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SIGGRAPH 2015 Report: Day 2 & 3

Teapots, Snickers and Virtual Reality are definitely ruling this year’s show.

Things have been heating up since my last blog post. The exhibition doors have been thrown wide open and hungry students are claiming free Pixar teapots, cloth bags, miniature Snickers bars and tissues from the booths. There is definitely a bigger buzz today. My intention was to go to the VR Village talk but it was jammed packed and I couldn’t get in. Nevertheless I had a fantastic day with some very interesting moments.

Firstly I headed to the Pixar talk about the making of Lava. If you haven’t seen it in front of this year’s Inside Out, then try to see it digitally. It’s a real treat of a Pixar short. It’s essentially a love story centering around a lonely volcano called Uku who sings his song of “Lava” to the ocean. Unbeknownst to him, another volcano called Lele is behind him and eventually they end up together. It’s one of my favorite shorts from them in many years. The “making of” talk had numerous people from the Pixar team including director James Murphy. He started the talk by showing how he pitched the idea to John Lasseter - this involved playing the “Lava” song on his ukelele. I’ll be honest and say that it was a genuinely moving moment! The rest of the talk including many insights into Pixar’s production techniques. Some interesting moments were the procedural texturing so that animators could add and remove rocks as needed and the computer automatically textured them correctly. The discussions about animating to the right scale were also intriguing.

After the Pixar talk I decided to hit the exhibition floor, art gallery and emerging technologies section. There were some interesting displays including a projected 3D skull called ‘Shogyo Mujo,’ a 3D projection-mapped skull created in collaboration with artist Josh Harker and Theatrical Concepts. 3D printing seemed much less on the agenda, whereas last year you literally couldn’t move for bad prints of custom phone case designs. There were plenty of collaborative projects as per usual with some interesting electronic kits on display.

As I mentioned yesterday, Virtual Reality (VR) was ruling the show. First of all I tried on an Oculus Rift showing a soccer stadium created by Digital Domain. You were a virtual head of a soccer player. It was pretty good, but had a lot of motion in it. There were other displays including one from Ford that showed a VR breakdown of an engine. However the favorite thing I have seen in many years was from Sony Pictures. They had a modified PS4 running a VR system called “Project Morpheus” and on it they were showing an interactive version of Robert Zemeckis’ new movie The Walk. On the floor was a tightrope and the headset showed you a pretty photorealistic view of what it was like to be on the top of the World Trade Center. What stunned me was that I was unable to move! I have a problem with heights in real life and this VR, these pixels had convinced my brain that I was really up 110 floors. My legs started to shake as if I was really there, I simply couldn’t walk over the tightrope. I was embarrassed but the exhibitor told me plenty of people had the same reaction.

As I couldn’t get into the VR discussion, I headed to the making of Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar. I knew a fair bit about the process from the VES Awards and behind the scenes information, but they really went into great detail about the physics behind the rendering of the black hole. Better still, theoretical physicist Kip Thorne was there alongside VFX Supervisor Paul Franklin. It was fascinating to see how they tried to stay scientifically accurate but also make interesting imagery. Some of the tests involving bunnies being rendered in black holes were hilarious.

My evening activities included going to the Solidangle Arnold party where I was met by an Arnold impersonator at the door. Simple but certainly effective, I was indeed bemused! As Siggraph passes the midpoint I’m looking forward to seeing the Electronic Theater tomorrow to see the year’s best pieces of work.