30 May 2013

SIGGRAPH 2013 Releases Snapshot of Business Symposium Sessions

SIGGRAPH 2013, 21-25 July at the Anaheim Convention Center in California, released its initial list of sessions for the 2013 Business Symposium. The SIGGRAPH Business Symposium offers attendees an intense, productive day with this year’s focus on disruption and innovation in the content creation industries. Unlike any other conference, SIGGRAPH provides a unique forum where leaders from film, games, and broadcast cross paths and share ideas with NASA scientists and world-class researchers.

Evan Hirsch
“In both of the Symposiums to date, we had incredibly honest, unfiltered, and foretelling conversations with some of our speakers,” says Evan Hirsch, SIGGRAPH 2013 Business Symposium Chair and Executive Creative Director, Engine, Co. 4. “We have worked diligently to create an environment where our attendees and speakers can talk off-the-record, with no-holds barred to make incredibly rewarding connections and build a community of leadership within the industry.”

The Business Symposium is a day of dialogues, inspiration and networking for approximately 250 studio leaders and executives in the production and creative communities, investment bankers, lawyers, and various government representatives who want to move beyond the constant disruption happening all around us.

SIGGRAPH 2013 Business Symposium Sessions Include:

Keynote: Disruption in the Battlefield
Over the last 15 years, it is the rare SIGGRAPH attendee who has not been involved in creating content with military themes. Throughout production, the terminology of war and combat is used constantly, and as leaders we constantly talk about aligning objectives, situational awareness, dealing with ambiguity, and adapting to unpredictable conditions. In reality, when things go wrong, as significant as our losses may be, they are limited to shots, sales, and money.

Captain Thomas Chaby, an active-duty US Navy SEAL officer, talks about the reality of developing and training the very best of our military’s special operators to be successful in situations where the environments are all but guaranteed to be dynamic and disrupted, and the deadly serious implications of failure. While failures in our production environments may not result in the consequences faced by our military special operators, we can draw on lessons from them on how to lead successfully in fast-moving, hyper-dynamic conditions with limited predictability.

Speaker: Captain Thomas Chaby, Executive Officer, Naval Special Warfare Center

Panel: Innovating Business Models
Despite the major contractions in our traditional markets, competition from foreign markets, and the effects of tax credits that rarely directly benefit content creators, entertainment still lives by the mantra "Content is King". The studios may be releasing fewer tent poles and AAA games but there have never been more platforms, venues, and formats hungry for high-quality, compelling content. These panelists offer their insights on how they will connect with audiences that are enthusiastic yet diverse in how they consume content, how they will monetize it, and where opportunities lie for linear and interactive content creators.

Moderator: Don McGowan, General Counsel, The Pokémon Company International
Panelists: Meredith Amdur, VP Digital Strategy, DirecTV; Phil Ashcroft, Independent Producer;
Matthew Cohen, Director of Business Development, Machinima

Panel: Creative Deal Structures for Growth and Survival
In an environment where creative work is more and more often produced outside the US and acquired for global distribution, business executives need to know the cultural expectations that IP creators bring to the table. How much can business realities enter into creative decision-making, what expectations will creators have for how they will be treated by foreign businesses, and other issues have usually been considered from the perspective of US content going overseas. This session provides valuable insight into the realities that US-based companies face in acquiring content and working with developers, and informs those creative developers by providing some perspectives that their US-based partners will likely hold.

Moderator: Don McGowan, General Counsel, The Pokémon Company International
Panelists: Steve Goldstein, Partner, Stubbs Alderton & Markiles, LLP; Joleen Winther Hughes, Principal, Hughes Media Law Group; Justine Kasznica, Schnader Harrison Segal & Lewis LLP

Panel: The Role of R&D In Production (and Profit)Complex CG behaviors and effects such as crowds, water, fire, and cloth have found their way into most software packages, leading companies of all sizes to the belief that CG research is the domain of universities. This panel explores the notion that if you outsource innovation and rely on the same software as your competition, you are guaranteeing that you will compete on little more than price and date. These panelists discuss how companies large and very small use research and innovation as a key part of their strategy for success and, ultimately, longevity.

Moderator: Carl Rosendahl, Carnegie Mellon University
Panelists: Lincoln Wallen, CTO, DreamWorks Animation SKG; Scott Cronce, VP Technology, Electronic Arts; Joe Alter, Principal, Joe Alter Inc.; Farchad Bidgolirad, Head of Film R&D, Ubisoft Entertainment

Talk: Pre-Visualizing a Road for Financing and Expansion
For most leaders in our community, offshore competition and tax credits have already affected their traditional business models. Meanwhile, for those who want to pivot or grow their businesses, the scarcity of financing has presented an additional set of ever-growing challenges. The Third Floor’s Chris Edwards describes his decision to expand the pre-viz company into the Chinese market along with his expectations for that venture and the lessons learned so far. He also explains how his team has turned rapid prototyping into a tool for his clients to raise capital and pre-sell films (and other entertainment projects).

