If you read our blog last year, you know that Derrick Nau (CGI Specialist here at TRG) is heavily involved with SIGGRAPH (Special Interest Group for GRAPHics and interactivity). This year Derrick was the Posters Chair (Something we went into great detail about in last years blog) for SIGGRAPH which took place August 9th - 13th in Los Angeles, CA. As soon as he returned from his week hanging out with the "who's who" of CG and VFX I was able to sit down with him and have a little chat about what he saw, what he learned, and most importantly what Pixar was up to (everyone loves Pixar).
There are many aspects to SIGGRAPH and many benefits to attending. One aspect of SIGGRAPH is a sort of recap in how the technology, software, and hardware has improved in the last year. From "advances in real-time rendering to physically based shading in theory and practice" - overall improvements in the day to day practices of a CG/VFX professional but things that are less important/interesting to the rest of us. So, lets jump ahead.
Another aspect of SIGGRAPH is gauging where the industry is headed. Last year Derrick said VR stood out the most to him, and the big companies were investing heavily into the equipment yet there wasn't a lot of content yet. Well, SIGGRAPH 2015 changed that. You might even say there was too much content to display it all. In one particular area called VR Village, there were so many submissions that they had new content everyday (in comparison to content that was available all week) and there was an actual waiting list to experience that content. Content has exploded immensely in just one year.
With VR content exploding at such an immense rate, companies are struggling to position themselves in a particular light so they can corner a specific niche in the market that they do best. For instance, there was a company that is creating a choose your own adventure type simulation using motion capture detection and an essentially untethered VR headset. Using motion capture they are able to incorporate inanimate objects the person is holding into the simulation. So if you are walking through a Pharaoh's tomb the stick you are holding and waving around is a torch casting light on the scene. If you throw the stick to your friend, the friend can see the torch fly through the air and have the ability to catch it. Really cool stuff when you think about how this technology will be able to be used in the future. (http://www.swissnexsanfrancisco.org/)
Even with the explosion of VR content, it is very apparent to Derrick that it's still the "wild west" when it comes to standards of capturing and creating the content. There is simply no universal agreed upon system, camera, or theory as to which is the best way to go about this. Everyone is doing different things and trying different techniques in an effort to figure out the best way - and it is extremely exciting to be involved in such an early stage of an emerging technology.
Something else everyone is trying to figure out is exactly how to tell a story in VR. Everything from video games and movies to tv shows and advertising needs to be telling a story. When a person is able to look and move within a 360 degree space, how do you keep their attention on the part of the scene where the story is progressing or something is happening? Alternatively, how do you write a story where the person will not be lost if they miss a particular area at a particular moment? Everyone from Hollywood writers to Advertising execs are currently working on the best way to handle this - and it was evident at SIGGRAPH by the numerous ways people were telling stories.
Ultimately, VR is exploding and everyone is currently scrambling to position themselves to take advantage of this new and emerging market. I would hate to miss an opportunity to pat ourselves on the back - so I would just like to say we have been expecting it for some time.
Lastly, I asked Derrick how TRG, and therefore our clients, are now stronger based on his time at SIGGRAPH. He did not hesitate to list it out for me.
1. Had some great conversations with the team that created the video stitching software we use and got some Hands on experience with strengthening our process and capabilities in stitching together 360 video.
2. Spoke with numerous visual effect professionals who are solely working on art directing and creating story based advertising and experiences in VR.
3. We have stronger contacts in the heart of the computer graphics industry that no one in CLE has.
4. We are able to consistently keep ourselves on the cutting edge of where the industry is headed and allows us ample time to adapt to changes and make sure we are on par with what the best in the industry are producing.
5. TRG as a brand is stronger based on the time we spend with other industry professionals, the contacts we make and relationships we have with them, as well as establishing a name for ourselves as a real player in the realm of CG/VR.
6. A better understanding of our hardware and equipment. We have talked to software professionals about features we're looking for in the software we use which led to video conferencing calls on how to implement their products into our software packages, or in some cases have resulted in a part of the software specifically tailored to fit within our process.
7. Cut down on R&D by having direct connections with a multitude of professionals that enables us to do things more efficiently in an effort to cut costs, allowing the creation of higher quality material with less leg work and the ability to save our clients money in the process.
We have known for quite some time that Derrick is a rock star - and his significant role in SIGGRAPH is definitely a part of that. SIGGRAPH not only improves our collective knowledge, networking, and experience, but enables us to stay on par with the biggest names in the industry when it comes to anything CG related.
There is no telling what the big advances will be next year - but if you're looking for our guess, we will be expecting to see more democratized VR. Whereas I said earlier that currently it's the wild west for VR creation, we will be expecting clearer methods and trends. You will start to see some agreed upon standards and a "way things are done" in VR start to develop. You will see advances in the hardware and more realistic gaming material. Will we be right? We don't know. I guess we'll just have to wait for next year.
(And yes we will be right.)