SIGGRAPH 2009

Back from SIGGRAPH, and with quite a backlog of papers to look at. But first things first, let's take a look at how SIGGRAPH was!

Travel & US

Travelling to the US was surprisingly painless. I expected to wait at the airports, but both the immigration and the customs went very smoothly. In New Orleans, there was a special shuttle service to the hotels provided by SIGGRAPH, quite a bit cheaper than the cabs, so getting to the hotel is really easy.

Arriving at the US is a bit of a change for a European, as the air conditioning is usually running extremely cold. On the airport, and also in our hotel, the temperature was approximately 20° -- while it had 30-35+° outside. Due to the extremely high humidity in New Orleans, the difference felt even bigger. At SIGGRAPH, it was even worse, so bad that in fact after a few days, everyone was running around with a cold -- even the Americans, which should be used to extreme air conditioning.

I was continently located right next to the convention centre, so I could walk there. Very nice, especially for taking a short break.

SIGGRAPH

SIGGRAPH itself filled around 1/3 of the convention centre, and was located on three floors. I had prepared a plan, so I didn't have to wander around -- something I can recommend before going to a conference. Make a plan, with an alternative for every session, in case it turns out to be less interesting than expected.

I'll probably skip quite a lot of stuff here, but I'll try to post about them in the future.

People

Well, quite obvious, but SIGGRAPH is full of famous people. You can easily spot academy award winners, game developers and researchers everywhere. Moreover, it's easily to discuss things with well-known people, as they are usually quite open to talk about tech stuff. Plus they really know what they talk about ;)

Presentations

I found two sessions extremely interesting: The production sessions for "Star Trek", "Terminator 4" and "Transformers 2", and Will Wright's Keynote. Of course, there were other great sessions like "Beyond programmable shading", but those two really stood apart.

Will Wright's keynote was highly interesting, entertaining and very well presented. You can immediately see that Will has really a huge amount of experience in the entertainment industry, and is a very bright guy as well. The presentation was totally in the spirit of "The Zen of Presentations", with over 250 slides with mostly pictures, and a really fast speaking Will Wright next to it. If you can get a video capture of it, take a look, it's really worth it.

The other sessions is one for which a video capture is highly unlikely, so if you didn't see it -- bad luck. ILM was showcasing three movies, with lots of confidential material (concept art, pre-viz stuff) -- very interesting. It's just incredible to see how much time they spend on minute details, while still having some fun. For "Transformers 2", they even came with a small making-of video with quite a few jokes ("Could you load the devastator model?".) The next time I'll get a chance to go to SIGGRAPH, I'll definitely try to checkout the production session as well.

Exhibition

The exhibition was interesting, but besides the few new announcements, there was not too much to see. nVidia presented OptiX, with some demos at their booth -- ATI didn't have anything new to see. On the other hand, both have people from their driver/developer relation team at the booth, so it's a good chance to ask questions and do lobby work (personally, I tried to make clear to ATI that support for EXT_direct_state_access would be most welcome.)

After show/Party

Never underestimate party going. Every day at SIGGRAPH ends with a party, be it an official one, or an unofficial. The key rule is to know where the free stuff is ;)

Closing words

Looking back, I'm very happy to have seen SIGGRAPH, mainly for two reasons: One is the ability to get in touch with interesting people, which are difficult to reach otherwise. The other one is to get a broader look at how the industry looks like -- the ILM stuff was really incredible, and it's simply stuff you never get to see as a student.

I'll try to cover some more interesting papers and talks in the following weeks, but at the moment, I have a huge backlog of stuff to read here. Worse still, I have some deadlines looming above me as well, so bear with me if I miss some of my post slots.

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