Game Papers @ SIGGRAPH
Thursday 29 July 2010 - 05:24AM
Peter Rizkalla

Three panels focusing on video game experiences were held, each with a particular view. Of the three panels, subjects were discussed such as Design Patterns to Guide Player Movement in 3D Games which drew examples from games like F.E.A.R., Bioshock, Medal of Honor and Lost: Via Domus. Why examples from the Lost game were used, I have no clue. It was just a bad game. Also something called the 3PI Experiment which has players were a pair of goggles that displays themselves in a third-person perspective so that players can potentially be in the games they play.

This one was rather interesting but accessories like the Kinect and the PlayStation Eye already have the jump on these guys with much less hardware requirements. Although, you never know; there may be a way in for them. We’ll just have to wait and see how good the Kinect really is. The most interesting of the three was PADS which stands for Player-based Adaptive Difficulty System. This is a game difficulty system designed by Chang Yun and the rest of the department of Computer Science at the University of Houston. Basically, this system changes the difficulty setting of a video game to cater to the player’s skill.

This design is balanced by having the difficulty rise if players exhibit small positive performances and lower if the player exhibits large negative performances. For example; in a shooter, the game would measure how quickly it took the player to beat an enemy, how much energy the player lost during the fight, how much ammo was spent, etc. Different kinds of measurements would have to be created for each kind of game genre.

In a qualitative study this system was tested on 57 participants who all played through the same game on three different difficulty settings, one of which was the PADS system. In this study the participants were not informed of which difficulty setting they were playing at which time yet the majority of the participants still chose the PADS setting as the most enjoyable.

Chang Yun commented saying that he hopes game developers will incorporate the PADS system into their games with the option to turn it on or off in addition to the option of choosing the traditional easy, medium or hard difficulty settings if they like.
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Production Sessions
Thursday 29 July 2010 - 04:52AM
Paul Hellard

The major element in Avatar: The Last AirBender' was the Fire, Air and Water session in the big West Hall B this morning. Andrew Hayes, Ron Henderson, Brett Miller, Stuart Tett and Tobin Jones from DreamWorks Animation, shows their collaborative efforts creating visible air as it is pushed from ground to character. There's a lot of dust in this air, solely for the purpose of visibility. In some cases, there were 2.5 billion particles of dust making up the clouds of smoke, fire and dust.

Plume is the CUDA based 3D Fluid Solver adopted and adapted by DreamWorks to make the fire tornadoes pliable and believable. "For this show, we had to create fire that was believable, could be thrown straight at camera, and the camera itself was moving around a lot," says Andrew Hayes. "Plume was written in CUDA, on GPUs and this tool allowed us to get our fire completely controllable."

Once back outside into the halls, I had a few appointments way down the other end of the conference complex. I don't I was the only one cos it was suddenly incredibly full halls. Changing time at SIGGRAPH. An extra moment between rooms discussing with colleagues the advantages to the new Alembi open source software announced yesterday by Sony Pictures Imageworks and Industrial Light & Magic. The concensus is that this can only have good consequences to the production process.

More later.

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NVArt 5 winners
Thursday 29 July 2010 - 02:42AM
Paul Hellard

The results of the fifth collaborative contest between CGSociety and NVIDIA were announced this afternoon at the NVArt booth #1101.

Syd Mead made a couple of widely publicized visits to the SIGGRAPH show floor. Known as the Visual Futurist behind the art and design of the original TRON movie and Blade Runner, Syd Mead made the announcement this afternoon. He was very enthusiastic about the many great entries and stayed around to sign special prints of some of his iconic work, and copies of the Ballistic Publishing's EXPOSÉ 6, in which he is Grand Master.

Related links:
NVArt5 Winners
Syd Mead
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SIGGRAPH Wonderland
Thursday 29 July 2010 - 02:20AM
Peter Rizkalla

In probably the largest arranged hall of the Los Angeles Convention Center, a crowd of developers, animators and a fleet of students were treated to a production panel showing the development of Alice in Wonderland. Devs from Imageworks were on hand to not only treat us to the development of the film but to some 3D clips as well. Highlights of the entire panel were how characters in Alice in Wonderland were created. Let’s first start off with everyone’s favorite character, the Cheshire Cat. The Imageworks devs wanted his dialogue animations to look and sound cat like. Not so much a stereotypical cat but feline nonetheless. A ball-point pen scribble of the Cheshire Cat drawn on a piece of scratch paper by the director gave the devs an idea of how his personality should be in the film. As anyone can see in the final build, Cheshire Cat is very mischievous and slinky in his movements.

The Caterpillar is also a key character in the movie. Imageworks had a fondness for this character and really wanted to portray his personality accurately. First, they made his body very gelatinous and squishy with his body undulating and his many legs telescoping in and out. Next was his trademark Hooka that he smokes; in his original dialogue tests, the animators have him give his dialogue pretty cut and dry. Although they could have left it this was and it would have been fine, they went back to make his dialogue even more interesting by having him interact much more with his Hooka while talking like pointing with it and playing with the mouthpiece. The devs even took things a step further by having him interact with the smoke that would float up from the hooka which means they had to do work by going back and forth between viewing the physical geometry and viewing the smoke effects to get them to synch up just right. A disaster almost hit the devs at one point when a slew of executives left Disney during the production and the ratings people became involved with the production of Alice, saying “You can’t have smoking in a Disney film!” The Imageworks guys freaked thinking “How can you have this character without his trademark Hooka?” Fortunately, they fought it right on up to the hill and the Hooka is still intact.

Johnny Depp as the Mad Hatter went through some awesome development as well. The first thing they wanted to incorporate was Tim Burton’s drawn art style into the character and Tim Burton had the Mad Hatter’s eyes enlarged. So the compositing guys put together an eye enlarging video test on clips from Johnny’s previous movies just to get a feel for how it would look. The director and Tim Burton both liked the way the test turned out so they went with it. Johnny Depp’s eyes get a 50% enlargement throughout the film. The Mad Hatter’s clothing would also animate throughout giving the feel as if it’s alive or as if something mechanical is happening underneath his clothes that we don’t know about. The clothing color would also change with the color of the Hatter’s eyes and skin, based on his mood.

Imageworks 'Alice in Wonderland' panel.

Finally, the Red Queen was a work of compositing art. Once again, Tim Burton’s drawn art style has a very abstract looking, short Red Queen with a large head and a tiny waist. Nuke was used to do the heavy lifting when creating the look. First, the Red Queen’s head was enlarged and then comp’ed back onto the actress’ body. Next was altering her scale to make her the size they intended. Finally came synching her waist and that was basically it. It seems like the Red Queen was one of the easier characters to create. Even Alice seemed like more of a challenge due to her constantly changing size throughout the film, creating problems with scale and eye-line.

Related links:
Sony Imageworks
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Houdini 11 released!
Wednesday 28 July 2010 - 17:38PM
Roger Magee

New Flip Fluid Solver, Dynamic Fracturing Tools And A Streamlined Lighting Workflow Give Artists More Control In Their Day-To-Day Work.

Side Effects Software, an industry leader in 3D animation and visual effects software, is excited to announce the immediate release of Houdini 11. With a focus on productivity, Houdini 11 meets the needs of artists and studios who are looking for ways to accomplish more and work faster. From the new FLIP fluids solver, which offers amazing speed and control, to automatic fracturing of RBD objects, to a re-architected shader building workflow, artists will be able to work much more effectively with Houdini 11.

Related links:
Side Effects Software
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Wednesday 28 July 2010 - 10:45AM
Paul Hellard

This afternoon, I just saw eight full stereo minutes of the December release, TRON.

