ACM SIGGRAPHia

SIGGRAPH 2011

The CAF Production Session of Kung Fu Panda 2

by on Aug.10, 2011, under Computer Animation Festival, SIGGRAPH 2011

The CAF production session, “DreamWorks Animation: The Yin and Yang of Creating the Final Battle in ‘Kung Fu Panda 2,'” was designed to help people understand how the collaborative process works. The process doesn’t have a linear start to finish, instead it is a fluid process that can take filmmakers back to previous steps and back again. The session was even set up to show this process. Rather than having each presenter go in turn, they continually rotated from person to person as the creation process had. They began with the 2D art that was the initial inspiration for the final battle scene. The team then worked on coming up with different versions of how the battle scene would play out. It was during these experiments that they realized that the setting wasn’t visually interesting. The art department came up with an alternative setting which lead to redoing the already completed model of the city to add canals, in addition to going back to the story to make the appropriate changes.

The discussion continued with other considerations such as lighting, color scheme, and water interaction before going into Q&A.

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Birds of a Feather: Studio Views of Student Demo Reels

by on Aug.10, 2011, under Birds of a Feather, SIGGRAPH 2011, Students

This talk was appropriately scheduled to coincide with the opening of the Job Fair. There were three presenters, one from each of the following companies: Electronic Arts Canada, CG Scout Inc., and The Moving Picture Company (MPC).

The presenters had a lot of overlap on what they look for in a demo reel, but  they did have some areas where they differed too. It is for this reason, the importance of doing your research was stressed. Before you send in your reel, be sure to find out what (if any) specific submission requirements the studio has and how best to cater to the company you are applying to. One size doesn’t not fit all when it comes to submitting your reel.

EA Canada started off the discussion with what they look for:

  • Creative originality: avoid copies of things, they want something that seems fully original
  • The “Approach:” what techniques were used/how you accomplished it
  • The “Package:” how you’ve packaged it together (like CD/DVD case), the naming conventions used and, in the case of websites, how navigable they are
  • Revelance: make sure you do your research and that your work is consistent with current industry standards
  • Honesty: your reel should reflect you and what you want to do… assuming you already know

Also, be sure you keep in mind that you have 30 seconds to hook them or they may end up fast forwarding through your reel.

CG Scout Inc. was next to speak with some Do’s and Don’ts:

  • Find a mentor in your field before you start, hopefully someone who works for the company you would like to work for
  • Don’t make it gross, twisted, or sexual: this could be seen as an unfavorable reflection of you
  • A Demo Reel should be no longer than 50 seconds
  • Only show your best work, because you will be gauged on what is consider the “worst” of your reel
  • Consider the style of the studio

She then went into some specific recommendations based on the job you want, whether it’s: animating, modeling, or VFX and lighting.

The MPC began their talk by admitting much of what they look for was already mentioned so there is some consistency from company to company. But there are a few places that they differed or added onto what was already discussed:

  • Be specific with your reel, because if you send a generalist reel you may have a position offered to you doing something that you may have no interest in
  • If in doubt, leave it out
  • Stick to 2 minutes for your reel, but the first 30 seconds need to count
  • Put your name and email address at the beginning and the end to make sure it doesn’t get overlooked
  • If working with a reference object, show the reference and then your work. This shows how realistic your work can be
  • Thoughts on music is dependent on the studio, just make sure to avoid anything that can be considered offensive
  • Check in on your reel, but don’t stalk
  • Reapply once every six months or when you have something substantially different
  • Don’t take it personally if you don’t make the cut– timing is everything!

Finally, be sure to do your research and know your market. There are 18,000 graduates a year in Canada alone; the one thing that can set you apart is your talent.

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Reflections of a First-Time SIGGRAPH Attendee

by on Aug.09, 2011, under Miscellaneous, SIGGRAPH 2011

I am not a computer graphics professional. In fact, my Master’s degree is actually in (gasp!) English. I appreciate the science and artistry inherent in the industry, but I will admit that when my husband gets home from work and starts talking about tessellation, I tend to go cross-eyed and start reenacting episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer inside my head.

