Tuesday, August 16, 2016

SIGGRAPH 2016 Report

This is the first report on the SIGGRAPH 2016 conference. I might or might not add a later, more detailed, report. If you have any specific questions, please send me email or comment here and I will try to answer them.


Special thanks to Michael Deering, Terrence Massan, Tom Duff and Ken Perlin for their material contributions to my ability to attend SIGGRAPH at all. Special thanks also to Jon Snoddy for enabling the Disney R&D participation, Wendy Wirthlin of Pixar for enabling my entry into the Pixar reception and to Jerry Weil for a tour of the exhibit floor.  Thanks go to MK Haley for her general hand holding even in absentia.  

Also thanks go to Michael Johnson of Pixar for indulging my neurotic job search issues.


SIGGRAPH this year was about the same as it has been for the last several years.

A. It is very pleasant on a social level.  B.  It is moderately interesting on a technical level, but nothing outstanding.  C. The tradeshow floor was very useful as a way of keeping up with what is happening in production technology.  D. SIGGRAPH has been essentially useless for me for a decade for economic or employment purposes.  E. The job fair was completely useless.  F. The people who run SIGGRAPH seem completely unaware of anything going on outside their very narrow interests, but it is not clear to me that this is the wrong thing.


The idea that SIGGRAPH formed a community of people who were inventing a new field is long, long gone. And thats the way the people who run SIGGRAPH want it to be.  Too bad.  They fucked it up.

AR and VR

AR and VR is now in the "spend money to show how creative we are", or not creative, as you please. Everyone agrees that there is some AR and VR in our future, and most people seems to think that AR will totally dominate over VR, or so it seems from my casual conversations with a few dozen Siggraph participants. Beyond that, there is a lot of skepticism that the hardware available today is definitive, but general agreement that the hardware available soon will be. And that AR in particular will make it easier to deploy this technology vs VR because of the ability to see and not bump into things and the lack of nausea in most AR situations.

I personally had a strong negative reaction to the hype-based "vanity" projects at SIGGRAPH based on AR/VR.  But this might be a little hypocritical of me since, after all, I had benefited so directly from such projects in the early days of computer animation.

Fast Forward

As always, the Fast Forward was the best part of SIGGRAPH. It allowed one to quickly and efficiently get a feel for whether or not a paper was of interest. There were quite a few papers of minor interest to me, but none of compelling (that is, I had to see it) interest.  There should be guidelines about humor for the participants so they do not humiliate themselves.

Keynote Speech

One more time we have a keynote speaker who has nothing to do with the field (an executive from JPL) and who was very nice about thanking us for “our” work maybe 20 years ago. What she forgot to say is that there is absolutely no financing for visualization in space science, that maybe 5 people are employed in that area in the entire United States, and one more time the Keynote Speech was useless, even contemptuous, of all of the thousands of people who devoted their lives to computer animation but have no way to make a living at it. Thanks a lot, SIGGRAPH, I really appreciate it.

Pioneer Reception

The speech by Alvy Ray Smith was interesting but all too short. I was intrigued to see that he was wearing the moral equivalent of a Nehru jacket and that he acknowledged that in general evil geniuses tend to wear them.

Anaheim as a Venue

Remember that this is peak summer and that Anaheim is across the street from Disneyland. Anaheim has in two years become much more expensive, and thus has become less suitable for a SIGGRAPH location. There were no rooms in any hotel for about 50 miles, unless you wanted a $300 a night suite.

The Exhibit Floor

Walked the trade show floor with Jerry Weil and saw numerous interesting things. In particular an Israeli handheld scanner thing that was spectacular.

HDR / Technicolor

Josh Pines and colleague gave an informative discussion of high dynamic range imagery in the glamourous and rewarding motion picture industry.

Pixar Reception

Pixar, it would seem, has completely changed out their old software suite for a completely new one. Which of these are available to the public and which are internal only is not clear to me.

Disney R&D Mixer

I knew almost no one there, but had a very nice chat with Christophe Hery of Pixar and Scott Watson of Disney R&D.

I think that this event could benefit from more structure and I humbly propose one here. Since I presume that most of the attendees were there to push their agendas within the larger Disney financing pool, this could be assisted perhaps by a large Disney org chart positioned somewhere near the entrance, or perhaps also in the food or drink line, that color codes their executives in helpful ways.  It might report the amount of currently budgeted discretionary financing.  Then the Disney executives could wear special color coded hats or other easily visible apparel that could be checked against this chart.

Alternatively, one might consider a handout at the entrance with a picture of each executive or project leader and a brief description.  "Stanley Berriview will entertain concepts based on the real time use of surveillance technology to create a more meaningful guest experience."   And so forth.

Another Point of View

One attendee, Lance Williams, who looks remarkably like an old school Russian revolutionary these days, points out that his employer, NVIDIA, had a foveal display of some sort. This is certainly an idea worth looking at more closely.

Sightings and Social Activities

Richard Chuang, founder of PDI, announced that he was on some committee to help SIGGRAPH figure out what its future is.  The future, or perhaps the doom, of SIGGRAPH will certainly be the topic of one or more posts on this blog.

John Hughes, founder of Rhythm and Hues, and now of Tao Studios in Beijing, was sighted at SIGGRAPH, perhaps the first time in decades.

Jim Hillin was informative about the failure of the crafts to sue to force the US Government to enforce the trade laws regarding subsidies.

Kawaguchi Sake Party had a video of an inflatable Kawaguchi style critter that I thought was very appealing.

Finally met Gene Miller and Garland Stern.

Had a nice chat with Richard Edlund, Ray Feeney, Andrew Glassner, Dave Leavitt, Debbie Deas and Richard Cray.

Finally got to to talk to Aung Min after all these years.

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