Speaker: Chris Edwards, CEO & Creative Director, The Third Floor, Inc.

To view biographies on any of the participants, please click here.

24 May 2013

SIGGRAPH 2013 Relases Art Gallery Preview Video

The Art Gallery’s 2013 theme, XYZN: Scale, draws attention to a key critical affordance of computer-based authorship: the ability to iteratively scale our digital representations at will: in-out-up-down, back and forth, + and -. These core functions enable us to change size and location over time, and at different degrees of resolution. 

Victoria Szabo, the 2013 Art Gallery Chair. Photo credit: Chris Hildreth
“As SIGGRAPH celebrates its 40th anniversary at the 2013 conference, it’s amazing to the see how the artistic and computer graphics talent has evolved over the years,” says Victoria Szabo, Art Gallery Chair from Duke University. “To celebrate the conference’s anniversary, special acknowledgment was given to work that tied with historical themes, for example the N as a function of time.  We received an incredible range of contributors which most definitely will add high quality work to create a coherent and interesting show. “

In all, the Art committee successfully selected 16 works to showcase this July. The works selected include installations, wall-based, physical/sculptural, and screen-based work. Two camera-based pieces have potential to extend into the wider convention center as well. One of the selections will be featured in Art Papers with a focus on a problem that helps set standards and stimulate future trends in the art industry.

SIGGRAPH 2013 brings together thousands of computer graphics professionals, 21-25 July 2013, Anaheim, California, USA. Learn more at the main website - registration is now open.

23 May 2013

SIGGRAPH Releases Technical Papers Preview Video

The SIGGRAPH Technical Papers program is the premier international forum for disseminating new scholarly work in computer graphics and interactive techniques. Here's the latest preview of the amazing 2013 technical papers content. To review more content, click here.

17 May 2013

SIGGRAPH 2013 Releases Emerging Technologies Preview

SIGGRAPH 2013, 21 -25 July at the Anaheim Convention Center in California, released its list of 2013 Emerging Technologies highlights that will be featured at this year’s conference.

SIGGRAPH 2013 Emerging Technologies presents innovative technologies and applications of the latest developments in several fields, from 3D displays and interactive input devices to collaborative environments and robotics, and technologies that apply to film and game production. The Emerging Technologies program provides attendees a unique hands-on opportunity to interact with select innovative technology before they become hot topics in the mainstream media and blogs.

“We had an incredible response from many fields, including displays, robotics, input devices, interaction techniques, gaming, and computer vision,” said Dylan Moore, SIGGRAPH 2013 Emerging Technologies Chair. “We were especially pleased that our call for assistive technologies was answered. The focus was to only showcasing those technologies that blew the jury away on every level, and meeting a high bar for quality and novelty.  We can't wait to get these technologies in the hands of our attendees to try out."

SIGGRAPH 2013 Emerging Technologies Highlights:

An Autostereoscopic Projector Array Optimized for 3D Facial Display
Authors: Koki Nagano, University of Southern California; Andrew Jones, USC Institute for Creative Technologies; Jing Liu, University of California at Santa Cruz; and Jay Busch, Paul Debevec, Mark Bolas, Xueming Yu, USC Institute for Creative Technologies
Click image to enlarge.
This dense-projector-array display is optimized in size and resolution to display an autostereoscopic life-sized 3D human face with a wide 110-degree field of view. It has multiple applications, including 3D teleconferencing and fully synthetic characters for education and entertainment.

IllumiRoom: Peripheral Projected Illusions for Interactive Experiences
Authors: Brett Jones, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign; Hrvoje Benko, Eyal Ofek, and Andrew Wilson, Microsoft Research
Click image to enlarge.
IllumiRoom is a proof-of-concept system that augments the area surrounding a television with projected visualizations to enhance traditional gaming experiences. It changes the appearance of the room, induces apparent motion, extends the field of view, and enables entirely new physical gaming experiences.

Light-in-Flight: Transient Imaging Using Photonic Mixer Devices
Authors: Felix Heide, Matthias Hullin, James Gregson, and Wolfgang Heidrich, The University of British Columbia
Click image to enlarge.
Commercial time-of-flight sensors based on photonic mixer devices (PMDs), are used to capture transient images of photons in-flight. Through the use of readily available components, Light-in-Flight is orders of magnitude less expensive than previous approaches, while simultaneously simplifying and speeding up the capture process.