In a presentation that had people scrambling, (if not for the fact the session was shifted back two days at short notice) filmmakers Joseph Kosinski (director), Jeffrey Silver (producer) and special effects and animation leads Eric Barba and Steve Preeg sought to bring the production challenges into focus. As a filmic vehicle, TRON holds the legacy of the longest time distance between the original and the sequel. In this film, the digital doubles had to stand up to the same as Benjamin Button, and further.  "TRON is something else, but the audience is pretty savvy nowadays" says Eric Barba.

In TRON Legacy, there was a stereoscopic affect the beginning and the end of the pipeline.  Getting people to understand the new challenge was the biggest challenge. The TRON production was using the new Sony F35 camera with a full 35mm sensor, with a full Prime lens system with f ratings of 1.3. As an old focus puller, I was sitting in awe of the crew, as this, remember, was stereo. There were two cameras, at the very least, adding to the focus puller's nightmare of low light and a focus depth of field of about two millimetres.

Sometimes the only thing lighting the scenes was the suits.  So some of the scenes were lit in studio from LEDs on the suits themselves.

During the concept stage of the original, two of the greatest concept designers on the planet were sitting together, Syd Mead and Mobius. The producers had to find and merge the best minds today for the same 'kind' of project. There was year to a year and a half for the TRON Legacy production.

Live action filmmaking techniques in a digital world.

During the presentation, the audience was asked how many of them had seen the original TRON.  All hands.  Another question was how many had seen TRON recently, and a good proportion put their hands up. During question time, an hour later, someone asked how many in the audience has WORKED on the original TRON, as she had done so and wanted to meet up with them. About six hands went up.  It was a special moment.  Big applause, of course.

Related links:
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Blowing $h!t up!
Wednesday 28 July 2010 - 03:02AM
Peter Rizkalla

While searching for a panel to attend today, I came across a destructions and deformations panel called “Blowing $h!t Up”. All of a sudden my problem had been solved for me. Seriously, I absolutely had to attend this panel just for the name! Developers from ILM and Digital Domain shared how they created various destructive scenes in Avatar, Transformers 2 and 2012

Avatar - 'Bending Rigid Bodies'
In one of the final scenes of the movie Avatar, the Dragon military aircraft crashes into the forest in a fiery heap. ILM devs Steve Sauers and Mike Lentine talked about how they destroyed the Dragon.

First, a proxy model of the Dragon’s basic shape was created and chopped up into sub-sections to get a feel for how it would look when hitting the ground. Then deform cages were applied to the proxy model; this is what they called the “Floppy Dragon”. Once the deformations were working the way they wanted it to, they created a sock model and “proxyed” it to the final model.

Basically how the deformations work in this instance is that the high resolution model is imbedded onto the low resolution deformable cage, or spring model. After the intended collision, the spring model behavior is removed.

The ILM guys originally tried a full-on cloth simulation but chose the proxy model technique instead. Their reasoning is due to the fact that it was less expensive to their resources than if they chose to use the cloth simulation method. During the proxy model method the processing would only slow down during the point of actual collision whereas a cloth-sim would take forever to process each frame.

Transformers 2 - 'Breaking Buildings'
Senior Software Engineer, Brice Criswell first explains some of the many 3D destruction techniques used at ILM. First is what they call a Clustering System. The idea behind the Clustering System is basically a model will begin as 1 piece and then an animator will time when pieces of that model will detach from the main model body and react with pre-determined behaviors. The second is a pre-scored geometry system where models will be pre-broken into shards, placed back together and then broken apart when needed. Yet another method involved decay fields where geometry would decay based on a web-like, modeled field that is applied to the geometry. Any part touching the web would dampen on command while all the other parts remain stiff.

The building to be destroyed using these methods would be the tower in the Paris scene of Transformers 2. The tower was modeled Brick by brick and it’s destruction was broken up into 2 shots while having all the previously mentioned destruction methods play nice together. This seems like a huge task for a team that was told at the beginning of this project to make it all happen with almost no budget.

Destroying LA for '2012'
"And then California sinks into the ocean," was the exact line from the 2012 script that Digital Domain had to make a reality. Seems simple right? Of course, imagining this would turn out to be a project of enormous magnitude and a few crayons and some stick figures falling into pits just wouldn’t get the job done.

A lot of the ideas for destroying LA in 2012 were actually inspired by Digital Domain’s previous work on Mummy 3. They used Houdini DOPs in Mummy 3 which was good for simulations but bad for rigging. Their workflow involved geometry, fractures, more geometry, prep, point clouds, rigging and even more geometry which was all fed through solvers which kicked out yet another point cloud.

Bullet physics were used for the collision detection and constraints. The great thing about Bullet is that it is open-source so the DD devs were able to go in and break certain constraints while weakening other constraints. To keep things simple, they advised that when animating larger objects they just made things easy on themselves and used Bullet’s “compound objects” feature rather than hope to keep things together with really strong constraints.
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Tuesday 27 July 2010 - 08:54AM
Paul Hellard

Weta started the day again today with yet another homage to the creation of 'AVATAR.'

This morning the focus was on the virtual cameras, the virtual production stage and a look at the lighting engines used. Some interesting expose's of the studio shoot process. A great study of the merging of different size players and perspectives into the one shot. Sometimes, there were up to twelve cameras of the same shot from different angles, feeding data into the mother drive, so the full visual coverage was available for the final edit.

It was time to rush down to the West Hall B for the Keynote by Don Marinelli but before that, the SIGGRAPH Awards were given out.

2010 Significant New Researcher Award went to Alexei Efros.

2010 CG Achievement Award went to Jessica Hodgins,

2010 Distinguished Artist Award for Lifetime Achievement, Yoichiro Kawaguchi

and the 2010 Outstanding Service Award went to Kellogg Booth.

Don Marinelli was a blast. In fact, his business and college partner Randy Pauche, once said "sharing an office with Don Marinelli was like sharing a tornado." Don's story about 'walking across the cut, into the computer science faculty at Carnegie-Mellon, from the arts and drama department.'  He fully expected to be laughed out of the area. Perhaps they were going to give him a math test to get into the department, "but even more horrifying would be a math test to get out."

This keynote was strong, passionate and a 'call from the mountaintop' for educational reform in the universities. Marinelli said these are the same cuts that have been slowly eroding the schools culture for the longest time.

He said,"the students are the lifeblood of the country.  Get them outside to experience life. Paint your walls.   Life is your continuing education."  

Related links:
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Borderlands at SIGGRAPH
Tuesday 27 July 2010 - 02:30AM
Peter Rizkalla

To show off Borderlands we have VP of Product Development, Aaron Thibault and Senior Rendering Engineer Sean "Zoner" Cavanaugh. "Mad Max meets Halo," is exactly how Thibault described that they wanted the world of borderlands to feel like. “A world that feels like Mad Max but sci-fi.” He says. The original idea for Borderlands was a retro, sci-fi title much like Fallout. It was very army-ish and drab. There were only two original bad guys at that time; bandits and skags. Both made it to the final product.

Towards the second stage of development, they developed Helena Pierce and wanted the game to feel over the top and dangerous. About this time they began to get more and more unhappy with the color palette. The game began to evolve into a more realistic and believable look when what they wanted was an over the top feel to it. You can't have a realistic character in a realistic environment jumping 20 feet in the air or doing something else over the top like shoot a guy in half Unreal style. It just doesn’t work.

The big art change went down in late 2008; just before final push which Thibault mentioned “Would not recommend that anyone do a change like this so late in development." Being unhappy with the way the game was turning out a small team of devs behind closed doors went back into the original concept art to see what went wrong. They loved the quality of the lines in the concept art so they decided to create an outline around characters and probs. A coder trick where the geometry was reversed produce the outlines did the trick but the textures still looked drab. They then came across a piece of concept art which looked exactly how they wanted the game to look; like an “ink on paper” feel. The textures were then changed from “photo realistic” to “graphic novel style” and the new art style was born!

