Impressions from Imagina 2000

by Jeff Kleiser

Kleiser-Walczak's Jeff Kleiser with partner Dianna Walczak.

Cote D'Azur: The weather in the south of France was quite lovely; warm enough to sunbathe on the beach in front of the stylish hotel and conference center, Le Meridien. This is the fifth time I have been invited to speak at this conference, which is held each year in Monte Carlo, and bills itself a "think tank for digital creation." Imagina has been steadily growing since my first visit in 1986 and each year it has seemed more crowded and bustling. Most remarkable about the conference this year was the fact that the hardware exhibition was held in Paris rather than Monte Carlo, due to a lack of space. In response to the surging demand for exhibition space, Imagina has in the past resorted to large tents along the harbor, but even this proved to be inadequate. Construction of a new conference facility called the Forum is well under way and next year, the organizers intend to house the conference and exhibition under one roof in this new facility. In my opinion, this is a mistake.

An Intimate, Intelligent Setting
The fact that the conference was separate from the exhibition this year resulted in an entirely different atmosphere gracing the proceedings. Without the exhibitors, the people in attendance were there primarily to hear the papers and find out about recent trends in art and technology. Without all the hype about what equipment and software one should buy, I was struck by the fact that in many respects, it is much more interesting to find out what people have been doing with new technology rather that with what technology they have been doing it. It reminded me of the early days of SIGGRAPH, when there was a palpable excitement in the air about the latest capability that had been invented and how it had been applied to the creation of imagery. Back then, a spirit of camaraderie existed amongst all the participants, each of us knowing that something amazing was being born in the circuitry of these crude machines and that we were a part of that process. There was an opportunity to meet many more people at parties or in bars because everyone was so darned excited about the field they could not contain themselves.

Without the heavy cloak of commerce hanging over the proceedings there was air to breath and room to sit down in the café and talk with people. There were no sales people in sight, and the handful of equipment exhibitors that were in attendance were largely ignored. What remained was the core and essence of Imagina -- the artists, academicians and production companies in a dialogue about the latest work being done and the prospects for what may come in the future. It would be my recommendation to separate the conference from the exhibit permanently, and that goes for SIGGRAPH as well.

Winning Films
The other interesting aspect of Imagina has always been the Prix Pixel Award Ceremony. This competition is divided into categories that include Art, Commercials, Music Video, Student Works, Fiction, Science and for the first time this year, Stereoscopic Projects. A jury has selected the top five or six entries in each category and the works are projected to the public over two nights. During the screening, the audience votes for the top three pieces in each category. On the third night the awards are presented at a flashy Academy Award-like ceremony and winners are given the mic to make comments before their work is screened again. The Prix Pixel award itself is redesigned each year in the shape of a teapot, that durable icon of computer graphics that originated at the University of Utah back in the `70s. This year the teapots were slim multicolored glass and very fashionable, unlike the one I brought home in 1986 for our work at Omnibus on Flight Of The Navigator. That year the award was carved from an eighteen inch long block of marble and weighed 30 pounds (apparently, it also appeared to be an explosive device to the X-RAY security systems at the airport in Nice, requiring me to unpack my bags and heft it for the skeptical gendarmes).

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