So what am I doing at SIGGRAPH? After 13 years of the hubby’s SIGGRAPH stories (I met Gonzo! I saw Dick Van Dyke! I saw an extended trailer for that Olivia Wilde movie (otherwise known as Tron)!), I was curious to see for myself. I finally had the opportunity this year, and it was just an added bonus that this year’s conference is in the absolutely gorgeous city of Vancouver.

I kicked off my SIGGRAPH experience with the Technical Papers Fast Forward, which turned out to be an exercise in “Let’s make Mary feel really, really stupid!” (Although other attendees assured me that this session tends to have the same effect on them, as well). I pulled out a scrap of paper and kept a running tally: papers I could at least understand the basic premise of vs. papers that made me go “What???” The ratio turned out to be about 3:1 in favor of my own ignorance, but I still enjoyed the session. Lots of pretty pictures (I believe that’s the correct technical term) and interesting showmanship techniques (gorilla suit, anyone?).

The next night, I sat in on the Electronic Theater (because even an English major can enjoy watching movies!). From the clever to the creepy and everything in between, the range of storytelling and imagery was amazing. If you didn’t attend on the first night, make a point of fitting it in your schedule – you have three more chances!

So my first impression as a SIGGRAPH outsider? Let’s just say that I look forward to being further amazed/confused/intellectually humbled over the next three days.

 

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Day in Review: Monday

by on Aug.09, 2011, under Day in Review, SIGGRAPH 2011

Monday had a fantastic start with some interesting presentations in the Studio. The highlight of the day, however, was the keynote speaker: Cory Doctorow. He spoke about the need for reform in copyright laws.

The CAF hosted a Production Session about the visual effects of Thor and Captain America which was met with a lot of interest. The evening hours brought a lot of hard decisions for conference attendees, because there were many overlapping, amazing events, such as: the Reception, Electronic Theater, and the ACM SIGGRAPH Chapter’s Party.

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E-Tech and Art Gallery

by on Aug.09, 2011, under Art Gallery & E-Tech, SIGGRAPH 2011

 

 

The Art Gallery’s theme this year is Tracing Home which is a presentation of “exceptional digital and technologically mediated artworks that explore issues related to the concept of home in the networked age.”

 

 

 

Emerging Technologies features a wide range of work from being able to experience pregnancy with a fetal movement simulator to a MoleBot.

 

 

 

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Electronic Theater Opens

by on Aug.09, 2011, under Computer Animation Festival, SIGGRAPH 2011

The SIGGRAPH Computer Animation Festival kicked off another great year on Monday, culminating in the premier of the 2011 Electronic Theater. The annual showcase of the very best in computer animation includes over thirty selections of student work, animated shorts, commercials, and samplings of the year’s very best visual effects work. Among the animations are this year’s award winners: Paths of Hate (Jury Prize), The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore (Best in Show), and Flamingo Pride (Best Student Project). If you didn’t make it to Monday’s screening, don’t worry, you have three more opportunities: Tuesday and Wednesday night at 6:00pm and Thursday at 10am. You don’t want to miss one of the highlights of the conference and don’t forget to stick around after the credits for a special late addition from Pixar!

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The CAF Production Session: So Different Yet So Marvel

by on Aug.09, 2011, under Computer Animation Festival, SIGGRAPH 2011

Today in Ballroom C/D, attendees gathered to catch the production session titled “The Visual Effects of Thor and Captain America: So Different Yet So Marvel.” The session kicked off with the inspiration for Asgard which is a melding of capturing the mood of Asgard in the comic’s art, using classic fine art imagery and science fiction references. It then transitioned into both the challenges and opportunities of creating a great establishing shot. This poses a challenge because you have to create a fully developed world from buildings to inhabitants whether it’s something the audience ever sees or not. The establishing shot message came up again later with Captain America and the 1940s Brooklyn setting. The panel hopscotched from Visual Effects Supervisor to Visual Effects Supervisor as they covered the techniques used to make CG blend well with live action. A key example of this, is “Skinny Steve” in Captain America; actor Chris Evans is a large man and it was a bit of a challenge to make his smaller counterpart in the movie while still keeping Chris Evan’s performance (rather than a digi-double).

