The Siggraph `99 Exhibition:
Summer Of Sim

by Eric Huelsman

© Oscar and Associates.

Welcome to The Show. On the face of it, I guess I'd rather do SIGGRAPH than any other conference, even NAB. It is so vast, so overwhelming, so, well, over the top, that if I had to compare it to anything else, I'd have to say it's most like a circus that's just come to town. It's six days of sketches, applications, papers, workshops, lectures, panels, galleries, animation festivals, demos, exhibits, meetings, reunions, hugs, kisses, blisters, calluses, blown tempers, soothed souls, new friends, old lovers, ad nauseam, ad infinitum and all of this is in three large halls with twenty-five different venues in all. Cool, huh?

Sure it is. But the thing that can wear down my cool and get me hot under the collar is time wasted trying to do part or all of every one of those twenty-five different venues. You just can't do it all. SIGGRAPH is just that big. For all you other veterans out there, you know what I'm talking about. All those papers, panels, sketches, applications, courses, technical programs etc., can add up to make the SIGGRAPH convention what it shouldn't be -- a hectic rush; and that can be downright exhausting if you're doing all six of those days during a hot summer (witness SIGGRAPH '97 in L.A. and SIGGRAPH '98 in Orlando). For my money, I'd rather cool my heels and pad down to see the new sights and sounds of the Exhibition and I suspect that, though most of you returnees would probably deny it, the real draw of any SIGGRAPH is that you're there to check out what's happening on the exhibits floor. You're there for The Show.

© Oscar and Associates.

The Show
The demographics on paper support the statistical fact that, despite the Electronic Theater, despite all the other little animation theaters sprinkled throughout all three halls, despite the academic decorum of the panels and papers, and despite mitigating factors such as what sex you are, how much money you make, whom you prefer to date, etc., the SIGGRAPH accountants have done the math and know that 80% of those of you who do SIGGRAPH do it because you want to see The Show. You want in on the latest and the greatest in the world of computer graphics. You want to see if Softimage really does have a product called Sumatra and if it really is coming out sometime this year. You really do want to tell someone at the SGI booth that they're charging too damned much for their new NT workstations. You're going `cause you, or maybe your ride home, have a deep need to see scantily-clad girls (or, should they be your preference, boys) doing mind boggling, moral bending, gymnastic demonstrations with the latest, greatest motion-capture equipment. And these, at the bottom of it all, are the real reasons you attend. Don't deny it, dear reader. You like The Show.

Vicon Motion Capture will be at Booth 1939 with Vicon8Rt, real-time optical motion capture hardware.

The SIGGRAPH `99 Exhibition
From Tuesday, August 10th to Thursday, August 12th, we are talking a major floor show that will run from 10 am to 6 pm daily (and well into the night for those fortunate enough to get tix to off-location after-hours events, such as late night parties at the House of Blues, etc.). On hand will be hundreds of exhibitors ranging from 3D Labs to Zackback International. Auto.des.sys to Wacom Tech. Alias|Wavefront to the Walt Disney Company. All the hardware manufacturers, software companies, effects companies, post-production houses -- anybody who's anybody in this business -- will descend on South Hall like so many hungry flies on fresh meat. Among those there who are not vendors will be schools such as Cogswell College, and trade guilds and associations such as IATSE Local 16 and SMPTE, in addition to booths dedicated to trade publications such as The Hollywood Reporter and 3D Design. Plus, for new and upcoming companies there is an added bonus for participating in the conference this year; a cool thing called Startup Park, which is designed to provide small, first-time exhibitors, who are introducing their technologies at this year's show, a way of demonstrating products and services that may well dominate future Siggraph Exhibitions of Y2K and beyond. All this for three days and only $50! Even if that's all you're going for, that's still quite a deal. (Quick hint: Tell any of the vendors listed on the website that you are interested in seeing them and I bet you can finagle a way to get in free.)

Puffin Designs will be at Booth 1758 with Commotion NT, a visual effects and image editing application for film, broadcast, and digital content creation.

What's Hot for `99
At press time a disappointing number of big names weren't forthcoming about what they'll be showing at Siggraph. I've drawn up a list of known "new stuff" to be featured by the "biggies" at the show and an additional list of exhibitors who, while less known, may have a few new things in your area of interest!

Alias|Wavefront -- Maya 2.0 has hit the scene and the gang at Alias|Wavefront are anxious for you to get your hot little hands on it and take it for a spin. Problems with a slow renderer have been conquered by a quixotic team of software engineers and 2.0 delivers with (get this) up to 500% faster rendering times. This and a gaggle of other new features, including some improvements to Artisan, make Maya still the number one choice of packages studios desire and want artiststo know.