Sean "Zoner" Cavanaugh now takes the mic to give us the meat and potatoes. The first thing he says which, what the Borderlands devs have been saying for years, is “This is not cel shaded! We kept the Phong lighting on the characters.” Speaking on the character outlines, “Would have like to Inject an edge detection post process filter into out pipeline, but that just didn’t happen.” Which would have basically been the same process used in the 2008 Price of Persia title.

He then emphasized that the frame-rate had to remain fast so the rendering order had to be precise. The rendering order included a “depth only” pre-pass, cascading shadow maps, fog and distortion. A Naive Sobel Shader Filter code kept the outlines in check but not without some major tweeking. It worked but it was ugly the first pass through. Mainly it was outlining edges that they didn't want to outline such as grass and foliage. Also, edges that they wanted to outline were not being outlined at all. To fix the foliage problem they used stencil buffer masks instead of alpha blending and, boom, the foliage outlines were out. FP16 W encoding was used for the PS3 and PC versions but did not work so well on the Xbox 360 version. Instead they used Z buffering for 360.

As for news on additional DLC and a possible Game of the Year edition for Borderlands, the answer I received was a resounding “No comment.”

Related links:
Borderlands on CGSociety
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Mirrors Edge at SIGGRAPH
Tuesday 27 July 2010 - 02:26AM
Peter Rizkalla

Mirror's Edge
EA DICE developer Henrik Halen explained the style of Mirror's Edge. This first-person free running title had an art style with strong colors and stylized graphical simplicity. Originally, Mirror’s Edge would have taken place in 3 cities; New York, Rio and Tokyo. Rio was later excluded and then Tokyo and New York were merged into one city for the game. Concept photos of New York were great for the architecture of the game but were too gray. Photos of Tokyo showed very white buildings as well as buildings with reflective surfaces. They then decided to stick Tokyo’s materials onto New York’s architecture. The devs decided to use very few colors for Mirror’s Edge to keep with the “graphical simplicity” theme; red highlights, white buildings, blue skies, and orange accents. Halen cited that “adding anymore color to the exterior, like green, made things look like a kindergarten classroom.” However, green worked well as an interior color in some cases. In fact, interior scenes in Mirror’s Edge would always use one color such as green or orange along with white.

Fair use of color to guide the player was used such as red colored props that would guide to the right direction. Also environment aspects around the red highlighted areas were made to blur slightly so as to direct the players eye. The DICE devs wanted to keep the environments white… really white! Problem is that making things super white blows out the details of the world so there had to be a balance where they made the world as white as they can while still preserving important details of the environments. Using neutral materials and keeping an eye on the white balance was crucial. The devs proactively resisted tweeking individual surfaces; instead, if adjustments really needed to be made, they would use the lights in a realistic way while sticking to the MacBeth color checker palette.

At any given time, Mirror’s Edge would run up to 15,000 meshes and up to 2000 lights per scene.

Related links:
Mirrors Edge on CGSociety
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Tuesday 27 July 2010 - 02:11AM
Peter Rizkalla

The SIGGRAPH panels on game development started off with Stylized Rendering in Video Games.

Three of my absolute favorite titles were used as examples in this particular panel and for very good reason; the 2008 Prince of Persia title, Mirror’s Edge and Borderlands.

Prince of Persia
Ubisoft Lead Graphics Programmer, Jean-Francois St-Amour, breaks down Prince of Persia. This specific Prince of Persia title was lauded for it’s gorgeous palette and beautiful cel-shaded presentation which is a dynamic twist from previous PoP titles. Ubisoft devs intended on creating a very stylized world with inspiration taken not from harsher elements such as “lightning” but from softer elements such as “calligraphy”. For example, the secondary character Elika’s magic attacks emit self lit calligraphy-esque trails. As for the environments, "The world had to feel integrated into nature and not built on top of it." Says Jean-Francois. Monsters on the other hand had needed to look like they were made from the black goo called “Corruption”. Funny story; the idea for Corruption actually came from an episode of Big Bang Theory where a gooey mixture of cornstarch and water seemed to have a mind of it’s own as it was bounced around from the bass of a subwoofer.

Original concept ideas for Elika actually had her as a monkey that sat on the Prince's shoulder. When the first pitch trailer was produced, Elika was then settled on being a magical female as we all know. However, the original art style had Elika looking much different with long white hair and fair skin. The Prince also looked quite different. The first pitch was turned down by Ubisoft heads critiquing that the characters and environments looked too anime. "Miyazaki-ish" was their exact description. To me it looks a lot like something from the creator of Ico.

A year later many changes were made. Black outlines around characters and objects were developed by rendering the models twice while backfacing the models. Also bias helped eliminate most of the uglier edges. For lighting, each character received specific sunlight and ambient light which is probably why there are so few human characters in the game. Finally a very aggressive diffuse ramp was also added to get the style that we see in the final render.

Shadows needed to be sharp so the devs created a white outline around the shadows. To do this, they took a composite image and added an edge filter result which created an outline, not only the shadows, but around everything. A little tweeking of the edge filter and the shadows came out great.
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NVART 5 winners announced
Tuesday 27 July 2010 - 00:59AM
Paul Hellard
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Monday 26 July 2010 - 02:42AM
Paul Hellard

We could all feel it at the start of the day. The approaching storm of activity at the LACC.

How could I forget the large spread of corridors, session halls and the anticipation of the sessions. Terrence Masson, the Chair of the LA conference, stopped by to tell me how he felt too. "I'm confident of the week panning out extremely well. The sessions are looking great, but later in the week I'll relax. Not yet."

The gamespace seems to be catered better this year too. The science behind the game engineering is being taken seriously. There will be coverage of some of the tougher game sessions online soon.

Glowing Pathfinder Bugs.

The Art Gallery opened first, as many of the throng did their level best to take in the significance of the interactive displays. Interactivity seems to be even more pronounced this year than last. Feedback in light, sound and touch. A light beetle shuffles through sand and jumps onto a passing hand, only to jump back down into the sand to seem to disappear below the surface. In fact the whole Gallery area was swamped for quite some time after it's opening.

Session change, Art Gallery opens.

T-Shirt slogan spot of the day, 'I'm not a Geek, I'm a 12th level Paladin'

Just outside the Art Gallery hall is an interesting run of stands, showing the newest and most successful 3D Printing technology. The space just beside the hallways on one side and the Art Gallery room on the other is a true geek's heaven. I mean, another one.  Neck deep in technology, some of these guys were obviously loving what they do.

I'm sure this is exactly where he would rather be.

Avatar features quite strongly at SIGGRAPH since it is the golden child of 3D cinema this year. The first Technical Production Session was about the plant life and populating the jungles. The problems this brought forward were not just the creation of the forest in of itself. Or the stereoscopic presentation of these forests as the characters moved through them, but it was the holding of the colors while the lighting was moving, the parallax was changing. Under the guidance of Alexis Casas, Weta Digital artists Simon Clutterbuck, among many others, showed how they managed to light semigloss surfaces of particular color, in stereo and kept the renders true in color, form and texture, using PantaRay.

Weta Digital talks about wrangling the plants in the Well of Souls.

