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Side Effects’ Mark Elendt Talks Dailies at SIGGRAPH 2013

Side Effects Software’s Mark Elendt participates in a Q&A about the SIGGRAPH 2013 Dailies program.

Following is a brief Q&A with Mark Elendt, SIGGRAPH 2013 Dailies Chair from Side Effects Software. Mark has had quite a successful CG career and has been a devoted SIGGRAPH volunteer for many years. He is well known for his work at Side Effects Software. In 2012, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences recognized Mark and his colleague (Andrew Clinton) with a Technical Achievement Award.

To those new to SIGGRAPH, here are the details on SIGGRAPH Dailies:

"This celebration of excellence in computer graphics showcases images and short animations of extraordinary power and beauty. Each presenter has one minute to present an animation and describe the work. The format is very similar to Technical Papers Fast Forward, except there is no talk later in the week.

Dailies is where you will be astounded by sheer excellence in modeling, shading, animation, lighting, effects, and more. Where you can participate in the vibrant production culture that surrounds presenting and reviewing work that was completed despite seemingly endless obstacles."

The Dailies take place on Wednesday during conference week from 6pm - 8pm

Why do you think the Dailies program has caught on?

Mark Elendt

Though it's relatively new, I personally feel that Dailies is one of the most exciting SIGGRAPH programs and I think it really strikes a chord with a lot of the SIGGRAPH attendees.

I mean, I've always really enjoyed the other programs at SIGGRAPH, particularly the technical programs. But one thing I particularly enjoyed was the "how we did this" clips shown by big studios at the Electronic Theatre. I really enjoyed watching how all the different components come together to make a single complex shot in a movie.

Dailies is a whole evening of "behind the scenes" stories. Not only do you see outstanding imagery, but you also hear the stories from the artists who did the work: the challenges, clever tricks, or even how they were personally affected by the work. With 45 different stories told in a space of about 90 minutes, it makes for a very fast-paced and exciting evening.

If you think about it, there really is no other place where you can experience this kind of event.

What motivated you to want to be the Chair?

I have been a SIGGRAPH volunteer for many years and was fortunate to be around when the first Dailies program was rolled out by Pixar's Bill Polson. Bill's explanation of Dailies really captured my imagination. Electronic Theatre shows the final product and Production Sessions give us an in-depth look into the process, but Dailies is the only place at SIGGRAPH where we get to hear from the artist who actually did the work. I guess my motivation to be Chair was that I wanted to step up and help this fledgling program off the ground.

How did you pick your Jury?

This year, I was really fortunate to get a great jury of industry professionals together to review the material. It was a very small group of very talented individuals from Dreamworks, Pixar, Microsoft Games and Rhythm and Hues. I felt that to avoid conflicts of interest, it was essential to select jurors with different talents from across different studios. Of course, it was also important to choose people with production experience, jurors who knew what it was like to work in the trenches.

Mark Elendt

Mark Elendt

What was your biggest challenge this year?

Though the Dailies program has gained popularity among attendees, there has actually been a slight downward trend in the number of submissions. So my biggest challenge this year was to try to bolster the number of submissions. In many ways, 2013 was a challenging year for film production, but even so, I was happy to see the number of submissions increase.

What should people expect this year....any highlights?>

With 45 unique presentations by 45 different artists, all crammed into about 90 minutes, it's going to be a frantic, fast-paced roller coaster of an evening. There's a huge variety of content - from fantastic student work to talks by top studios. Along with the stunning imagery, what really stands out at Dailies are the stories behind the work. There are a couple of very special pieces, but I'd prefer not to give away any spoilers.

What does it take to get accepted to Dailies?

There are two components to a Dailies submission. The first is the work itself. The second, and often more important component, is the story behind the work. With a good story and compelling imagery, you have a shoe-in submission for Dailies.

As a Canadian, are you surprised at how well SIGGRAPH 2011 did in Vancouver and are you excited to go back?

2011 was the first time SIGGRAPH was held outside the United States and as a Canadian, I was thrilled to see it come to Vancouver. Not only is Vancouver a picturesque location, the whole graphics community really pitched in to make SIGGRAPH 2011 a magical experience.

In my 20+ years of SIGGRAPH, Vancouver 2011 stands out as an exceptional conference and I can't tell you how delighted I was to hear that SIGGRAPH is going back in 2014. Though my expectations are set pretty high, I don't think I'll be disappointed, eh?

What has been your biggest career honor?

When I'm not volunteering for SIGGRAPH, I build animation and rendering tools for Side Effects Software. I'm always blown away to see how talented artists can use (and sometimes abuse) the tools I make to create such amazing imagery. But the single biggest career honour would have to be my Technical Academy Award from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, recognizing my contributions to the film industry (BTW, there's an extra 'u' in honour in Canada).

In this Dailies presentation, Fran Kalal talks about how she identified with Ellie as she ran cloth simulations for Ellie's wedding dress while planning her own wedding.

In a more philosophical vein, Scott Keating describes his struggle to balance art and technology to produce a realistic, yet believable pyroclastic simulation:

Source: SIGGRAPH 2013

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