SIGGRAPH 2010

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Since my original post about the SIGGRAPH 2010 courses, some of the courses now have updated speaker lists (including mine – regardless of what Eric may think, I’m not about to risk Hyper-Cerebral Electrosis by speaking for three hours straight). I’ll give the notable updates here:

Stylized Rendering in Games

Covered games will include:

  • Borderlands (presented by Gearbox cofounder and chief creative officer Brian Martel as well as VP of product development Aaron Thibault)
  • Brink (presented by lead programmer Dean Calver)
  • The 2008 Prince of Persia (presented by lead 3D programmer Jean-François St-Amour)
  • Battlefield Heroes (presented by graphics engineer Henrik Halén)
  • Mirror’s Edge (also presented by Henrik Halén).
  • Monday Night Combat (presented by art director Chandana Ekanayake) – thanks to Morgan for the update!

Physically Based Shading Models in Film and Game Production

  • I’ll be presenting the theoretical background, as well as technical, production, and creative lessons from the adoption of physically-based shaders at the Activision studios.
  • Also on the game side, Yoshiharu Gotanda (president, R&D manager, and co-founder of tri-Ace) will talk about some of the fascinating work he has been doing with physically based shaders.

On the film production side:

  • Adam Martinez is a computer graphics supervisor at Sony Pictures Imageworks whose film work includes the Matrix series and Superman Returns; his talk will focus on the use of physically based shaders in Alice in Wonderland.  Imageworks uses a ray-tracing renderer, unlike the micropolygon rasterization renderers used by most of the film industry; I look forward to hearing how this affects shading and lighting.
  • Ben Snow is a visual effects supervisor at Industrial Light and Magic who has done VFX work on numerous films (many of them as CG or VFX supervisor) including Star Trek: Generations, Twister, The Lost World: Jurassic Park, The Mummy, Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones, King Kong, and Iron Man. Ben has pioneered the use of physically based shaders in Terminator Salvation and Iron Man 2, which I hope to learn more about from his talk.

Color Enhancement and Rendering in Film and Game Production

The game side of the course has two speakers in common with the “physically-based shading” course:

  • Yoshiharu Gotanda will talk about his work on film and camera emulation at tri-Ace, which is every bit as interesting as his physical shading work.
  • I’ll discuss my experiences introducing filmic color grading techniques at the Activision studios.

And one additional speaker:

  • While working at Electronic Arts, Haarm-Pieter Duiker applied his experience from films such as the Matrix series and Fantastic Four to game development, pioneering the filmic tone-mapping technique recently made famous by John Hable. He then moved back into film production, working on Speed Racer and 2012 (for which he won a VES award). Haarm-Pieter also runs his own company which makes tools for film color management.

The theoretical background and film production side will be covered by a roster of speakers which (although I shouldn’t say this since I’m organizing the course) is nothing less than awe-inspiring:

  • Dominic Glynn is lead engineer of image mastering at Pixar Animation Studios. He has worked on films including Cars, The Wild, Ratatouille, Up and Toy Story 3. Dominic will talk about how color enhancement and rendering is done at different stages of the Pixar rendering pipeline.
  • Joseph Goldstone (Lilliputian Pictures LLC) is a prominent consulting color scientist; his film credits include Terminator 2: Judgment Day, Batman Returns, Apollo 13, The Fifth Element, Titanic, and Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones. He has contributed to industry standards committees such as the International Color Consortium (ICC) and the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Science’s Image Interchange Framework.
  • Joshua Pines is vice president of color imaging R&D at Technicolor; between his work at Technicolor, ILM and other production companies he has over 50 films to his credit, including Star Wars: Return of the Jedi, The Abyss, Terminator 2: Judgment Day, Jurassic Park, Schindler’s List, Forrest Gump, Twister, Mission: Impossible, Titanic, Saving Private Ryan, The Mummy, Star Wars: The Phantom Menace, The Aviator, and many others. Joshua lead the development of ILM’s film scanning system and has a Technical Achievement Award from the Motion Pictures Academy of Arts & Sciences for his work on film archiving.
  • Jeremy Selan is the color pipeline lead at Sony Pictures Imageworks. He has worked on films including Spider-Man 2 and 3, Monster House, Surf’s Up, Beowulf, Hancock, and Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs. Jeremy has contributed to industry standards committees such as the Digital Cinema Initiative (DCI), SMPTE, and the Academy of Motion Picture Art and Science’s Image Interchange Framework. At the course, Jeremy will unveil an exciting new initiative he has been working on at Imageworks.
  • The creative aspects of color grading will be covered by Stefan Sonnenfeld, senior vice president at Ascent Media Group as well as president, managing director, and co-founder of Company 3. An industry-leading DI colorist, Stefan has worked on almost one hundred films including Being John Malkovich, the Pirates of the Caribbean series, War of the Worlds, Mission: Impossible III, X-Men: The Last Stand, 300, Dreamgirls, Transformers, Sweeney Todd, Cloverfield, The Hurt Locker, Body of Lies, The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, Where the Wild Things Are, Alice in Wonderland, Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, and many others, as well as numerous high-profile television projects.

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I recently spent a weekend in downtown LA helping the SIGGRAPH 2010 committee put together the conference schedule.  Looking at the end result from a game developer’s perspective, this is going to be a great conference! More details will be published in early May, but you can see the emphasis on games already; of the current (partial) list of courses, over half have high relevance to games.

