A partial, early list of SIGGRAPH 2011 courses has recently been published. SIGGRAPH has published such preliminary lists in previous years, typically representing around half to a third of the final course list.
The list includes six very promising courses:
- Advances in Real-Time Rendering in Games: Part I – this is the next iteration in a course series, organized by Natalya Tatarchuk, that has been presented at SIGGRAPH every year (with new content) since 2006. This course has been a highlight of every SIGGRAPH it has appeared in and I’m pleased to see it coming back. The instructors are not yet listed, but Natasha has always been able to round up a top-notch speaker roster, and I am confident she will do so again this year. “Advances…” has always been a full-day course, though since 2008 (when SIGGRAPH canceled the full-day course format) it’s been divided into two half-day courses. Only one of the two halves appears on this list; hopefully this is a simple oversight and SIGGRAPH didn’t reject the other half of the course!
- Character Rigging, Deformations, and Simulations in Film and Game Production – I’m always happy to see “X in film and games”-types courses. If well-organized and presented, such courses detail the current cutting-edge of actual production practice in both industries, emphasizing interesting differences and commonalities between the two. Such crossover content is an important feature of SIGGRAPH not found in industry-specific conferences like GDC. The topic is important; many games don’t put enough of an emphasis on animation quality. The speaker list is strong, including Tim McLaughlin (a graphics researcher at Texas A&M University who also has a nice body of film VFX work he did at ILM), Larry Cutler (a character technical director at Dreamworks Animation, formerly at Pixar), and David Coleman (a Senior CG Supervisor at Electronic Arts Canada, where he leads the EA Sports rigging team).
- Cinematography: The Visuals & the Story – I’m very happy to see this course on the list. I have become increasingly fascinated with cinematography over the last few years; there is a lot that video games can learn from cinematography, from creative topics like lighting and composition to technical ones such as depth of field and tone mapping. This course is taught by Bruce Block, a film producer and visual consultant who wrote a very well-regarded and influential book called The Visual Story, about how visual structure is used to present story in film. I’m trying to get a course put together for next year which would cover the topic from a different angle, as presented by working film cinematographers; the two courses should make a nicely complementary pair.
- Destruction and Dynamics for Film and Game Production – Another “X in film and games” course on a key topic, organized by Erwin Coumans (AMD; formerly at SCEA R&D, Havok and Guerrilla Games). Erwin is the creator of the open-source Bullet Physics engine, which has been used in many films and games. Other speakers include Takahiro Harada (a GPU physics researcher at AMD, formerly Havok and the University of Tokyo), Nafees Bin Zafar (a senior production engineer at DreamWorks Animation who won an Academy Scientific & Engineering Award for his fluid simulation work at Digital Domain), Mark Carlson (an FX R&D programmer at DreamWorks Animation, formerly at Disney Animation), Brice Criswell (a senior software engineer at ILM), Michael Baker (no affiliation listed – I’m guessing it’s the Michael Baker who teaches at the Art Institute of Las Vegas and develops tools for the Dynamica Bullet Maya plugin), and Erin Catto (a principal software engineer at Blizzard who also developed the very widely used Box2D open source 2D physics engine).
- PhysBAM: Physically Based Simulation – Another physics course, but with a different emphasis. It focuses on the the PhysBAM simulation library developed at Stanford University and used by ILM, Disney Animation, and Pixar. Parts of PhysBAM are already open source – since the course webpage refers to “the soon-to-be-released simulation library PhysBAM”, presumably the rest will be available soon. The course is presented by Craig Schroeder (a PhD student at Stanford).
- Storytelling With Color – Anyone who saw my color course last year knows that I believe that getting the technical side of color right is important, for both film and games. But the reason it is important comes from the creative side – the way that a selection of colors can drive story or establish a mood. This course covers that topic, and should be of great interest to many game developers. It will be presented by Kathy Altieri (a production designer at DreamWorks Animation who worked on filmsm including The Prince of Egypt, Over the Hedge, and How to Train Your Dragon, and previously at Disney Animation on The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, and The Lion King).
If the rest of the content will be nearly as good as this preliminary set of courses appears to be, SIGGRAPH 2011 will be a conference to remember!