worth speaking of. And none that anyone knew about either. A total zero.

I took the opportunity to try and get to know some people better that I had only seen over the years, particularly Copper Giloth and Jane Veeder. I had an opportunity to talk to the head of something at SIGGRAPH, possibly the national conference, Jeff Jortner.

At the Pioneer's event, I ran into Rodney Stock. Rodney has apparently become fabulously wealthy by creating (with some partners) a device which cuts paper to designs. Something about a partnership with China. I was delighted and thought it was also very funny. He claims that their major customers are in the "Red" states, e.g. he is referring top republican women who cut little paper ornaments for parties, or something.

Technically, the two best parts were the Lytro camera and the MIT work on taking pictures of photons and showing global illumination through a coca cola bottle.

The best animation that I saw was something I can not talk much about.  Through my friend Josh Pines I met someone who had been at ILM and we talked about a number of things, and it happened to come up that I am a giant fan of "tests", which I think are a misunderstood and underrated art form.   He showed me a test for a project that is now cancelled.  He just happened to have it on his laptop.  I can not say what it was.  It did involve motion capture and human figure animation in a non-realistic usage (e.g. animated characters was the goal, not Benjamin Button reality).  It was about 5 minutes long.  It was done at a production company that no longer exists.   

This test was fantastic.  It was a really, really good job.   Of the four main characters, I completely bought the realization of three of them.  The fourth was problematic, but they knew that, and if the project had been continued it would of course have been worked on.   

I saw one thing at Emerging Technologies that was great.   Unfortunately, I am at a loss of how to describe it.  It basically was an exhibit that showed the influence of vision on the sense of touch.   When I find the references and a picture or two, I will do a post about it.

The trade show was about the right size for me. I did not get a chance to do more than about 1/4 of it. I was particularly fascinated by the presence of ESRI which is a major company in the Geospatial world. They were there with their software CityEngine.

I had essentially no contact with anyone from Autodesk.

Other than the Disney party that had no Disney people at it, there were no parties of note that I was invited to. At that party I ran into a fabulous entrepreneur who I will write up in a later post.

I had lunch with Tom Duff, Keith Goldfarb, and Ken Perlin. I talked to Pat Hanrahan, Jim Kajiya, Glenn Entis, Carl Rosendahl, Maija Beeton, Paul Debevec and Ed Catmull. I ran into Peggy Weil and Perry Hoberman. The 80s party was pleasant and among other people, I ran into Liz Ralston, Jane Stefan, Anne Marie and even Brad deGraf from dWi. Also Kerry Colonna who denied ever meeting his famous Roman relatives.  Also Jeff Kleiser, Allen Battino, Joan Collins and Phillip Bergeron of course.

I had a nice conversation with Greg Turk while trying to get him to his train on time.

I was able to track down Mark Levoy who told me that he was no longer working with the Forma Urbis Romae.

Michael Kass was very generous with his time and tried to generate new ideas for me, in terms of what it is I am supposed to do next.

For the first time in many years, I did not see Nick England or Mary Whitton at SIGGRAPH.

They tell me that Jim Blinn did not attend this year.

I tried to attend the awards thing this year, but found it impossible to sit through.  I did not attend the Keynote speech as it did not seem very relevant or interesting.   It may have been, but there was no way I could guess that from how they presented it.   I did not attend the Electronic Theatre, that event has been dead for over 15 years.

As always, the Job Fair was completely useless for me. I did have a very pleasant encounter with someone who tried to couch me on style and approach.

I ran into Bob Lambert briefly at SIGGRAPH. He looked a little thin to me, and he was tragically dead a few weeks later.

Special thanks to Michael Deering and David Coons who helped sponsor me at SIGGRAPH. Without their help, I could not have attended.

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