After a drive out to Pasadena for a soire´ at Syd Mead's residence, Mike Hepburn and I were delivered back to the CGTalk Meetup, set to go off at the Westin Bonaventure.  It was a great night.  Fantastic to see so many of the community back for the mixer, and tremendous also to meet so many new faces to put to names I've known for a few years. We even had Aurelien Rantet, the Individual Video Winner in the CGChallenge 'Secret Agent' come along. As it was very loud in the room, I would like to repeat Aurelien, it was fantastic to have your friends, your teacher and you at our humble SIGGRAPH drinks party. There was about 80-100 all up, even though the Westin Bonventure really must be the weirdest navigational set up. For many, it was like an episode of the Twilight Zone for a while. Sorry to those who got lost. It was very easy to do, cos I think we all were for a time.

CGTalk Meet up at the Westin.

All said and done, this SIGGRAPH Sunday was a very enjoyable one. Onwards.

Related links:
Art Gallery
CGChallenge 'Secret Agent' winner
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SIGGRAPH preparation
Sunday 25 July 2010 - 01:17AM
Paul Hellard

With SIGGRAPH almost upon us, I am beginning to see a few familiar faces.
We've truly only one more day of sun before disappearing into the depths of the session halls at the Los Angeles Convention Center to feed the brain.

Some of the Emerging Technologies I've been hearing about for SIGGRAPH are truly astonishing. Clearly only a prototype, the Sony RayModeler is a 360-degree autostereoscopic display in a standalone cylinder, perfect for virtual product demonstrations. The application of the technology is truly 'Star Wars' reality, perhaps. Check out the vid below.

The Ballistic crew decided to take in some of the sights of Sunset Blvd and Hollywood today. In our 'rather large' vehicle, we took off to some 'off the wall' clothes and bookshops.  Sunset has some of the most impressive niche design and photography bookshops I've ever seen. Checked out The Farmers Market at The Grove for extreme retail therapy and Tokidoki for the crazy collections of their own comic heroes. This is a lazy day for us and involved a great deal of walking.  Something tells me we'll be doing a fair bit of that this coming week once the show actually begins.

This evening, I treated myself to a screening of 'Inception', down the street at the LA Live cinemas with a small group.  The film was barely released when I left the country so it was my first chance.
DO see this film. Paul Franklin's crew did an amazing job.

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SIGGRAPH arrivals
Saturday 24 July 2010 - 00:17AM
Paul Hellard

Landing in Los Angeles this morning and the smooth flight was fantastic courtesy, due to Airbus engineering.
I love the new A380. Especially for the long haul flights from Australia. That's a lot of dark water we fly over.

The Staples Center and surrounds have been unclad now for about a year, but it was all new to me. What was previously placarded worksites, has revealed acres of restaurants and bars, cinema complexes and concert stages. Our hotel, the Figueroa, sits down to one side, into the downtown LA district a little. Very cool indeed, with a relaxed Moroccan charm which is at once disarming and welcoming. 

Like a lot of you, I get a kick out of technology. Next week's convention will be jammed with sessions that delve into the cutting edge of CG. The Technical Papers Fast Forward session on Sunday will give you a peek. Sure there will be the odd software upgrade mentioned at a user group or two as well, and don't miss the unique chance to talk to the people who wrote them when you're there. There are some superb demos planned at the Pixologic booth for the unveiling of ZBrush 4.0, for instance.

NVIDIA and the CGSociety crew has collaborated in staging the latest online contest and are ready with the NVArt stand at #1101 and the Breakpoint bookstore is crammed with the latest Ballistic book stock.

The Ballistic crew kicked back, shaking ourselves from the jetlag, and went out to eat at 'Wolfgang Pux', one of those new restaurants near the Nokia Theater. I think somebody needed a little sleep afterwards.

Related links:
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Wednesday 21 July 2010 - 01:19AM
Paul Hellard

The official SIGGRAPH 2010 application provides a complete schedule of SIGGRAPH 2010 programs and events, plus all the detailed information you need to plan your week, day, or next hour at the conference: speakers, topics, locations, date, time, Computer Animation Festival screenings, exhibitor data, and more.

The best thing about this app is (if you have an iPod Touch or an iPhone to begin with), is that is does not need a WiFi network to operate at all. There are several extra that can be set go to the web, but with many international visitors using this in at the Los Angeles SIGGRAPH, there is no need to worry that a big scary bill is building for you when you get home.  All the information is in the app.  No Network required.

For those without an iPhone, (I know you're out there), there is also a Blog from a fellow with a selection of Google Calendar presets, available to download or subscribe to as XML, HTML or iCal formats. These are available as individual categories, including Courses, Panels, Papers, Talks, Special events or Birds of a Feather.

Links below!

Related links:
Smudgeproof SIGG App
Skitten GCal links
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Tuesday 20 July 2010 - 17:14PM
Paul Hellard

SIGGRAPH Venice Beach Party!
Sunday25th July 2010. from 12 Midday till 8pm
Join us for the second annual LA SIGGRAPH CG Beach party. The Party officially starts at midday and is open to all CG Students and professionals who love the sun. Helpful to those of us who haven't seen the sun for a while.
Where? To the right of the Venice Fishing Pier at the end of the Washington Blvd.
MORE info.

The Unofficial CGTalk Meetup
Sunday July 25th, 6:30pm
Westin Bonaventure.
Bona Vista Room
The most unofficial get-together of them all.
No freebies but lots of people.

The Foundry GeekFest

Monday 26th July, 2010.
from 5:00pm
[I think this one is full...]

This event is FREE, but places are limited and fill fast, so don't miss out REGISTER NOW.
MORE info.

The ACM Chapter Party
Club 740
Monday July 26th, 2010
8:30pm - 2:00am

You must present an invite - available at the ACM SIGGRAPH Chapters Booth in the ACM SIGGRAPH Village in the West Lobby of the LACC - or your conference badge to enter the club. MORE info.

Houdini 11 Launch Event
860 South Los Angeles Street • Suite 900 • Los Angeles, California • 90014

July 27, 2010.

7:30PM - 8:00PM Registration
8:00PM - 9:30PM Presentation
9:30PM - 12:00AM Networking Event and Reception

The networking event will include live entertainment from Fire Groove, and DJ'd music with complimentary drinks and bites. Also, several studios will be recruiting for Houdini talent while you mingle.

MORE info.

Siggraph After Party - 3D Production
July 27, 2010 5-8pm
ESPN Zone at L.A. Live
19th Hole Bar
1011 S. Figueroa St, Ste. B101
Los Angeles, CA 90015

Join us on for an exclusive SIGGRAPH after party. Isilon, Integrated Media Technologies (IMT), Atempo, and Southpaw present an evening of fun, food, and drinks with the creative minds behind some of today's hottest 3D Productions.
Guest speakers and topics will include:
    •    Wayne Miller, President and Chief Creative Officer of Action 3D – How he shot live concerts like Dave Matthews, Phish, and JayZ in 3D
    •    David Kenneth, Executive Producer of IE Effects – How his firm developed the 3D exhibit for the World Fair in China and the work they did on Michael Jackson's This Is It in 3D
SIGGRAPH Reception
Wednesday 28th July, 8-10pm at the Westin Bonaventure Ballroom

Mingle with the movers and synergize with the shakers as the international computer graphics community gathers for its biggest social event of the year. Bring your business cards. SIGGRAPH 2010 provides food, beverages, and a legendary LA location: The Westin Bonaventure Hotel, which has starred in many feature films: “Buck Rogers in the 25th Century”, “This is Spinal Tap”, “In the Line of Fire”, “Nick of Time”, “True Lies”, “Midnight Madness”, “Hard to Kill”, and “Chuck”. In “Escape From LA” and “Epicenter”, it was destroyed by visual effects.
...the same info.

23rd Anniversary CG Show/SAKE Barrel Opening Party
6PM on Wednesday July, 28
JW Marriot, Salon C
MORE info.

