For the first time, SIGGRAPH ventures outside the U.S. this year by going to Vancouver (conference: Aug. 7-11; exhibition: Aug. 9-11). Conference Chair Peter Braccio from the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute gives us a sneak peek.
Bill Desowitz: Why venture outside the U.S. for the first time?
Peter Braccio: SIGGRAPH has always been an international conference with participation from around the globe and, our attendee, submitter and exhibitor base shows this to be true. Each host city goes through a selection process with other competing cities.
For 2011, Vancouver made a strong push to be considered as a host city and was selected based on many different factors from airport access to being such a focal point of our core communities (research, education, art, film production, games, etc) to having enough hotel space to accommodate a group as large as SIGGRAPH.. And Vancouver makes sense from a logistical standpoint as well -- it is on west side of the United States and easier to get to from Asia.
Plus, it made sense to bring our state-of-the-art content to one of the only state-of-the-art cities in the world. People will be inspired from inside and outside the Convention Center's walls.
BD: What's it been like coordinating there? And what about outside events?
PB: Vancouver has been supremely easy to work with on a local, provincial and federal level with both governmental and non-government organizations. SIGGRAPH has been incredibly fortunate to have had unprecedented support from Vancouver throughout the 18-month plus planning cycle for this conference.
As for events planned throughout the city, we have a few things that we are in the process of finalizing. However, I really can't let the cat out of the bag on those yet. Check the web site for updates as we draw closer to August. And for those unfamiliar with Vancouver, it is a city unmatched for both its physical natural beauty and amazing entertainment and recreational options Plus, August is the ideal time of the year to be there.
BD: Attendance has been down in recent years, yet participants seem to like the more intimate atmosphere. Are you anticipating something comparable to last year's event in L.A. as opposed to New Orleans in 2009?
PB: Fortunately, the economy has rebounded since 2009 and we believe that last year's attendance reflects this positive change and we only anticipate that trend continuing. That being said, SIGGRAPH is about delivering the best quality experience possible to attendees. This year is no exception. Also, Vancouver is a vibrant gaming and special effects community, so we anticipate a large draw locally. Plus, Vancouver is, after all, located on the West Coast-side of the United States and has a reputation as an international destination -- especially true since they just hosted the past Olympic Games. There truly are only a handful of cities in the entire world that compare to Vancouver and we anticipate that aspect attracting people to the conference as well.
BD: What about the exhibition side? What trends are you noticing?
PB: Exhibition numbers are looking good. In fact, we're seeing a substantial increase in the number of international exhibitors participating this year.
PB: The "Make it Home" theme came out of a volunteer-led discussion group that was attempting to quantify what SIGGRAPH was in the digital age and whether or not there were risks that were not addressed in moving the conference outside of the United States. Someone at this meeting made the strong point that no matter where SIGGRAPH was -- it was home. She then described a postcard of the famous Blue Marble picture of the Earth that had the word "Home" under it to reinforce the point. This resonated with everyone in the room.
BD: What is the new Symposium business think tank that you're launching this year for the computer graphics community?
PB: Very broadly, the four core constituents for the SIGGRAPH conference are Research, Production, Art, and Business. We have served the needs of the first three of these groups well over the years. The SIGGRAPH Symposium looks to expand the content for the Business constituents beyond the Exhibition. While the Exhibition fills several needs, it does little to formally address the issues, problems and opportunities that the computer graphics industry is seeing as a whole. The SIGGRAPH Symposium is our chance to provide an open, neutral, forum where these issues can be discussed and solutions will, hopefully, be found. This is also separate, limited registration category and takes place throughout Sunday of conference week. It is targeted at more senior level industry experts.
BD: I see Dailies! is back. What's new?
PB: The SIGGRAPH Dallies! selections for this year are more diverse than the they were in 2010. There are more university, game, and industry pieces in addition to the studio works. This makes for a more well-rounded presentation. All this content is available on the SIGGRAPH 2011 web site (as is most of our content), so you can see for yourself.
PB: As far as structure goes, there are a few changes for this year. The Computer Animation Festival screenings will all be held in one room, and the Production Sessions and Real-Time Live! programs will be held in another room. This will allow for six or seven Production Sessions, in addition to the three Real-Time Live! sessions. Also, the hands on component of Real-Time Live! (The Sandbox) is moving into the same room as other "experience" venues (Art Gallery, Emerging Technologies and The Studio).
We also will feature a dedicated 3-D day that includes a major Hollywood footage that has never been seen by the public before. There will be four Electronic Theater screenings (including one matinee) and several Festival Theaters screenings as well. The content is jam-packed with some of the season's biggest blockbusters and a wide variety of submissions across many categories (commercials to games).
Additionally, The Studio is continuing and expanding its Studio Talks sessions. These are now jury selected and SIGGRAPH-recognized sessions aimed at the nuts and bolts aspects of this field. You can think of these as a complement to the Dallies! Program in that these two things explore the realm of how the tool is used rather than realms of the tool creator or that of the finished work.
BD: What's the experience been like chairing the conference after being Guerilla Studio chair?
PB: I think that the experiences for me are fairly similar. In both positions I had wonderful groups of people that are smart, energetic and able to produce magic far beyond what I could. My job was to step back, provide them support and give them the space to make the magic happen. Come to Vancouver in August and you can be part of that magic too.
Bill Desowitz is senior editor of AWN & VFXWorld.