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SIGGRAPH 2015 Report: Day 1

While there's no Vanilla Ice or Ron Jeremy this year, lots of VR and related goodies about.

After a fantastic Siggraph 2014 in Vancouver, I was looking forward to seeing what Los Angeles could deliver. The last time I was here for Siggraph was in 2008 and I remember it well because Softimage held a legendary party involving Vanilla Ice and Ron Jeremy. (There are pictures “somewhere online,” I’m the guy in the red hat!) I was interested to see where the focus of the computer graphics industry is heading and look forward to seeing the emerging technologies and breakdowns of some pretty fantastic feature films from the last year.

Having been to NY Comic Con these last few years, which seems to be increasing in size every year, it seems odd that Siggraph seems to be going the opposite way and actually getting smaller. I am here at SIggraph 2015 in Los Angeles and a quick look at the Exhibition Floor reveals that it is half the size of previous years. Usually there is a mob of graduates flocking around the convention center, but they have yet to appear, it certainly seems a little quieter than previous years.

The hot topic of this year is simple; it’s Virtual Reality. Whether it’s Google Cardboard or Lucasfilm’s ILMxLab, it’s clear where the focus is. In the media room I have seen plenty of journalists cooing whilst adorning VR headsets and they all seem to jump at the same point in the demo video. I will be going to the emerging technology section tomorrow to see if I can get past the scary part.

The topic of VR also brings up the overlap between film and gaming production. Mike Seymour from Fxguide is moderating a panel on the subject, “Convergences in Film and Games Technologies” tomorrow. With panelists from ILM, Pixar and EA, it should be an interesting discussion. The line between movie making and real-time gaming has been getting ever closer for years now. Rendering technology is shifting onto the GPU rather than CPU, which only means faster renders for us visual effects guys. I look forward to see what they cover.

The main talk I attended today was a Siggraph special event called “40 Years of Creating the Impossible” from ILM.

It was a retrospective through the archives with Dennis Muren, Scott Farrar and Glen McIntosh leading the panel. They talked about how ILM developed after Star Wars and became the world-leading powerhouse that it is today. The inventiveness of Dennis and his team with optical effects during the 1980s was unrivalled, I particularly enjoyed the “previz” of the landspeeder scene from Return of the Jedi made with action dolls. Dennis said that people remember Jurassic Park as the main introduction of CG to the movie world but for him it was Terminator 2: Judgement Day. He said that during that film they figured out digital compositing which was a vital part of the pipeline in visual effects. As the talk continued into more modern examples, the panel kept mentioning the same thing - always look at reference. Scott Farrar said he was always out in the parking lot looking at people’s cars for reference during production on Transformers. It’s something that all artists should keep in mind,

My fears of this being a quieter Siggraph were certainly not entirely founded. The ILM event was packed and Tuesday’s schedule seems much more enticing. I am hoping to attend a VR panel as well as a ‘behind the scenes’ look at Pixar’s Inside Out.

My day was rounded off by a very cool party held by The Foundry at the Belasco Theater. Watching a DJ mix music to showreels on a huge screen was certainly unique!

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