BLUR 2010 - The Ultimate SIGGRAPH Party
Wednesday July 28th 9pm-2am
Music Box Theater
Invite/Wristbands Only
It will be featuring a new dancing/performance act in between the DJ set and the Crystal Method gig.

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SIGGRAPH 2010 Cheat Sheet
Friday 16 July 2010 - 21:22PM
Barbara Robertson

SIGGRAPH promises production sessions, best CG short films, technology, and, of course, product demos galore.

The exhibition floor opens Tuesday morning and runs through Thursday afternoon. Look for announcements from all the major vendors in the days leading up to the show, and get hands-on experience at the show.

As Masson says. You have to go to get the hands-on, face to face experience. If you are short on coins, you can buy a one-day basic pass for only US$45 or a one-day computer animation festival pass for $50. Check the cheat sheet to pick your day/s. Meanwhile, here’s the rest of the 'damage.'

Registration Fees; [All US$]

Full: You get it all for $1220
Members: $1,170; Student Members: $495.
Full One Day: $475 buys it all for one day.

Members: $425; Student Members: $225

Basic Conference: $175; Members: $150

Basic One Day: $45

Exhibition, Art Gallery, Birds of a Feather, Emerging Technologies, Exhibitor Tech Talks, Keynote Speakers, International Resources, Job Fair, Posters, The Studio, The Sandbox, Posters, Research Challenge Results, Technical Papers Fast Forward, and Dailies!

Computer Animation Festival: $200; Members: $175; Student Members: $150

CAF One Day: $50


On Sunday July 25, 25,000 or so CG artists, scientists, technical wizards, product developers, and lookielous descend on the Los Angeles convention center ready to learn, interact, teach, people watch, play, buy and sell. This amazing digital art and technology circus continues until Thursday, and it’s packed with the most valuable, interesting, and incredible sessions you could wish for.

We cherry picked a few with a decided slant toward production. We didn’t sort through the technical papers – if you can read math, you’re already on the website checking them out. And we separated out most of the courses from everything else, because if you want in, you probably need to sign up . . . right . . . now. OK, here goes!

Geek Out! The Courses

Like all courses, this selection requires Full registration. Note that some are quarter-sessions, so afternoon classes that look like they conflict might not.


Sunday afternoon: Build your own 3D display; Image statistics; Perceptually motivated graphics, visualization, and 3D displays; Processing for visual artists and designers.

Tuesday afternoon: 3D spatial interaction with videogame motion controllers.


Sunday: Physically-based shading models (afternoon)

Monday: Biomedical applications (morning); Stylized rendering for games (morning)Advances in real-time collision, proximity computations for games and SIMs (afternoon).

Tuesday: Color enhancement and rendering for film and games (morning); Importance sampling for production rendering (afternoon)

Wednesday: Advances in realtime rendering I (morning) and II (afternoon); Volumetric methods in visual effects (morning); Applications of visual analytics (afternoon); Use eye tracking to control virtual characters (afternoon).

Thursday: Realtime hair rendering and simulation (morning)Advanced.

Sunday: Spectral mesh processing (afternoon).

Thursday: Beyond Programmable Shading I (morning) and II (afternoon); Global illumination across industries (afternoon).

SIGGRAPH 2010 Day-by-Day Cheat Sheet

With an admitted emphasis on content for animation, games, and visual effects studios.
Key: (B = Basic; C = Computer Animation Festival; F = Full)


9:00 to 6:00 – Registration, Store
12:00 – 5:30:
Emerging Technologies (interact with the future). Room 152 (BF)
Geek Bar (comfy chairs, wifi, streaming content): Room 409 (F)
The Sandbox (play games) – outside Room 403AB (BF)
Posters (future CG on cardboard) – West Lobby (BF)
The Studio (make art) – Room 151 (BF)
Art Gallery (interact with sensual, sensory objects) – Room 150(BF)

2:00 – 2:30 – Screening: Commercials and Cinematics. Room 408B (CF)
2:00 – 3:30 – Avatar in Depth: Nine people who worked on the crew at Weta Digital plus two researchers from NVIDIA share their wit and wisdom. Very Techie. Room 515AB (F)

2:00 – 5:15 – Course: Physically-based shading models at Imageworks, ILM, and from game developers. Room 502B (F)

3:45 – 5:15 – Panel: Future directions in graphics research with Jessica Hodgins, James Foley, Pat Hanrahan and Donald P. Greenberg. If they don’t know, who does? Room 408AB (F)
Elemental, my dear CG artist: Fire bending at ILM, fire breathing at DreamWorks Animation, water bending at ILM, and earth-shattering at Double Negative. Room 515AB (F)
*6:00 – 8:00 – Technical Papers Fast Forward: Researchers compress their work down to a one-minute presentation. If you can’t get into the full conference, or you can’t read math, or you just love to see geeks on speed and want to know the most technically cool stuff, this is a don’t miss event. (BCF)



8:30 – 6:00 – Registration, store.

9:00 – 5:30 – Emerging Technologies (interact with the future). Room 152 (BF)
Geek Bar (comfy chairs, wifi, streaming content): Room 409 (F)
The Sandbox (play games) – outside Room 403AB (BF)
Posters (future CG on cardboard) – West Lobby (BF)
The Studio (make art) – Room 151 (BF)
Art Gallery (interact with sensual, sensory objects) – Room 150 (BF)
9:00 – 10:30 – Rendering Intangibles: Fanciful filigree in Shrek (DreamWorks), fantasy for Alice in Wonderland (Imageworks), fast fur at Rhythm & Hues, and a photon density estimation for global illumination from UC Santa Cruz. Back to Room 515AB (F)

–  All about Avatar: Lighting, rendering and compositing an alien planet and its blue-skinned inhabitants brought to you by several members of the crew at Weta Digital. West Hall B (F)

9:00 – 12:00 – Course: Stylized rendering in games. Go beyond realism in Room 502A. (F)

10:45 – 12:15 – Detailed Surfaces: Capture high-res skin displacement with Weta, search 3D shapes based on content, mix arbitrary meshes, weave polygonal meshes. Unwind later. Room 501B (F)

*11:00 – 12:45 – Award presentations and Keynote speaker: Don Marinelli, Carnegie Mellon professor of drama and arts management and executive producer of the Entertainment Technology Center, was co-creator of the Master of Arts Management Program, co-creator of the Master of Fine Arts in Acting degree program with the Moscow Art Theatre School in Russia, and co-founder (with Randy Pausch) of the Master of Entertainment Technology Degree Program. Take a deep breath and go to West Hall B (BCF)
2:00 - 3:30:
Avatar: The 10,000-foot-overview from Weta’s vfx supes Joe Letteri and Stephen Rosenbaum, and Lightstorm’s Richard Baneham. West Hall B (CF)

Award talks: Learn from the high achievers: Alexei Efros, Jessica Hodgins, Yoichiro Kawaguchi, Kellogg S. Booth. Room 403AB (BF)

Panel: Biomed meets CG. Theater 411 (F)
Split Second Screen Space: Gamers at Black Rock/Disney, LucasArts, INRIA, and Eden push pixels pretty darn fast. Shadowing, lighting, rendering, motion blurring, and indirect illumination all in Room 408AB (F)
Volumes and Precipitation: stereo water in Avatar (Weta), snow in Prep and Landing (Disney), storm clouds in A-Team (R&H), and single scattering in heterogeneous participating media no less by Technicolor and MPC. Room 515AB (F)

3:45 – 5:15:
*Panel: CS 292: The Lost Lectures: Richard Chuang, co-founder of PDI, was a young engineer at Hewlett-Packard when he saw a video of a course taught at UC Berkeley by Jim Blinn, now manager of the CG research group at Microsoft, and Ed Catmull, now president of Pixar and Disney Animation Studios. Catmull and Chuang use video from the course to reflect on the evolution of computer graphics - from the genesis of Pixar and PDI to where we are today. Not to be missed. Room 515AB (F)
Screening: Long Shorts and Student Animation. Room 406B (CF)
Screening: Long Shorts and Short Shorts. (repeats Wednesday) Room 408B (CF)

*4:30 – 5:15 – Live Real-Time Demos: A juried selection of video games and real-time simulations demonstrated live on their actual platforms. West Hall B. (CF)

*6:00 – 8:00 – Electronic Theater: a juried selection of the best CG animated films, scientific visualizations, and visual effects this year. West Hall (CF)



8:30 – 6:00 – Registration, store.