Amazon/Interactive Effects -- Still the number one paint program, Amazon Paint's newest workup will be featured alongside the companion 3D Paint, another product called Sweet Sixteen, which allows 16-bit color file manipulation, Piranha Visual Effects System and Piranha HD, which is designed exclusively for use in the emerging HDTV market.

Compaq -- Undoubtedly a show-stopper will be Compaq's new Alpha NT monster, that has reportedly been clocked at 1Ghz (yes, that's right, one gigahertz). It is somewhat portable, affordable and, unlike most systems, can boot into your choice of Windows NT or the increasingly popular Linux operating system. One Gig at last!

A screen shot from Alias|Wavefront's Maya 2.

Digital Domain -- Digital Domain will have a huge presence at this year's convention with contributions for the Electronic Theater (What Dreams May Come), and the animation theaters with a piece from David Fincher's Fight Club, plus several of their award-winning commercials, including the all-CG "Pontiac Grand Am," and the Coca-Cola "Jitterbug" spots. But their Exhibition booth will be one of hottest places to be on the floor as they are, according to spokesman Bob Hoffman, heavily recruiting animation artists for hire, especially those with Lightwave experience. (See them with portfolio and reel ready at Booth #2014.)

Evans and Sutherland -- This industry-leading manufacturer of Open GL graphics boards is doing up The Show in a big way this year. On hand will be a real-time graphics technology demo in a 360 degree dome stage that combines a live presentation with real-time video animation. You got it: RENDERING ON THE FLY! Featured will be the E&S Lightning 1200 and E&S Tornado 3000 graphics boards, including individual demos that show off the boards' ability to support dual screens. Also look for the latest from E&S' Digital Video and Pixel Products divisions.

NewTek -- Okay, I didn't tell you this, but, according to an industry insider, it looks like NewTek will, on top of peppering attendees with a plethora of "new and improved" Lightwave 6.0 and Aura 2.0 blitzes, demo their "new and improved" VideoToaster and the Amiga Systems. Why the secrecy, guys? If the VideoToaster and Amiga got you where you are today, aren't you happy to show them off?

Pacific Data Images -- Located in the South Hall in booth #2261, PDI is always worth a stop. PDI is showing another new short film in the Electronic Theater. That's four years in a row folks! Fishing is directed by David Gainey and will be the first public viewing of PDI innovated 3D computer generated watercolor. Also, check it out to see Nick Foster's latest water simulation system. The last time we saw this was in Antz. I'm sure clips will be screened at the booth.

Digital Domain's "Pontiac Grand Am" spot. Courtesy of Digital Domain.

Softimage (AVID) -- Now get this. All the current Softimage 3.8 users and members of the L.A. User Group have gotten official notice and invitation to a series of demonstrations of Sumatra to be unveiled at the show. Although no one official could be reached for comment, rumor has it that a real, working version will be revealed to all who attend. Amazing thing, that! We've only been waiting a year and a half to see it! Better be damned well worth the wait, huh?

Other Exhibitors of Note
The following is a very short list of some of the major exhibitors for SIGGRAPH `99:

3D Labs -- Evans and Sutherland's chief rival will be on the floor with their latest graphics cards/chipsets, plus new products that have resulted from their acquisition of Diamond Multimedia.

Adobe Systems -- Although most of this stuff has been out for a while, Adobe will feature items of interest for you animators like After Effects 4.0, Premiere 5.1 and the newly shipped Photoshop 5.5

Ascension Technology Corporation -- For all you real-time animation fans, you'll want to check out MotionStar's real-time motion capture equipment in a stage demo.

PDI's Fishing, directed by David Gainey. Courtesy of PDI.

Autodesk -- New division discreet logic is unveiling new products (see discreet logic below for more information) and the makeover of their big-seller CAD program, AutoCAD 2000.

Auto*des*sys -- Latest upgrade of 3D animation/modeler/renderer Form Z 3.0.

Avid Technology -- Media Composer 1000 series (and other post-production suites), plus their ballyhooed rollout of Softimage Sumatra (see Softimage above).

B&L Engineering -- Check out their CODA mpx30 Real-Time Motion Capture System.

Caligari Corporation -- The newest iteration of the popular (and low-priced) 3D animation package TrueSpace4.

Cyberware -- For you modelers out there, you may want to have a look at Cyberware's Face and Head Scanner, Whole Body Scanner and Model Scanner systems.

Desktop Images -- DI will be showing and selling instructional tapes for Lightwave and Photoshop's latest versions from their library of dozens of videos.

