SIGGRAPH is back in LA for 2012 and once again fxguide will be there to report on all the latest computer graphics research and interactive tech. The conference runs from 5th to 9th August at the LA Convention Center. In this SIGGRAPH preview, we talk to the Conference Chair Rebecca Strzelec and highlight some of the visual effects presentations, tech talks, papers and other sessions which make it such an incredible event.

SIGGRAPH 2012 Conference Chair Rebecca Strzelec.

This year’s SIGGRAPH theme is based around ‘I AM ART. I AM SCIENCE’. Strzelec, an Associate Professor of Visual Arts at Penn State Altoona, is a trained goldsmith and silversmith, and makes wearable objects using rapid prototyping and 3D modeling. She became involved with SIGGRAPH via the Art Gallery and Studio streams at previous conferences. “If you offer some expertise in an area, they adopt you very quickly(!),” she jokes, “but the more I get familiar with the other content at SIGGRAPH, I’m seeing more of an art and science combination in everything.”

The keynote speaker, for example, will be game developer, player, theorist, and evangelist Jane McGonigal, who, says Strzelec, will be “talking about how we can change the world with games, which smacks in the face of a lot of what people will tell you games are good for.”

Strzelec also welcomes the vast number of students who usually attend the conference. “These are the students who will be driving the research in 3, 4 or 10 years,” she says. “SIGGRAPH is good for students to see how people present research to their colleagues via the Posters programme, but it’s also for people who are interested in the latest Hollywood movies or want to be an animator or like animation – they’re there to see the whizzbang stuff and learn how it was done. At the end of the day a lot of the science goes into a canon and becomes a film.”

To get a taste of the whizzbang materials that will be presented at SIGGRAPH 2012, here’s a preview of some of the key sessions.

Technical Papers

An image from the tech paper: CrossShade: Shading Concept Sketches Using Cross-Section Curves.

The research presented in SIGGRAPH Technical Papers tends to be the tech you’ll see in visual effects and animation in the next two to three years. That’s why the Technical Papers section of the conference – which range from animation, particle effects, image processing, collisions, stereo, light rays to many more topics – is one of the main, if not the main, draw card. Not sure which tech papers might be interesting to you? Then don’t miss the Technical Papers Fast Forward on Sunday 5th August at 6pm-8pm – this is where each presenter has literally less than a minute to give a brief insight into their paper, and it’s usually done with comic effect.

Check out the Technical Papers preview video, below.

Talks

The Talks section of SIGGRAPH 2012 usually combines several areas of research or production experience into a single session. So for example, in a talk entitled ‘Head in the Clouds’, artists from DreamWorks Animation and Blue Sky Studios will be talking about clouds and voxels in Puss in Boots and Ice Age: Continental Drift. Then there are other talks like ‘Material: The Gathering’, featuring presentations on estimating specular normals from spherical stokes reflectance fields, and light probes (including research by Paul Debevec). Another ‘Effects Omelette’ talk will highlight the work by Method Studios in Wrath of the Titans and Dneg in Snow White and the Huntsman. Plus the hair and cloth sim tech from Pixar’s Brave will be in several of the Talks.

Computer Animation Festival

A major highlight for any visual effects or computer animation aficionado has to be the Computer Animation Festival. The winners have also been announced here. Not only does the CAF showcase animation and effects work from around the world, but it also includes several studio production sessions with presentations on films like Avengers, Brave, Battleship and even unreleased pictures such as Sony Animation’s Hotel Transylvania. Check out the listing below:

An Avengers panel featuring Marvel's Victoria Alonso, Jeff White (ILM), Guy Williams (Weta Digital), Marc Chu (ILM) and Aaron Gilman (Weta Digital) will be one of the featured CAF production sessions.

- Pixomondo Presents Hugo: A Cinematic Convergence of 3D and Visual Effects
- Assembling the VFX for Marvel’s “The Avengers”
- Building Disney•Pixar’s “Brave”: Pencils to Pixels
- Sony Pictures Animation: Checking In at “Hotel Transylvania”
- Digital Domain Presents “Making the Steel Real: Moving VFX Into Production”
- Sony Pictures Imageworks: Travel Behind the Scenes of “Men in Black 3”
- Sony Pictures Imageworks: The Untold Story of “The Amazing Spider-Man”
- Rhythm & Hues Studios: 25 Years of Art, Technology, and People
- LAIKA’s ParaNorman: The Fusion of Stop-Motion and CG in a Zombie-Ridden World
- High-Frame-Rate Cinema, Impacts on Art and Technology With Douglas Trumbull and Dennis Muren
- Industrial Light & Magic Presents: The Visual Effects of “Battleship”
- Balancing Act: Life as a Visual Effects Supervisor at DreamWorks Animation
- Weta Digital Presents Virtual Production: Combining Animation, Visual Effects, and Live-Action Filmmaking
- The Art and Science Behind Walt Disney Animation Studios’ “Paperman”
- Ninja Theory Presents DmC Devil May Cry: Breathing Life Into Video Games

Watch the Computer Animation Festival trailer:

Courses

What better way than to learn more about computer graphics and filmmaking than from the experts? The Courses stream at SIGGRAPH 2012 has some particularly focused sessions on stereoscopy, matte painting, cinematography, texturing, FEM sims and animation physics (stay tuned to fxguide for an fxpodcast with the course instructor on this topic). Here’s just a few of the courses that run either for a few hours or half a day at the conference.

SIGGRAPH 2012-themed t-shirts.

- Optimizing Realistic Rendering With Many-Light Methods
- Principles of Animation Physics
- State-of-the-Art Stereoscopic Visual Effects: Stereoscopy and Conversion are “More than Meets the Eye”
- The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy of Mathematical Tools for Shape Analysis
- Storytelling With a Camera and a Computer: Q&A With Cinematographer Roger Deakins
- The Invisible Art: The History of Matte Painting Through the Digital Age
- Cinematic Color: From Your Monitor to the Big Screen
- Data-Driven Simulation Methods in Computer Graphics: Cloth, Tissue, and Faces
- Practical Physically-Based Shading in Film and Game Production
- Character Rigging and Creature Wrangling in Game, Feature Animation, and Visual Effects Production
- FEM Simulation of 3D Deformable Solids: A Practitioner’s Guide to Theory, Discretization, and Model Reduction
- Advanced (Quasi) Monte Carlo Methods for Image Synthesis

Panels

Panels are also an opportunity to hear from experts in computer animation, filmmaking and games. In ‘Virtual Production Branches Out’, filmmakers like Matt Aiken from Weta Digital, Gary Roberts from Digital Domain and Matt Madden of Giant Studios will look at mocap, simulcams and the new virtual production paradigm. Another panel will focus on motion tracking in gaming.

Real-Time Live!

This is all about interactive visuals, and will feature 10 minute live presentations from titles such as Uncharted 3, Star Wars 1313 (Lucas Arts), Unreal Engine 4 Elemental and more.

More at SIGGRAPH 2012

In this preview we’ve only really scratched the surface of things you can attend at SIGGRAPH. There’s also Emerging Technologies, the Job Fair, Art Gallery, Studio and of course the Exhibition Floor (including some interesting Tech Talks) that fxguide will be checking out.

You can register for SIGGRAPH 2012 by going here.


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