9:00 – 5:30:Emerging Technologies (interact with the future). Room 152 (BF)
Geek Bar (comfy chairs, wifi, streaming content): Room 409 (F)
The Sandbox (play games) – outside Room 403AB (BF)
Posters (future CG on cardboard) – West Lobby (BF)
The Studio (make art) – Room 151 (BF)
Art Gallery (interact with sensual, sensory objects) – Room 150 (B)

Exhibition: The best and newest CG products and services that you can buy. (BCF)
Job Fair: Check the postings, get tips, meet and greet and share your demo reel. (BCF)

9:00 - 10:30:
Iron Man 2: ILM’s Ben Snow, Marc Chu, and Doug Smythe show how to turn digital metal suits into believable superheroes. West Hall B (CF)
Course: Importance sampling for production rendering with technical staff from ImageMovers Digital, and the Moving Picture Company. Room 406AB (F)
Simulation in Production: Pixar talks trash, Disney tangles 70 feet of hair, DreamWorks fractures stuff, and Fido Film uses Houdini and GPUs to do SPH-based fluid sims. Room 515AB (F)

10:45 – 12:15 – Animation Blockbuster Breakdown: ILM’s Shawn Kelly moderates a panel of animators from Pixar, Disney, and Animation Mentor who break down shots from Toy Story 3, Up, Wall-E, Ratatouille, and The Princess and the Frog. Room 408AB (CF)

*11:00 – 12:30 – Keynote Speaker: Jim Morris, Pixar’s general manager/executive vice pesident Production, is currently producing Disney’s "John Carter of Mars." for release in 2012. He is the production executive on Pixar’s films, and produced "WALL•E" Prior to Pixar, he worked for Lucasfilm and its divisions for 17 years, serving as president of Lucas Digital for 11 years. He knows of what he speaks. West Hall B (BCF)

11:15 – 12:15 – AMD tech talk. Back of Hall H (BCF)

1:00 – 2:00 – Syd Mead at the Ballistic/NVArt booth#1101.

2:00 – 3:30:
*How to Train Your Dragon: Award-winning cinematographer Roger Deakins and DreamWorks Animation’s creative team chat about live action filmmaking’s influence on this cutting-edge animated feature. West Hall B. (CF)
Reception: Art Gallery – Room 150 (BF)
Animation Clinic: Experienced animators offer expert advice. Room 406AB (CF)
Blowing $h!t Up: ILM bends rigid bodies for Avatar and breaks buildings for Transformers 2. Digital Domain destroys LA for 2012. Take your hard hat to 515AB (F)
Visualization for Art and Design: Bend your mind. That’s all I’m saying. You’ll see. Theater 411. (F)

2:15 – 3:15 – Intel SDK’s and other tech talk. Back of Hall H (BCF)

3:45 – 5:15:
Screening: Commercials and Cinematics. Room 408B (CF)
Pipelines and Asset Management: Weta, MPC, Pixar, and Disney. Nuff said. Room 515AB. (F)
*4:30 – 5:15 – Live Real-Time Demos: A juried selection of video games and real-time simulations demonstrated live on their actual platforms. West Hall B. (CF)

*6:00 – 8:00 – Electronic Theater: a juried selection of the best CG animated films, scientific visualizations, and visual effects this year. West Hall (CF)

*6:00 – 7:30 – Dailies!! A juried selection of 38 images and clips, each showing excellence in modeling, shading, animation, lighting, or effects, and presented by the production artist who created it. Each person has about 45 seconds to tell their story and show the work. J.D. Northrup at Pixar leads off with “Death by [Red] Monkeys.” (BCF)


8:30 – 6:00 – Registration, store.

9:00 – 5:30: Emerging Technologies (interact with the future). Room 152 (BF)
Geek Bar (comfy chairs, wifi, streaming content): Room 409 (F)
The Sandbox (play games) – outside Room 403AB (BF)
Posters (future CG on cardboard) – West Lobby (BF)
The Studio (make art) – Room 151 (BF)
Art Gallery (interact with sensual, sensory objects) – Room 150 (B)

9:30 – 6:00
Exhibition: The best and newest CG products, services, and books you can buy. (BCF)

Job Fair: Check the postings, get tips, meet and greet and share your demo reel. (BCF)
9:00 – 12:00 – Course: Volumetric methods in visual effects with techies from Rhythm & Hues, Side Effects Software, DreamWorks Animation, Double Negative, and Imageworks. Room 502B (F)

10:30 – The Last Airbender: Pablo Helman, Olivier Maury, and Daniel Pearson show big backgrounds and explain how ILM’s new lightning-fast GPU simulation/rendering engine created art-directed fire and other natural effects. West Hall B. (CF)

9:00 – 12:15 – Game Papers: Biometrics and physical controllers; the player experience. Room 406AB (F)

10:45 – 12:15 – Day & Night: Director Teddy Newton reveals the magic behind Pixar’s latest, extraordinarily imaginative short animated film. West Hall B (CF)

1:00 – 2:00 – Syd Mead at the Ballistic/NVArt booth#1101.

2:00-3:30 – Alice in Wonderland: Down the Rabbit Hole: Ken Ralston and a crew from Imageworks tumble into Tim Burton’s vision of the classic fairy tale. West Hall B (CF)

Animation Clinic: Experienced animators offer expert advice. Room 406AB (CF)
Research Challenge Results: Who wins? Square Enix’s immersive and dynamically modified haunted house? Hongik University’s "zero failure" physical therapy system? Gdansk University of Technology’s gaze-directed camera? Or, the MIT Media Lab’s datasets rendered as 3D physical shapes augmented with projected graphics? Theater 411. (BF)

3:45 – 5:15
Screening: Long Shorts and Short Shorts. Room 408B (CF)
X3D from the Web3D consortium. Back of Hall H (BCF)

*4:30 – 5:15 – Live Real-Time Demos: A juried selection of video games and real-time simulations demonstrated live on their actual platforms. West Hall B. (CF)

*6:00 – 8:00 – Electronic Theater: a juried selection of the best CG animated films, scientific visualizations, and visual effects this year. West Hall (CF)

*6:00 – 7:30 – Dailies!! A juried selection of 38 images and clips, each showing excellence in modeling, shading, animation, lighting, or effects, and presented by the production artist who created it. Each person has about 45 seconds to tell their story and show the work. J.D. Northrup at Pixar leads off with “Death by [Red] Monkeys.” (BCF)

*8:00 – 10:00 – Party!  Party! The Siggraph Reception. If you don’t have a ticket to the ball, dive into the brewery on the 4th floor pool deck. Someone you want to meet might splash by. Westin Bonaventure Ballroom. (F)


Thursday – Last Day.

8:30 – 3:30 – Registration, store.

