I Screen, You Screen, We All Screen Animation at SIGGRAPH `99

by Kellie-Bea Cooper

Okay animation enthusiasts, it's that time of year again to see tons and tons of new and exciting shorts and experimental pieces of animation. Now hold up! Before we all run off in every direction, let's get our bare necessities together. Here's a short check list:

Comfortable Shoes: Needed to jog from screening to screening all six days. I recommend geek-powered cross trainers.

Warm Clothes: I know, you think I'm nuts telling you to bring a sweater, but it gets really cold sometimes in those screening rooms.

A Map: You might find a few SIGGRAPH maps floating around. Instead of carrying all of them, I suggest you pick one and use it as your master.

Spatial Frames by Rob Jensen. Courtesy of SIGGRAPH.

Buzz Word List: SIGGRAPH is an acronym haven; in fact it's an acronym itself! You will hear terms like ET, CAF, CGI, CG, 2D, 3D, MOCAP, GEEK, etc. all around. Now, most of us `veterans' know the meanings to all the terms, right? Wrong! I bet half the veterans take the terms for granted and play it off as if they've known it all along. No worries, live stress free with your own micro cheat sheet to the animation buzz words:
ET: Electronic Theater.
AT: Animation Theater.
CAF: Computer Animation Festival.
CGI: Computer Generated Imagery - It's what we're here for after all, isn't it?
Just plain CG: short for Computer Graphics.
2D: Two dimensional CG (not to be confused with cel animation - it's not the same thing).
3D: Three Dimensional CG (not to be misconstrued with stop-motion puppetry or clay animation).
MOCAP: Motion Capture.
GEEK: A prestigious title reserved for only the most sophisticated of CG gurus.

Fiat Lux by Paul Debevec. Courtesy of SIGGRAPH.

A Pen and Highlighter: You need the pen to scratch in any last minute screening changes. You never know! The highlighter helps you concentrate on what you've already seen or what were your favorites of the conference. You can then compare notes with friends and associates later. The best part is flaunting how much you saw throughout the conference.

Energy Bars: You'll need this after the nightly wild parties. Besides, waiting in line for convention center fast food can be unnerving and potentially make you late for the next screening. It's better to have a favorite energy bar a mere three chomps away than passing out from hunger. Heck, it's probably better for you too.

A Backpack: I know, another plug for SIG `99 merchandise, but this item really is a lifesaver! Imagine you're in line for the next screening and someone really cool asks for your business card. You excitingly start to reach for it but discover that with all of your pockets crammed with maps, energy bars, highlighters, merchandise receipts, and your prize of all prizes, the ticket to this year's hottest party -- you've got no where to stow your business cards! Now with a handy-dandy backpack, you could loosen your load to a mere zip-and-scrounge.

We're all checked and ready to go! Let's take a look at what's to see and where we need to go to see it. There are three major areas to view animation screenings during SIGGRAPH: the Art Gallery | technOasis, Electronic Theater (ET), and the Animation Screening rooms/Animation Theaters. Of course, keep your eyes open while at the conference, there may be other bits and pieces of animation throughout the other venues.

Art Gallery | technOasis

Where: LA Convention Center, Rm. 153 B & C and some of the concourse.
Chair: Marla Schweppe
Price: Exhibit Plus pass or higher

The Art Gallery has always been a favorite venue of mine. I've been told that the TechnOasis will be presenting over one-hundred works of art including digital paintings, drawings, photographs, sculptures, installations, web-based projects, animation and site-specific works.

Just so you know, the primary criteria of the pieces in the gallery is aesthetic, either narrative or non-narrative, with the technical being important, but secondary. Here's something interesting, the animation in the gallery will not be screened in a traditional theatrical setting, but rather within the gallery environment. The animation will be shown with a projector and a large screen in the center of the gallery. There will be some ambient light in the room, but it will be darker than the conditions under which most people watch TV. This sounds like the perfect refuge for creative tech-heads looking for inspiration.

Marla Schweppe, chair of Art Gallery | technOasis.

Marla Schweppe, chair, explains, "Few independent animators can compete with commercial looking productions using expensive effects like fur, but as a result independent animators have developed innovative and unusual approaches to creating `looks' for their work. Watch for Object Lesson in the gallery. A work doesn't have to be long or take an extensive time to render to make an impact on the audience."

There will also be daily gallery screenings, an animation ARTtalk on Thursday from 10:30-12:00, a number of art installations with animation integration -- like Fisherman's Café and Unconscience Flow, plus a special interactive project created by Marla Schweppe that you best not miss. It's called Pixel Puzzle.

Pixel Puzzle is your opportunity to contribute to the animation that will be created over the course of the week. Pixel Puzzle is a stop-motion animation/time lapse project that will be shot over the course of the conference on the second floor, and screened on Friday at noon on the 2nd floor. I've just got to get involved in that!

Electronic Theater (ET)
FYI: Tickets are hard to come by and sell out quick

Where: Shrine Auditorium, 649 West Jefferson Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90007
Monday, August 9, 7-9 pm
Tuesday, August 10, 2-4 pm, 7-9 pm
Wednesday, August 11, 2-4 pm, 7-9 pm
Thursday, August 12, 7-9 pm
Chair: Brian Blau
Price: Conference Select pass or higher

ET is only one of the many benefits of getting an upgrade from an Exhibit Plus pass. This is the show to see! ET is a juried showcase of the best and most innovative animation generated in the past year. It is a cross-section of individual, student, small business, scientific visualization and larger budget film industry work. This means one of us can submit something for next year's consideration. Who knows, we might be watching your animation work in New Orleans.
Brian Blau, chair of Electronic Theater.

