Anybody who’s anybody in the world of CGI has heard of SIGGRAPH – Special Interest Group for GRAPHics and interactivity – the professional organization and annual conference dedicated to all things CGI. Our very own Derrick Nau not only attended this renowned event in early August, but he also serves as the Posters Chair for the 2015 conference in Los Angeles. We had a chance to pick his brain after he attended this year’s conference so we could get the inside scoop as to what is up and coming in the world of CGI.
For those of you not familiar with SIGGRAPH, a little background information. The organization got its start in 1974, and the 2015 conference will mark the 42nd year for the event. The organization is actually a subgroup of the ACM, or Association for Computing Machinery. At the convention, SIGGRAPH attendees and contributors can check out exhibitions on the latest and greatest in graphics and techniques. It also provides the perfect opportunity to rub elbows with some of the best and most brilliant in the business, and to network with other attendees and SIGGRAPH members. The exhibit hall contains booths from a multitude of software companies, hardware companies, publishing companies, and even schools. There is also an area where participants can do practical work and experiment with new tech as well as an art gallery. All around there are emerging and exciting new technologies.
The Computer Animation Festival at SIGGRAPH is one of the most well known events. Perhaps you’ve heard of a little company called Pixar. It was at this festival that Pixar got its start when they submitted work to put on display for the ACM masses. And let’s not forget the academic side of the event. Companies and researchers from all over the world demonstrate the latest aspects of what they’ve been working on with computer graphics, from cameras, to CGI, to image editing software, to physics simulations. In fact, the conference began as a way for universities and companies to share their latest in research development for hardware and software. Additionally, SIGGRAPH publishes a peer-reviewed technical paper containing a wealth of CGI goodness, as well as an art paper and the posters. Talks and courses are also offered where attendees have a chance to hear directly from the published authors as well as ask questions. In short, SIGGRAPH has got it going on.
So how did Derrick get involved with this CG giant? He started as a student volunteer. There is an application process (for those of you who may be interested) and Derrick was happily accepted in 2012. The following year he moved on from volunteer to Team Leader, and from there he applied to be on the committee for the Poster’s Chair. The Poster’s Chair job is to coordinate the posters program, which is primarily for student or late-breaking work. A research circuit takes place every year, and if a person or company has a new, cutting edge technique they want to publicize at SIGGRAPH but missed the cut-off for the technical papers publication (one of the highlights of the conference), the poster committee can get that information out for the event. As mentioned above, Derrick will now be acting Poster Chair for the 2015 conference set to take place in L.A.
In order to help prepare himself for this role, Derrick was proactive in shadowing the Chair for this year’s SIGGRAPH out in Vancouver. He learned just what the job entails: making sure the program runs smoothly, the logistics, answering emails, making sure people are meeting their deadlines, etc. This year there were over 200 submissions resulting in a total of 110 published posters.
We feel very lucky that Derrick is a part of SIGGRAPH as it affords an opportunity for us to be directly in tune with the most cutting edge techniques, software, and research, and we are taking full advantage of his being involved. With Derrick’s finger on the pulse, we have the privilege of being some of the first to know what is headed our way in the world of computer graphics. He has been able to bring us new software – 10 licenses in total of the most up-to-date rendering software out there right now. Additionally, he’s been able to provide us with Pipeline Workflow Optimization, which will only help to improve our workflow and production capabilities. Derrick has also brought back from his time in Vancouver some management render farm optimization techniques and direct contacts who will further relationships with software developers who build and update some of the software that we use. This is a great opportunity for us since we can then give direct feedback and make requests to fit our system. Derrick’s knowledge of what others are doing, what works best, and his ability to tap into what could be is certainly a valuable asset to the company.
Along with his prestigious position as the Posters’ Chair for 2015, Derrick has had the opportunity to work alongside researchers and developers such as Dr. Ramesh Raskar, the project director of MIT’s “femto-photography” project. Derrick also has access to the ACM digital library, which houses an immense amount of content, from technical papers, to course notes, to recorded talks. In short, the posters char is a prestigious position within the organization and that affords Derrick the opportunity to be working closely with colleagues from reputable companies such as Microsoft, MIT, Pixar, ILM, Apple, and Disney Imagineering among many others.
In addition to his PC duties, we wanted to know what stood out the most to Derrick at this year’s conference, and that answer came easily: virtual reality. That’s right – it’s back and in a big way. With popular companies getting behind this technology, such as Sony’s Morpheus and Oculus Rift’s flight simulator “Birdly,” this popular trend has become much more immersive. Though there isn’t a lot of content at the moment, there is a lot of investment going into the software and hardware, which is generating a lot of buzz. “People seem to really be into anything that is full immersion,” Derrick points out. Yes, we love our domed IMAX theaters and hugely projected, engulfing imagery. In fact, projection mapping is another popular favorite Derrick was seeing at the conference. This technology is made possible by having several projectors aligned on one structure, be it a domed movie screen or the side of building. A computer will rapidly calculate the necessary data to send out the images, creating a 360-degree view without edges.
Clearly SIGGRAPH has a lot to offer not only the world but also TRG. We really can’t wait to see what new techniques, research, and computer graphic gold Derrick discovers and brings home from Los Angeles in 2015.