If you are a game developer, we need your participation to help make this the biggest game SIGGRAPH ever! A few months ago I posted about the February 18th deadline. That deadline is long gone, but several venues are still open. This is your chance to show off not just in front of your fellow game developers, but also before the leading film graphics professionals and researchers. The most relevant venues for game developers are:

  1. Live Real-Time Demos. The Electronic Theater, a nightly showcase of the best computer graphics clips of the year, has long been a SIGGRAPH highlight and the tentpole event of the Computer Animation Festival (which is an official qualifying festival for the Academy Awards). The Electronic Theater is shown on a giant screen in the largest convention center hall, before an audience packed with the world’s top computer graphics professionals and researchers. Last year SIGGRAPH introduced a new event before the Electronic Theater to showcase the best real-time graphics of the year. The submission deadline for Live Real-Time Demos is April 28th (a week and a half away), so time is short! Submitting your game to Live Real-Time Demos is as simple as uploading about 5 minutes of captured game footage (all submitted materials are held in strict confidentiality) and filling out a short online form. If you want your game submitted, please let your producer know about this ASAP; it will likely take some time to get approval.
  2. SIGGRAPH Dailies! (new for 2010) is where the artists get to shine; details here, including cool example presentations from Pixar. Other SIGGRAPH programs present graphics techniques; ‘SIGGRAPH Dailies!’ showcases the craft and artistry with which these techniques are applied. All excellent production art is welcome: characters, animations, level lighting, particle effects, etc. Each artist whose work is selected will get two minutes at SIGGRAPH to show a video clip of their work and tell an interesting story about creating it. The submission deadline for ‘SIGGRAPH Dailies!’ is May 6th. Submitting art to Dailies is just a matter of uploading 60-90 seconds of video and filling out an online form. If your studio is planning to submit more than one or two Dailies, you should use the batch submission process: designate a representative (like an art director or lead) to recruit presentations and get producer approval. Once the representative has a tentative list of submissions, they should contact SIGGRAPH (click this link and select ‘SIGGRAPH Dailies’ from the drop down menu) to give advance warning of the expected submission count. After all entries have video clips and backstory text files, the studio representative contacts SIGGRAPH again to coordinate a batch submission.
  3. Late-Breaking Talks. Although the initial talk deadline is past, there is one more chance to submit talks: the late-breaking deadline on May 6th. SIGGRAPH talks are 20-minute presentations, typically about practical, down-to-earth film or game production techniques. If you are a graphics programmer or technical artist, you must have developed several such techniques while working on your last game. If there is one you are especially proud of, consider submitting a Talk about it; this only requires a one-page abstract (if you happen to have video or additional documentation you can add them as supplementary material). To show the detail expected in the abstract and the variety of possible talks here are five abstracts from 2009: a game production technique, a game system/API, a game rendering technique, a film effects shot, and a film character.

Presenting at one of these forums is a professional opportunity well worth the small amount of work involved. Forward this post to other people on your team so they can get in on the fun!

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Really, the title says it all, just go to the SIGGRAPH site and reserve one now. Even if there’s only a 5% chance you’ll go, book one anyway; you’re not charged until after July 9th and can cancel at any time. When you cancel your room will almost assuredly be snapped up by someone else. I’ve lost count of the times people have told me, “well, I had to stay 3 miles outside the city, next to the freeway”—no, you didn’t, you just had to book now.

Me, I like the Figueroa for walkability and its bar & pool area (plus it’s next to the brand new HQ hotel this year), some people like the Holiday Inn as it’s generally less funky, is even closer, but across the wide street. Neither is a bargain this year; the Ritz Milner is a bargain and is walkable, but has some downsides. Everything else is about in the same $143-$199 price range except some of the more distant hotels (Kawada, Wilshire Plaza), but of course these have shuttle service. See the map, and prices are listed on the second page.

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The deadline for submitting a Talk to SIGGRAPH is February 18 – less than two weeks away as I’m writing this.  Although the time is short, all game developers working in graphics should seriously consider submitting one; it’s not a lot of work, and the potential benefits are huge.  As a member of the 2010 conference committee, I thought I’d take a little time to elucidate.

SIGGRAPH 2010 is in Los Angeles this summer.  Although most people think of SIGGRAPH in connection with academic papers, it is also where film production people share practical tips and tricks, show off cool things they did on their last film, learn from their colleagues, and make professional connections.  Over the last few years, there has been a steadily growing game developer presence as well, which is exciting because SIGGRAPH is a unique opportunity for these two graphics communities to meet and learn from each other. The convergence between the technology, production methods, and artistic vision of film and games is a critical trend in both industries, and SIGGRAPH is where the rubber meets the road.

In 2010, SIGGRAPH is making a big push to increase the amount of game content.  Stop and think for a minute; isn’t there something you’ve done over the past year or two that’s just wicked awesome?  Wouldn’t it be cool to show it off not just to your fellow game developers, but to people from companies like ILM, Pixar and Sony Pictures Imageworks?  Imagine the conversations you could have, about adapting your technique for film use or improving it with ideas taken from film production!

Most film production content is presented as 20-minute Talks (formerly called Sketches); this makes the most sense for game developers as well.  Submitting a Talk requires only a one-page abstract and takes little time.  If you happen to have some video or additional documentation ready you can attach those as supplementary material.  This can help the reviewers assess your technique, but is not required.  If your talk is accepted, you have until the day of your presentation in late July to prepare slides (just 20 minutes worth).

To help see the level of detail expected in the one-page abstract, here are three examples.

A little time invested in submitting a Talk for SIGGRAPH 2010 can pay back considerable dividends in career development and advancement, so go for it!

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