MAST attends industry events like NAB and SIGGRAPH to expand its professional network of mentors and members, build and strengthen sponsor and vendor relationships, and stay on top of where the industry is moving.

I am, personally, an ACM SIGGRAPH member. I’ve been hitting this annual conference since 2000. I’ve spoken at SIGGRAPH, I’ve panelled at SIGGRAPH. I’m a supporter. As with any conference, it ebs and flows. More ebbing, of late: again, in keeping with a trend toward smaller shows with tighter objectives. CG certainly isn’t going anywhere (the industry was valued at $259B in 2018, and is projected at $270B for 2020). But the industry and the community are increasingly served online, and gathering for expensive events is less and less critical to cohesion and growth. But I’m a junkie: I like to see and touch the new tech, I like actually meeting new people (over drinks if I can manage it), and I like feeling the zeitgeist.

So come on out, y’all, I don’t want to be the last one standing.

Show Floor

SIGGRAPH 2019 in Los Angeles was compact. Where in years past the exhibits and “Experience” (as the new guard calls it) would occupy three halls at the LA Convention Center, it has contracted to a single hall with many of the usual suspects absent from the show floor (I didn’t see NewTek, Modo, Houdini, ZBrush, not to mention the effects shops that used to come—I have 3 ILM t-shirts from consecutive years past). Though some were still announcing, or in the “Hive”.

Unreal Engine (Epic Games) was there in style, silk-screening t-shirts on demand. Blackmagic brought its training booth, with hands-on instruction for Resolve. Unity was there. B&H Photo was there (I was at their 9th Ave. location in New York last week looking at cameras and audio interfaces). And a handful of mocap techs (love the new inertial systems like Noitom). Maxon had a pair of booths, one for Cinema 4D and one for (newly-acquired rending tech) Redshift. (Cinema 4D, by the by, is now available on monthly subscription for $59.99, a significant reduction from its previous ~$6k + ~$800/yr. It’s a great product with a strong community. I’m glad to see it more accessible, now, to students and indies.)

And the “Experience”, headlined by the Virtual Reality Theater looked to be as strong as ever (predictably featuring VR, AI, and wearables) with more square footage than it’s likely enjoyed before. (My favorite exhibit ever was from 2000, a “mirror” made of 1.5in cube blocks on axels that would rotate to create a rudimentary reflection of whatever stood in front of it. Something like this one.)

Worth seeing all around.

Computer Animation Festival

The show’s raison d’etre, the Computer Animation Festival, held strong—visually. Not a lot of great stories. This is not a new thing. I’ll continue pushing visual artists to collaborate with writers. Don’t go it alone. But… this stuff is really beautiful to look at.

SIGGRAPH awards three distinctions: Best in Show, Jury’s Choice, Best Student Project. My own Best of the Lot was the Best Student Project winner: “Stuffed” by lead creator Élise Simoulin, a superb talent. Gorgeous work. And the story—while not entirely coherent—does have beautifully empathetic characters and strong emotional beats.

Here’s my own top five:

#1. “Stuffed” by lead creator Élise Simoulin

#2. “Passage” by lead creator Igor Coric

#3. “Share Your Gifts” by lead creator Buck

#4. “Best Friend” by lead creator Nicholas Olivieri

#5. “Marooned” by lead creator Andrew Erekson

With honorable mentions going to “Hedgehog” and “Kinky Kitchen”, and my own Technical Achievement nod going to Unity’s “The Heretic” rendered in real-time.

“Alita: Battle Angel” and “Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse” were in the line-up as well, but are so far beyond the other entrants in budget and scope that I considered them more exemplars than contestants. The SIGGRAPH jury appears to be have taken the same tack.

Watch your local ACM SIGGRAPH chapter for announcements on regional screenings. Don’t miss it.