9:00 – 1:00 – Emerging Technologies (interact with the future). Room 152 (BF)
Geek Bar (comfy chairs, wifi, streaming content): Room 409 (F)
The Sandbox (play games) – outside Room 403AB (BF)
The Studio (make art) – Room 151(BF)
Art Gallery (interact with sensual, sensory objects) – Room 150 (B)

9:30 – 3:30
Exhibition: The best and newest CG products and services that you can buy. (BCF)

Job Fair: Check the postings, get tips, meet and greet and share your demo reel. (BCF)

9:00 – 5:30 - Posters (future CG on cardboard) – West Lobby (BF)

9:00 – 5:00 – Lab Work: Researchers from top research labs and universities show technology for motion and emotion at 9:00, interaction at 10:45, and touchy-feely stuff at 3:45 in Room 411. (F)

9:00 – 10:30:
*Panel: Large steps toward open source with Rob Bredow (Imageworks), Andy Hendrickson (Disney), Florian Kainz (ILM), and Bill Polson (Pixar). This is a big deal. Perhaps, even, news-making. (F)
The Making of God of War III: The creative and technical team from SCEA detail the creative process behind the game's ground-breaking visuals. West Hall B. (CF)
Fun in Flatland: a strange collection of fun technology. Or is it a fun collection of strange technology? A dynamic noise primitive for 3D animation, immersive digital painting, GPU-based video up-scaling, image browsing. Room 406AB (F)

10:45 – 12:15 – TRON! Director Joseph Kosinski, producer Jeffrey Silver, vfx supe Eric Barba, and animation supe Steve Preeg tease us with visuals and answer questions from the audience. West Hall B. (CF)

2:00 – 3:30:
Screening: Chinese Student Animation. Room 408B. (CF)
Game Paper: Game design – serious, educational games. Room 406AB (F)

3:45 – 5:15 – Fur, feathers and trees: Tippett Studio’s creepy kitty, MPC’s wolfman and flying feathery mystical characters, and Disney’s animated trees. 408AB (F)

That’s All Folks! See you out there!!

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SIGGRAPH Technical Papers
Wednesday 14 July 2010 - 21:17PM
Barbara Robertson

One of the best things about SIGGRAPH is the sense, rightfully so, that you can discover the next new things in computer graphics, the trend, the technology that will become part of our lives in a few short years. This is most evident in the prestigious Technical Papers sessions.

“I recruited the papers committee with a goal of identifying the inspiring work that will drive the field forward,” says Tony DeRose, committee Chair. “I asked the tertiary reviewers to follow that lead and look for work that at first blush might seem wacky, but would inspire follow-on work. That’s my big hope.”

This has happened several times over at SIGGRAPH, and even though computer graphics is maturing, it still happens. “When the first papers on computational photography came out five or six years ago, it would have been easy to say, ‘this is image processing or analysis,’” DeRose says. “But, we accepted the papers. And now, it’s one of the most interesting and active areas in graphics.” 

In fact, on Monday, from 9:00 to 10:30, if you have a Full conference pass, you can see examples of the “Frankencamera,” an architecture for programmable cameras implemented on a Nokia smart phone and an F2 camera, created by researchers at Stanford University, Universität Ulm, Nokia, UC Santa Barbara, and Disney Research Zurich. Also in that session Microsoft shows image deblurring using inertial measurement sensors, Columbia University has diffusion coded photography for extended depth of field, and a collaboration among scientists at Bauhaus-Universität Weimar, The University of British Columbia, and Johannes Kepler Universität Linz offer coded aperture projection. What you get is what you see.

“The thing that strikes me most this year, though, is breadth,” DeRose says. “We have papers in traditional areas of research – global illumination, rendering, and computational photography. But, we also have some pretty unusual papers. One offers a system for projecting images on streams of water that are carefully controlled and timed so you get a two-layer display. Another, area of papers are on novel printing technologies to create not just 3D shapes, but also to print materials with any desired reflectance characteristics and deformation properties.”

DeRose found two other interesting trends. “One, potentially powerful trend is in the area of animation,” he says. “We’ve seen a lot of work in controlling two-legged, bipedal characters. In videogames, most of the run cycles for characters have been motion captured, so the characters can’t really respond well to unforeseen events such as a box thrown at them sideways. We have four or five papers that address the problem of building artificial intelligence agents that locomote in a plausible fashion and respond to environments, uneven terrains and unexpected obstacles. It seems to be a problem whose time has come in the academic research community, and it has almost immediate application.”

A second trend is in the area of geometric modeling. “This area, architectural geometry, started a couple years ago,” he says. “The reason that a lot of buildings are rectangular is because that’s a stable form of geometry. But, it turns out that there are other forms of geometry that allow you to construct freeform models that are stable, too. I think it could really change architecture. We will see fanciful buildings that wouldn’t have been possible before.”

One trend at SIGGRAPH that DeRose has changed, is the presentation of TOG (Transactions on Graphics) papers. “Until this year, we segregated TOG papers into a separate session,” DeRose says. “This year, we treat TOG and SIGGRAPH presentations symmetrically. The goal is to build conference sessions with coherent themes.” So whether the idea filtered through journal review process (TOG) or through the SIGGRAPH review process, if it relates to a similar topic, the researchers can present their papers in one session. That means people don’t have to invest time in running from one section of the building to another to hunt down information on topics they’re interested in.

Next up, the SIGGRAPH Cheat Sheets. Notebooks ready. We'll be asking questions after class...

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Monday 12 July 2010 - 23:06PM
Barbara Robertson

The Studio

Also returning to SIGGRAPH this year, bigger and better than ever is The Studio, once known as the 'Gorilla Studio.' The Studio, the Art Gallery – which features haptics devices this year – and Emerging Technologies, are all in one large open space. “We got the chairs of these three hand-on areas together to create an integrated experience,” Masson says. “They are all doing fantastic things.”

In the Studio alone, people with a Basic or Full conference ticked can take any of the 13 workshops in the new 15-person classroom. The workshops include animation, rendering, modeling with ZBrush. Studio presentations in The Studio range from descriptions of robots that touch; an introduction to Rhino; stop motion animation with Tom Gasek, formerly with Aardman and now in his own studio OOH, Inc.; DIY motion control and more. And, in the Studio’s Digital Artistry sessions, you can learn about camera calibration, a photo-imaging workflow, digital SLRs, video editing, 3D sculpting, printmaking – in fact, you could spend the entire show in The Studio. (Check the website for specific workshop, presentation and artistry session times.) But, if you did, you’d miss Emerging Technologies right next door.

“It’s pretty awesome,” says chair Mk Haley of the Emerging Technologies. “It’s something you need to experience. We have a display that uses bubbles as pixels. I’ve never seen anything like it. It’s super low res, but it’s totally fun. We also have an eyeball that’s electromagnetically driven. It’s intended for use in animatronic exhibits; you can project video through the eye.” The latest hologram – a 360-degree autostereoscopic display in full color allows views from all angles. You don’t need 3D glasses to see this 3D image. Of the 120 submissions, the jury accepted 20-plus including robots, a variety of unusual human-computer interfaces – air typing on mobile devices, fluid-based haptics, and more, and a head-mounted, photometric stereo device for facial capture.

“The submissions came from industry, individuals, universities, and from all over the world,” Haley says. “The trend, though, is that things are being created with consumer-grade products. There’s a real science fair feeling. But, because of that, you could see some of these things on the market within a year or two.”

Despite all the great sessions, courses, talks, screenings, papers, studio and more than SIGGRAPH offers, to Polson, a supervising technical director at Pixar, something has been missing. “A lot of people don’t have any place they can show off their work at SIGGRAPH,” he says. “If you’re an amazing shot lighter, you do awesome work, but how can you show that at SIGGRAPH? Your studio might have a ‘best of’ reel in the Electronic Theater, but you don’t get credited individually or have an opportunity to talk about your work.”

