Dig This! SIGGRAPH's Electronic Theater Celebrates 25 Years of Discovery

Animation World Magazine profiles the SIGGRAPH `98 Computer Animation Festival, which will feature computer animated films ranging from scientific visualizations to blockbuster visual effects to independent shorts.

SIGGRAPH `98 is coming up, and that means the Computer Animation Festival will once again be the showcase for the past year's best computer graphics work. This year, in addition to the festival's Electronic Theater and Animation Theater, SIGGRAPH has expanded the festival to include two new programs. SigKIDS Theater includes films such as Antics, a 90-second short for Nickelodeon, and Dick and Jane Do Math, animated sequences for a PBS series called Life By the Numbers . In honor of the 25 th conference, organizers have also programmed Film Show Classics, a selection of important milestones in computer graphics history.

SIGGRAPH 98's colorful logo charactersare brought to life in 20 short films called

Finally computer graphics is where we knew it could be, beyond the mechanics," said Ines Hardtke, chair of this year's festival and head of digital imaging at the ACI East and Animation Youth East divisions at the National Film Board of Canada (NFBC) in Montreal. She and a jury of four others, whose names will be revealed the first day of the conference, sorted through 650 submissions to select 134 films for screening. An additional 20 "in-betweens" -- short i.d. films incorporating the colorful SIGGRAPH logo characters, created especially for this event -- will be shown throughout the festival programs, which will run every day of the conference, July 19-24.

Rendering With Natural Light by Paul Debevec. Image courtesy of SIGGRAPH.

Light and Sound Are This Year's Smoke

The festival has grown to be an annual milestone, and to have one's film selected for screening in the program is a great honor. Every year there are a few pieces which are talked about well after the conference is over. Last year, one of those films was Digital Smoke, a simple yet hyper-realistic CG visualization of rising smoke, created by John R. Anderson at University of Wisconsin-Madison. Asked what this year's "smoke" will be, Hardtke cited films which break new ground in the visualization of two elements: natural light, as depicted in Rendering With Natural Light by Paul Debevec (creator of last year's eye-popping FACADE), and Underwater Sunbeams by Henrik Wann Jensen, and sound, as explored in Music for Unprepared Piano by Robin Bargar and Maríenkirche by Tapio Takala.

Firsts for this year are a live Internet demonstration of improvisational animation in The Making of Sid and the Penguins, and Hand-Drawn Spaces, a dual screen motion-capture performance piece choreographed by Merce Cunningham, who will be present with his collaborators to present a special demonstration of the multimedia exhibit/film.

Hand Drawn Spaces choreographed by Merce Cunningham. Image courtesy of SIGGRAPH.

CGI Categorized

Interested in what light transport in a non-homogeneous medium with isotropic reflection looks like? The festival includes several scientific, mathematics

and visualization

animations like the described The Cornell Box - Up in Smoke. Others include Chaco: A Sacred Center, a visualization of ancient dwellings in New Mexico and the self-explanatory titles News From Hubble Space Telescope and Southeastern United States Fly-By. Motion-capture demonstrations include Space time Swing by Autodesk, made with a new technique for retargeting motion data to characters of different sizes, and Advancing Captured Motion by LambSoft, made with a technology which applies motion capture data to a character's proportions and structures that are different from the performer's.

News From Hubble Space Telescope. Image courtesy of SIGGRAPH.

Other types of animation in the festival include visual effects sequences from movies such as Deep Impact, The Truman Show, Event Horizon, Flubber, George of the Jungle, Mouse Hunt, Quest for Camelot, Small Soldiers and Starship Troopers; location-based entertainment films such as Race For Atlantis, an IMAX 3-D film by Rhythm & Hues, and Wild River by Sega Enterprises; television commercials by Rhythm & Hues, Medialab, Glassworks and Buf Compagnie and game animation sequences such as Grim Fandango by LucasArts Entertainment.

Jakata by Jeff Baker. Image courtesy of SIGGRAPH.

Animation shorts featured in the festival include the latest Oscar winner Geri's Game, produced at Pixar; The Physics of Cartoons , a character animation by Steph Greenberg; Ellipsoid, a geometric metaphor for the busy lifestyle of Tokyo; Pings, a pilot for a future series by Exmachina, Zaijan, Nobuto Ochiai's pilot for a CG feature, The Sitter, Liang-Yuan Wang's examination of the ironic relationship between humans and technology, and 1001 Nights, a musical film with computer animation by Noriaki Kaneko and Tim Miller of Blur Studio, which was featured in last month's Dig This...

Student films include Jakata by Ringling student Jeff Baker, which recently won the gold student Academy Award. A selection of student and graduate research projects created at MIT, New York University, University of Washington, and other schools are also included.

The Computer Animation Festival will end with the anticipated premiere of Bingo, the first animation short fully produced with Alias/Wavefront's new, next-generation animation software, Maya. Directed by Academy Award nominee Chris Landreth (his 1995 film, The End was also created at Alias), Bingo is based on a neo-futurist play called, "Disregard This Play."

Bingo by Chris Landreth. © Alias/Wavefront.

For complete film listings and conference highlights, visit www.siggraph.org. Animation World Magazine will publish a SIGGRAPH `98 special report in August, with three articles covering various aspects of the CGI scene.

Wendy Jackson is associate editor of Animation World Magazine.

What else should we dig? Every month, Animation World Magazine will highlight the most interesting, exciting happenings in animation, in "Dig This!" Send us your ideas, suggestions, videos, products or works-in-progress today. You dig? E-mail: editor@awn.com.

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