SIGGRAPH 2011

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I’m planning a series of more extensive posts on SIGGRAPH content (starting with the courses), but I’ll start with a quick roundup to help people decide on their attendance before the early-bird registration expires at the end of this week. The roundup is focused on those sessions of potential interest to professional game artists, professional game programmers, real-time rendering researchers and real-time rendering students. I’m not listing paper sessions – I typically skip those in favor of other sessions since the papers themselves tend to be readily available. I’ve also skipped the Reception and the various Birds of a Feather sessions for brevity since those tend to be more social (some Birds of a Feather sessions do have presentations, and others might be of particular interest, so it’s probably a good idea to check the BoF list). More information can be found on the individual SIGGRAPH web pages (linked where available) as well as the SIGGRAPH Advance Program.

UPDATES:

  • June 15, 2011: Added SIGGRAPH Dailies! and relevant Exhibitor Tech Talks; added links to individual Panels.
  • June 20, 2011: Added links to individual CAF Production Sessions, The Studio Workshops, The Studio Digital Artistry Sessions, and the Keynote.
  • June 23, 2011: Added links to remaining sessions, and corrected the classification of some of The Studio presentations.
  • June 24, 2011: Removed Reception and Birds of a Feather sessions for brevity; also corrected times of some Studio Talks.
  • July 15, 2011: Added individual NVIDIA Exhibitor Tech Talks.

Multiple Days

  • Electronic Theater (6:00-8:00 on August 8, 9, and 10)
  • Emerging Technologies (2:00-5:30 on August 7; 9:00-5:30 on August 8, 9, and 10; 9:00-1:00 on August 11; also open during Reception)
  • Exhibition (9:30-6:00 on August 9 and 10; 9:30-3:30 on August 11)
  • Posters (12:00-5:30 on August 7; 9:00-5:30 on August 8, 9, 10, and 11)
  • Real-Time Live! (4:30-5:15 on August 8, 9, and 10)
  • The Sandbox (12:00-5:30 on August 7; 9:00-5:30 on August 8,9, and 10; 9:00-1:00 on August 11; also open during Reception)
  • There are also several co-located conferences which may be of interest

Sunday, August 7th

12:00-1:45:

12:30-1:45:

2:00-3:30:

2:00-5:15:

3:00-3:30:

3:45-4:15:

3:45-5:15:

4:30-5:00:

5:00–5:30:

6:00-8:00:

Monday, August 8th

9:00-9:30:

9:00-10:00:

9:00-10:30:

9:00-12:15:

9:30-10:30:

10:15-11:15:

10:40-12:10:

11:00-1:00:

11:30-12:30:

12:00-1:00:

12:45-1:30:

1:45-3:00:

2:00-2:30:

2:00-3:30:

2:00-5:15:

3:15-4:15:

3:45-4:15:

3:45-5:00:

3:45-5:15:

4:30-5:00:

4:30- 5:30:

5:00-5:30:

Tuesday, August 9th

9:00-9:30:

9:00-10:30:

9:00-12:15:

10:30-11:30:

10:40-12:15:

10:45-12:15:

12:30-1:45:

1:15-1:45:

2:00-3:30:

2:00-3:30:

2:00-5:15:

3:00-3:30:

3:45-4:15:

3:45-4:40:

3:45-5:00:

3:45-5:15:

4:30-5:00:

Wednesday, August 10th

9:00-9:30:

9:00-10:30:

9:00-12:15:

9:45-10:45:

10:30-11:30:

10:40-12:10:

10:45-12:15:

11:15-12:15:

11:30-12:00:

12:30-1:45:

2:00-3:30:

2:00-5:15:

2:15-3:15:

3:45-5:00:

3:45-5:15:

4:30-5:00:

  • The Visual Style of “Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole” (The Studio Talk)

6:00-7:30:

Thursday, August 11th

9:00-10:30:

9:00-12:15:

10:40-12:15:

10:45-12:15:

2:00-3:30:

2:00-5:15:

3:45–5:15:

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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:

  1. 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!
  2. 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).
  3. 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.
  4. 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).
  5. 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).
  6. 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!

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SIGGRAPH 2011 will be in Vancouver, on August 7-11, 2011. I’ve given presentations at SIGGRAPH several times; each time was a great experience where I learned a lot and met some pretty awesome graphics people from the world’s top research institutions, film production companies, and game development studios.

SIGGRAPH has several programs at which game developers can show their work; I wanted to point out that two of the most important (Talks and Dailies) have deadlines on February 18th, less than two weeks away! Fortunately submitting a proposal to one of these programs doesn’t take much time. However, getting approval from your boss may take a while, so you don’t want to wait.

SIGGRAPH Talks are 20-minute long presentations which typically contain “nuggets” of novel film or game production tech. These can be rendering or shading techniques, tools for artists, enhancements done to support a tricky character design, etc. If it’s something a programmer or technical artist is proud of having done and it’s at least tangentially graphics-related, chances are it would make a good Talk submission. Submitting a talk only requires creating a one-page abstract; if the talk is accepted, you have until August to make 20 minutes worth of slides – not too bad. To get an idea of the level of detail expected in the abstract, and of the variety of possible talks, here are some film and game Talk abstracts from 2009 and 2010: Houdini in a Games Pipeline, Spore API: Accessing a Unique Database of Player Creativity, Radially-Symmetric Reflection Maps, Underground Cave Sequence for Land of the Lost, Hatching an Imaginary Bird, Fast Furry Ray Gathering, and NPR Gabor Noise for Coherent Stylization. If you are reading this, please consider submitted the coolest thing you’ve done last year as a Talk; the small time investment will repay itself many times over.

SIGGRAPH Dailies are relatively new (first introduced at SIGGRAPH 2010). These are very short (under two minutes!) presentations of individual art assets, such as models, animations, particle effects, shaders, etc. Unlike the rest of SIGGRAPH which emphasizes novel techniques, Dailies emphasize excellence in the result. Every good game or movie has many individual bits of excellence, each the result of an artist’s talent, imagination and sweat. These are often overlooked, or unknown outside the studio; Dailies aim to correct that. Dailies submissions are even easier than Talk submissions. All that is required is a short (60-90 second) video of the art asset, no audio, just something simple like an animation loop or model turntable. You will also need a short backstory; something that gives a feeling for the effort that went into the work, including any notable production frustrations, unlikely inspirations, sudden strokes of genius, etc. Don’t write too much – it should take about as long to say as the video length (60-90 seconds). To get a better idea of what a Dailies presentation looks like, here are two examples. The list of Dailies presented at SIGGRAPH 2010 can be found here: it runs the gamut from Pixar and Disney movies to student projects. I suspect not many artists read this blog, so any game programmers reading this, please forward it to the artists at your studio.

Good luck with your submissions!

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