Last year, during dinner in New Orleans with Masson and animator Dana Boadway, he pitched the idea of giving animators or modelers or whomever a venue for a quick presentation. “You need only a minute or two to show an amazing model,” Polson says. “Dana said, ‘This sounds like dailies where someone brings a shot to the director, shows it quickly, gets notes and moves on.’ We all looked at each other and immediately said, ‘This is SIGGRAPH Dailies!’”       

So, with that idea in mind, and using the Technical Papers Fast Forward session as a model, he crafted a call for submissions and received 100 entries, which the jury whittled down to 38. Each person presenting has about 90 seconds to tell their story and show their shot.

“We found that when we had an interesting personal story to go with the shot – something going on in the person’s life, something going on in the movie, something not obvious, the presentations just sang,” Polson says. 

SIGGRAPH scheduled the Dailies without conflict, so you can see them without worrying about what else you might be missing. Any pass gets you into the show – Tuesday or Wednesday, 6:00 to 7:30. Just pick the night that you aren’t seeing the Electronic Theater.

For Polson, Dailies are just the first step in making SIGGRAPH more relevant to the production community. Look for an announcement sometime soon about something called “implementation papers.” “I received a proposal for a new track of technical papers called implementation papers,” Polson says. “If you look around here [Pixar], there are half a dozen serious researchers and then another 20 or 25 in the tools group or production who take their work and make it production-ready. They don’t have any place to present their work.” Implementation papers could make that possible.        

“We’re just in the beginning stage of planning, but it could be the kind of things you could download, put into a code tree, and use in production,” Polson says. “They would have the bits and bobs and hooks to make something stand up and sing.”

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Emerging Technologies
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Sunday 11 July 2010 - 21:01PM
Barbara Robertson

Now that SIGGRAPH is less than two weeks away, it’s time to pull out that slick little mobile digital calendar and get ready to meet, greet, learn, play, buy, sell and party at the biggest computer graphics conference in the world. This year, the legendary show lands in Los Angeles, home of Hollywood, digital multi-mega-media, games, aerospace engineering, and all things weird and wacky. And that means even more connections than usual for people involved in or interested in digital art, media and entertainment.

As anyone who has read the artist profiles on this site knows, the connections people make at SIGGRAPH often launch new careers and invigorate those already on a career path. It’s one thing to read about computer graphics. Quite another to shake the hand of the scientist who invented it, the technical director who put it to use, and the artist who made it beautiful. 

“We’ve packed every minute of every day with uncompromising excellence,” says Terrence Masson, conference chair. “There’s not a single minute of weak content. We could have put on two SIGGRAPHs with the amount of amazing content that was submitted.”

For people involved in production, that might be especially true this year. “I tried really hard to get the conference mission and the jury instructions in line with Terrence’s goal of making SIGGRAPH more relevant to the production community,” says Bill Polson, director of production communities. “SIGGRAPH tends to favor cutting edge techniques and research. But in production, we focus on quality, excellence, issues of scale – applying a technique to 1000 shots. So, I wanted to make sure that in the panels, talks, and courses, we paid attention to excellence and interest as much as novelty.”

Masson anticipates attendance will be around 25,000, and emphasizes that this is the reason to be there in person. “You can download more and more of the content before, during, after,” he says. “But you have to go there physically to experience all the face to face fun with colleagues, luminaries, and the people who make the content.”

In fact, the theme of the conference this year is 'the people behind the pixels.' “It won’t be obvious from reading descriptions of the talks and courses,” Masson says, “but they all have a personal angle. It’s something we really wanted to emphasize. The curated material, the call for presentations, all centered on making content more accessible, maybe more informal, and hopefully a lot more fun. Fun is going to be a big part of this.”

One bit of fun that won’t be happening this year, though, is Fjorge!, the competition in which teams of animators competed to create the best short animated film during the show. “It was too expensive in terms of hard costs,” says Masson. “People don’t realize this is a nonprofit conference and we rely heavily on donations from major studios and hardware and software vendors. Their generosity allows us to put the conference on. Every computer, monitor, light is donated. Fjorge! was a massive draw on that donation pool and when we have a limited number of donations, they have to go to our core programs.”

At the Movies

Included in the fun, though, is the prestigious Electronic Theater, which showcases the best CG eye candy during the past year. After experimenting with various formats during the last couple of SIGGRAPHS, the committee this year returned to the ET everyone remembers in which all the content is wrapped into one two-hour show that repeats on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday nights. Three students at Filmakademie Baden Württemberg, Jan Bitzer, Ilija Brunck, and Csaba Letay, took Best in Show honors for their film, “Loom,” the story of a drowning moth. The award qualifies the film for Oscar consideration. Winning the Jury Award is “Poppy,” an independent film by James Cunningham from New Zealand, which uses motion capture and facial animation to help animate an emotional story of two soldiers and a baby in France during World War I. The best student film prize went to “The Wonder Hospital,” a short animated film by Beomsik Shimbe Shim of the California Institute of the Arts.

The Electronic Theater also honors visual effects with clips from “Tron: Legacy” (Disney / Digital Domain), “2012” (Digital Domain, Scanline), “Alice in Wonderland” (Sony Pictures Imageworks), “Avatar” (Weta Digital) “Iron Man 2” and “The Last Airbender” from Industrial Light & Magic, “Prince of Persia” and “Sherlock Holmes” from Framestore all making the cut. Also featured are commercials, more fabulous short films, scientific visualizations, and selections from videogames. It’s a juried and curated selection of the best in CG. There’s nothing else like it . . . except . . . the other screenings: Commercials and Cinematics on Sunday and Tuesday, more Short Films on Monday and Wednesday, and Chinese Student Animation on Thursday. You need a Full conference ticket or a Computer Animation Festival ticket to get a seat.

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Thursday 01 July 2010 - 23:06PM
Brian Ban

Isaac Kerlow is the SIGGRAPH 2010 Computer Animation Festival Director. He hails from The Earth Observatory of Singapore/NTU ADM.

"The 2010 Computer Animation Festival continues the tradition of showcasing the best in computer animation and visual effects," says Kerlow. "This year we have formalized the submission categories to bring the Computer Animation Festival more in line with other top international film festivals and to make the jury process a bit easier. We have a Student Projects category, for example, among the new submission categories, so that computer-animated works produced to satisfy a school, coursework, and/or graduation requirement are to be submitted under this category."

The Animation Clinic is a new event where industry leaders and masters review students’ final projects and offer creative, production, technical and career advice. Between six and nine projects have been selected, and each chosen work will receive 40 minutes of review during three public sessions that are open to conference attendees. A lot of cool stuff will be showcased here.


"I was very active as a SIGGRAPH volunteer during the 1990s, having chaired the Art Show in 1991 and the Interactive Entertainment in 1995 among other events. I always wanted to be involved in the Computer Animation Festival because of its popularity and importance, and since my college graduation attending the Computer Animation Festival (or Electronic Theater as it was called back then) each year is always a professional highlight. My friends tell me that I like a good challenge, so I was fortunate that Terrence [SIGGRAPH 2010 Conference Chair] invited me to be a part of the 2010 team. I put together a great core team that includes Laura Henneman, Festival Manager; Josh Grow, Technical Director; and Katie Fellion, Stereo 3D Producer. The four of us are focused on putting together a great event for the SIGGRAPH 2010 attendees.

I want attendees to enjoy and learn from the Computer Animation Festival. I hope that attendees will have an endorphin rush as they watch the screenings. I hope they learn from the interesting and timely talks and panels that we have organized."

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