Brian Blau explains, "This year some of the best examples of improvements in computer graphics animation are the ones you really can't see. Graphics and rendering are so advanced it is very hard to tell what is real and what is digitally enhanced. Because the lines between technology and film making have been blurred, the art of telling stories becomes much more important. This year, for the first time, the Computer Animation Festival jury used storytelling as one of the criteria for selection and the results are fantastic. The Electronic Theater is truly a showcase for the year's best computer graphics of all types."

They say story is king; no doubt you agree. Below are some of the highlights in this year's ET:

Oscar award winner, Bunny -- Chris Wedge
CAF Jury Prize winner, Masks -- Piotr Karwas and Thomas Haegele
Star Wars: Episode 1 The Phantom Menace- "The chosen one the boy may be" You can guess the rest.
Spatial Frames -- a student piece by Rob Jensen. Without saying too much, Rob shows how he mixed rendering techniques for when the audience (viewer) is 'in' the scene and then another mix for objects that are 'out of' the scene.
Fiat Lux -- Blau says of Paul Debevec's film, "One of the best technique pieces of the year."
The City of Fire -- Moebius. Rendering techniques that mimic an individual's artistic style. Mobieus will also be in the papers section of SIGGRAPH showing off a Dr. Seuss rendering style. A BIG must see!
All is Full of Love -- Bjork. Let see, how do I explain this one Ah, just go see it!

Wild Card by Van Phan will be included in the `99 Electronic Theatre. It has won several awards including a student Emmy for animation. Courtesy of Van Phan.
Bunny by Chris Wedge.

Now being a veteran, I have an entire ET screening plan and philosophy. I always see ET on the first night, Monday. The primary reason is so I don't hear about all the cool stuff through the grape vine, which could potentially spoil the surprise. Secondly, I want to compare and contrast what I see in ET to other innovations or applications I see and learn throughout the conference.

Any person who is a badged SIGGRAPH attendee (at any level) can purchase extra ET tickets in the registration area. They will be $40.

Masks by Piotr Karwas and Thomas Haegele. Courtesy of SIGGRAPH.

Animation Theaters

Where: Los Angles Convention Center rooms #409, 411 and 501
When: Sunday, August 8, 5-7 pm
Monday-Thursday, August 9-12, 9 am - 6 pm

Friday, August 13, 9 am - 3 pm
Every day in different rotations of differently themed reels. Programs will be available.
Producer: Mary Beth Ray
Price: Exhibit Plus pass or higher.

With so much animation present at the gallery and in ET, you might think there would be a lot of duplication. Fortunately variety plays a major role between these venues. There were 650 international entries to the CAF. Of these, 42 got into ET and a record breaking 134 were accepted into the animation theaters. Say, get this, altogether the AT submissions are over 6 hours of material. We'll be watching animation until SIGGRAPH 2000 comes around - Woo-Hoo, just the way I like it!

With so many shows to view, it was hard to pick which ones to share as a sneak peeks. Luckily for me the producer of AT this year created an intriguing new category listing and an insightful printed booklet, the EAAC (Electronic Art and Animation Catalog), where each creator not only discloses how they created their piece, technically, but verbally describes his/her story.

Bjork's All is Full of Love. Courtesy of SIGGRAPH.

The categories are:
Commercial FX & Games: the magic in feature films, advertisements, cartoons and games.
Folklore and Love Tales: lore from homelands around the world and universal tales of the heart.
Humor: light and amusing.
In Black and White: diverse themes in shades of gray.
Muse: a state of dreamy abstraction...some might say, "psychedelic, baby."
Visual Poetry: literally or figuratively, the abstract language in these pieces evokes an emotional response through meaning, sound and rhythm.
Visual Prose: narrative or not, the stories are told and statements are made with more everyday plots and characters.
Visualization & Technique: in architecture and several of the sciences.

PLUS! Three longer stories set apart as Interludes: Plug, Sandland, and Rayman-No Parking.

For all you animation historians, here's the screening for which you've been waiting. It's the world premier of

Fisherman's Cafe. Courtesy of SIGGRAPH.

The Story of Computer Graphics: a feature-length documentary

Where: Shrine Auditorium, 649 West Jefferson Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90007
When: Sunday, August 8, 8:30 pm
Exhibit Plus pass or higher. General free admission on a space availability basis after 8:15 pm

All the pioneers of computer animation are in this. There is stuff in this documentary that will blow you away with how far we've come in such a short amount of time. I'm going to bring my entire crew to see this!

Had enough yet? No?! Good! I've got a few more tid-bits to share.

Some of the artists and animators screening works in the ET, the Screening rooms or the Gallery are also participating in the Sketches or the Electronic Schoolhouse, where they will be talking about their work. Be sure you stop by and ask for a schedule.

Unconscience Flow. Courtesy of SIGGRAPH.

There are videos for ET and the Animation screening rooms on sale inside the conference, while supplies last. Or you can contact SIGGRAPH Video Review []. You can also consider getting the Electronic Art & Animation CD-ROM, which contains the electronic version of the images from Art Gallery: technOasis and Computer Animation Festival.

So, with backpack on, map in hand, and energy bars at your disposal, you've got all you need to see it all. Now go out screening! Enjoy.

The SIGGRAPH staff mentioned above are all non-paid professionals, volunteering their time, energy and creativity to help provide the most outstanding experience possible for viewers like us. Many thanks!

Kellie-Bea Cooper is in the animation and SPFX industry and has produced both traditional animation and computer animation. She has worked for The Baer Animation Company, Jim Henson Interactive, and Warner Bros. TV animation. Kellie-Bea is currently the owner and president of her new studio and school, The Better Mouse Trap.

Note: Readers may contact any Animation World Magazine contributor by sending an e-mail to

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