Digibotics, Inc. -- This booth will feature their Digibot 3D laser digitizing system and a list of their scan services.

A screen shot from Softimage's Sumatra. Courtesy of Softimage.

Digimation -- Noted plugin manufacturer and third party vendor will demo all products but will prominently feature their new 3D Studio Max plugin Particle Studio.

discreet (formerly discreet logic, now owned by Autodesk) -- inferno, flame, fire, smoke, frost, flint, edit, paint, 3D Studio Max 3.0 (formerly a Kinetix product) will all be there to take a look at.

ELSA, Inc -- Look for this high-end video card company's latest graphics cards and chipsets, including the refreshingly low-buck Synergy II card (which is a fully Open GL).

Fujitsu Takamisawa America -- A new serial port wonder called the 6D Pointing Device is worth a stop.

GESTEL -- European 3D modeling and animation package SolidThinking will show you what solid thinking can do for a product (and yes, all the beta testing is done).

Hash Inc. -- Low-buck 3D guru Marshall Hash is back with his phenomenal Animation Master 99 in its latest version 7 guise. Look for the Mike Tyson model. It's scary!

An example of work done using Discreet's 3D Studio Max 3.0. © Lucas Arts Entertainment Co.

Hewlett-Packard Company -- New HP Kayak workstations. Make sure to ask one of their engineers about their newly-announced "molecular-level computing" technology. It'll blow your mind!

IBM -- Big Blue will show off their graphics workstations and servers. Intellistations, RS/6000, Netfinity, and Thinkpad will be demonstrated.

Immersion Corp. -- More and better stuff from the makers of the 3D arm digitizer Microscribe 3D.

Intel Corporation -- Famed chipmaker will show what the Pentium III XEON can do (without mention of their recent 600 Mhz chip woes, naturally).

Intergraph -- Intergraph will have a big booth that will feature their insanely fast Wildcat Graphics Card and TDZ workstations among other things. Tip: They will also be throughout the floor to demo at the IBM, Softimage DS and other booths.

Linker Systems -- Upgrades to Sheldon Linker's venerable 2D animation ink and paint program Animation Stand. Also: Look for their ScanLink product.

LIPSinc. -- A very interesting character animation product called Ventriloquist will be featured at this booth.

Maxon Computer -- Animation program Cinema 4D will be featured with SE, GO, NET, and XL versions. (They also have a Linux version!)

Media 100, Inc. -- The Media 100 video editing system should have some interesting upgrades worth seeing.

MUSE Technologies -- The developers of the Multi-dimensional User-oriented Synthetic Environment will show their newest rev-up of MUSE's engineering and animation multi-user networking software.

Mitsubishi Electronics America -- Video card and chipset maker will show off their VolumePro 500 real-time graphics engine.

Next Limit SL -- New versions of water simulation and effects plugins Realflow and Realwave (for MAX and Lightwave) will be featured at the booth.

Okino Computer Graphics -- Emerging company's PolyTrans 3D Scene Translator/NuGraf Rendering System and NuGraf Developer's 3D Toolkit will be demonstrated.

Precision Insight, Inc. -- New direct rendering infrastructure for LINUX. Yippee! That means you can (conceivably) run a full RenderMan suite on an Intel (or Alpha NT) machine. Extremely cool for you LINUX mavens out there.

Quantel, Inc. -- HAL and EditBox premium post-production packages will be shown to full effect. Also look for Henry and Domino upgrades.

Questar Productions -- 3D World Construction software for Macintosh, Windows and Amiga.

REAL ViZ -- For the production pro is the must-see MatchMover, Retimer, Stitcher and ImageModeler modeling and animation products.

Side Effects Software -- New features of the procedural animation maven's dreamboat Houdini 3.1 (and maybe some advance word on the rumored 4.0 upgrade).

Silicon Grail -- The venerable but powerful post-production compositor Chalice gets an upgrade and plugins.

Silicon Graphics -- OK, OK. So I pick on these guys a lot. The folks from Silly-Con Valley will show off their excessively expensive Visual NT workstations and the (wow) 300mhz upgrades for O2 and Octane. Watch for IRIX operating system upgrades, too.

WACOM Tech Group -- Digital drawing tablet manufacturer WACOM will do a rollout of their new Intuos Graphic Tablets. Very, very nice addition for the serious modeler or Internet animator.

Walt Disney Company -- Feature Animation, Interactive and Dream Quest divisions will be recruiting, but there's no word on what they want you to bring, if anything. Go to the booth can always ask for tix to their party!

Eric Huelsman is the over-paid, underworked er -- that's underpaid, over-worked -- guy in charge of the Friedman 3D computer animation program.

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