[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.
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.
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.