The session made it more apparent than ever that creating movies is a huge collaborative effort. One fact in particular brought this to the forefront: over 13 companies worked on the visual effects for Captain America.

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Keynote: Cory Doctorow

by on Aug.08, 2011, under Keynote Speaker, SIGGRAPH 2011

Today’s Keynote presentation opened with 2011 Conference Chair Pete Braccio greeting attendees and highlighting many of the volunteers who helped make this year’s conference possible. After remarks from SIGGRAPH President Jeff Jortner and ACM President Alain Chesnais, attention turned to the presentation of this year’s ACM SIGGRAPH Awards. Awards were presented to Charles Csuri (Distinguished Artist Award for Lifetime Achievement in Digital Art), Olga Sorkine (Significant New Researcher), Richard Szeliski (Computer Graphics Achievement Award), and Jim Kajiya (Steven Anson Coons Award for Outstanding Creative Contributions to Computer Graphics).

Once the awards presentation was complete it was time for this year’s keynote speaker, Cory Doctorow. Mr. Doctorow is a contributor to The Guardian, The New York Times, Publishers Weekly and Wired, as well as co-editor of the blog Boing Boing. He spoke at length about the current state of copyright law, how it is used by governments and corporations, and its effect on content creators including authors and digital artists. Following the keynote he answered questions from the audience and did a book signing in the SIGGRAPH Bookstore.

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The Studio Talks

by on Aug.08, 2011, under SIGGRAPH 2011, The Studio

First thing this morning The Studio hosted two back-to-back talks. The first was Pixar’s presentation of “New and Used Cars” and the second was ILM’s presentation of “The Spirit of ‘Rango:’ Dissection of Character Animation and Rigging.”

New and Used Cars

The Studio Talk started off with funny tidbits about each of the presenters, which seems to be an ongoing theme for the Talks. The presentation focused on the shading techniques developed for Cars 2 to help reduce render time and expense. The team made three advancements:

  1. Layer consolidation method
  2. Metallic flakes
  3. Circular scratches

With the layer consolidation method, the team was able to collapse the layers and keep their parameters. This allowed them to reduce render time 17% with only small differences between renders that were consolidated and non-consolidated. The metallic flakes section focused heavily on the math and some of the criteria for the shader. The final segment was regarding circular scratches. The key takeaway is that they aren’t circular. The texture is directional and more of a line that when applied circles around the center of the highlight.

The Spirit of “Rango”

This presentation was met with a lot of interest and quickly turned into standing room only. As a refresher, the movie’s trailer was shown first. Then the ILM team went into some of the differences of animated features versus live action movies:

  • Everything is virtual
  • Asset management (assets can be tracked easily during any time in the process)
  • Performance vs. interaction
  • Rig Complexity

After giving the overview of the differences, they moved onto getting the characters from concept to animation ready. This section naturally transitioned into their procedural rigging program, Block Party, which uses standard blocks for all base rigs. This system made it easier to share animations between models, which in turn made it easier to animate so many characters.

The discussion moved onto proprietary plug-ins, facial rigging, and the animation tools used. Then Kevin Martel, the lead animator of Rango (the character), went over the character development process. This process includes getting to know the character as though he/she is a real person; this makes animating them easier because it gives insight into what their mannerisms might be like. The team had some required movie viewing for inspiration for Rango who is more like Don Knotts than a chameleon. This in addition to performance references from Johnny Depp and the animators helped bring Rango to life.

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Day In Review: Sunday

by on Aug.08, 2011, under Day in Review, SIGGRAPH 2011

We had a great first day at SIGGRAPH 2011! Eager attendees formed lines outside of registration before the doors opened at 8am.

The Studio opened at noon and was soon flooded with attendees. The IGDA also presented on their Global Game Jam and was full of attendees who had participated in similar events. Courses and Talks started strong with a number of great sessions.

The day’s finale was the exceedingly popular Papers Fast Forward. It was a standing room only crowd for a preview of the 100+ technical papers being presented this week. It was an entertaining program complete with dancers, infomercials, and even a gorilla.

We’re off to a great start, and if today is any indication, it looks like you should plan to get to your sessions early. The word is out about what a fantastic conference we’ve got this year!

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