In a flash: previewing the SIGGRAPH 2013 Dailies

If you enjoy the Technical Papers Fast Forward at SIGGRAPH – that session where presenters must race through their paper in an effort to convince conference-goers to check out the full presentation – then there’s a good chance you’ll also love SIGGRAPH Dailies.

Only in its third year at SIGGRAPH, the Dailies program is all about showcasing artists’ work – in one minute. That’s it, just one minute is all an artist has to discuss a shot from a film or other work or research. The SIGGRAPH 2013 Dailies Chair Mark Elendt (from Side Effects Software) explains its origins. “At many production studios ‘dailies’ are where artists get up and show the progress of their work. The premise behind SIGGRAPH Dailies is very similar – the artists who do the work get up and tell the story behind the production.”

– A video preview of the SIGGRAPH 201 Dailies program.

This year there will be more than 40 jury-selected Dailies presentations – taking place on Wednesday July 24th in Room 304 A-D from 6pm to 8pm – in areas of animated features, VFX, game production, visualization, real-time and student work. Among the presenters are artists from Pixar, DreamWorks Animation, Tippett Studio, Look Effects, Blizzard, Platige Image, several universities and many more.

So what can you expect to hear about at Dailies? Elendt notes a highlight will be presos from Pixar and DreamWorks Animations. “There are two separate presentations about a single shot in Monster’s University,” he says. “Like two sides of a coin, these presentations talk about the exact same shot but cover entirely different production issues. It’s fascinating to see how different departments in a single studio have to work together to get the job done.”

DreamWorks Animation has 14 presentations at Dailies. Among them will be lead effects artist Jason Mayer’s talk on a shot from The Croods. “Near the end of The Croods, Grug is separated from the rest of his family,” says Mayer, explaining the subject of his talk. “He creates a contraption to fly across the separating chasm, but is being chased by a large pyroclastic flow. I led that sequence for the fx department, and worked on the final shots where the flow overtakes Grug.”

See some of DreamWorks Animation’s effects for The Croods in this TV spot.

In his talk, Mayer will explain how the shot grew in length and how it was done. He described the tech detail to fxguide and hopefully this should give you a sense of the kinds of presentations that will take place at Dailies. “I simulated eighteen separate fluid grids, about 1.35 billion voxels per frame. Each flow started as a simple particle system for blocking. I rasterized these into our openvdb volumes and fed them into our proprietary fluid simulator, Flux, which is embedded in Houdini.

“Tweaking mostly initial velocities and divergence settings, I was able to get a nice pyroclastic feeling to the simulations. I then layered on some rbd simulations, particle instanced rocks, dust and trails to layer on the complexity. Another artist, Kent Lidke, added some great rbd stuff at the beginning of the shot using Rumble, our bullet solver. The fluid sims were all rendered in Mantra along with the dust, particles, and small debris. The original matte painting was projected onto the geometry and rendered with our proprietary renderer. All the layers were composited using Nuke.”

Another DreamWorks presentation is on the upcoming Turbo. Effects animator Matt Titus will be talking about Turbo’s speed streak effect, explaining how the system worked. Plus he’ll examine a car crash featured in the film. For the streak effect DreamWorks reference movies, YouTube vids, long exposure pics and commercials. “Because we had lots of shots to do I wanted the system to be as fast and interactive for artists as possible,” says Titus. “To accomplish this I developed the system to use a single point cloud for data storage. This pre-baked data allowed the artists to preview what they were doing very quickly. I also used our Vdb volume format for part of the system so that we could procedurally build and render volumes with very low memory and render time. With a standard dense volume it would have been impossible to build the volumes.”

An image from Turbo.

fxguide is looking forward to all of the presentations and the delivery format, which certainly sounds like a fun approach. Mark Elendt really sums up the idea well: “Dailies doesn’t focus on finished work, it doesn’t focus on an entire project, it takes that one special gem the artist is most proud of and lets them share it with the community.”

SIGGRAPH 2013 runs from 21-25 July at the Anaheim Convention Center. Find out more about the Dailies sessions.