Near-Eye Light-Field Displays
Authors: Douglas Lanman and David Luebke, NVIDIA Research
Click image to enlarge.
Near-eye light-field displays depict sharp images by synthesizing light fields corresponding to virtual scenes located within a viewer's natural accommodation range. This system optimizes optical trade-offs among resolution, field of view, and form factor, and demonstrates a thin, lightweight HMD prototype, containing a pair of microlens-covered OLEDs.

Skyfarer: A Mixed-Reality Shoulder Exercise Game
Authors: Marientina Gotsis, Vangelis Lympouridis, David Turpin, Fotos Frangoudes, University of Southern California; Somboon Maneekobkunwong, Rancho Los Amigos National Rehabilitation Center; and Maryalice Jordan-Marsh, University of Southern California
Click image to enlarge.
A mixed-reality shoulder exercise game developed for prevention and treatment of shoulder pain for individuals with spinal cord injury.

A detailed list of all SIGGRAPH 2013 Emerging Technologies is available here.

14 May 2013

Q&A with Evan Hirsch, SIGGRAPH 2013 Business Symposium Chair

Following is a brief interview with Evan Hirsch, SIGGRAPH 2013 Business Symposium Chair from Engine Co. 4.  Evan has served in various volunteer SIGGRAPH roles over the years and this year marks his 22nd consecutive SIGGRAPH.  He has worked with industry leaders throughout the US, Europe, and Asia for 25 years. 

In 2011, he founded Engine Co. 4 to provide strategic consulting services on immersive multi-platform user experiences,creative development, and tactical firefighting advice for large computer graphics projects. Recent clients of Engine Co. 4 include PopCap Games, DeNA, The USC Institute for Creative Technology, and Uncharted Territory.

Previously, he served as vice president of creative development at THQ, where he was responsible for raising production values and creative processes at nine game studios. Before joining THQ, as creative director at Microsoft’s Live Labs and Surface teams, he played a lead role in defining the user experience for Surface, the first widely manufactured and distributed multi-touch computer.

This is the 3rd year for the Symposium, what is going to different (or the same) from previous years?
We know that the market for our work has seen many explosions in the last year and more. Sadly those explosions I'm referring to are not CG effects on screen, but real events that happened in studios, boardrooms, balance sheets, and ultimately, careers.

In thinking about building on the incredible work Jill (Smolin) did to establish the Symposium, I wanted to turn the idea of disruption on its head, into ideas around innovation that would be useful to our attendees, and hopefully serve to inspire them as they go forward in their businesses.  Every session this year is focused on disruption and/or innovation in business.  Equally I wanted to ensure that we heard many different voices from the diverse parts of our businesses to cross-fertilize thinking.

Finally, we heard from many of our attendees last year that it’s very difficult for them to build and grow their own careers.  We heard it can be lonely at the top and once you stop pushing pixels it becomes more difficult to navigate your career.  So this year we're going to have an optional session on mentoring for those attendees who want to mentor and/or be mentored. This topic may not look that sexy on the surface, but as someone who benefited so much from some incredibly generous and kind mentors via SIGGRAPH throughout my career, this is an area I am most excited about.

Who is your target market?
The people who will get the most out of the Symposium are the studio executives and their counterparts. For example, the CEO’s, GM’s, CFO’s, CTO’s, CCO’s, VP’s, heads of production and executive producers for VFX facilities, Commercial and Animation houses, Game studios, new media boutiques as well as the senior production people like VFX supervisors, VFX producers, senior development directors, and any other production people who manage managers and supervisors.

If you want to change or grow your level of impact in the business of content creation, the Symposium is where you want to learn, share, and network.  

What are some of the hotter topics that will be addressed?
The explosion of platforms is one topic. Rich Hilleman, (Chief Creative Officer of EA) recently told me that a few years back he had maybe five to seven platforms that he had to pay attention to and that maybe there would be a new platform to evaluate each year.  Now he has to keep his eyes on almost 100 platforms and that a new one is announced almost every month. If you focused on film, you may think this is not applicable, but with the explosion in platforms for high-definition linear content with everybody from Amazon, Netflix, and some very unconventional players getting into the space, this global tidal wave has the potential to benefit a lot our attendees. Yes, the market is tougher for traditional VFX and game production, but it’s equally filled with opportunities for innovation and growth.

Another topic I am personally interested in is how facilities and studios can use innovation to create or clarify markets. The conventional wisdom was that “true R&D” was limited to large FX facilities or universities, but our panel of CTO’s from companies large and small will address how true R&D can be done in facilities of any size to carve out strategic advantages of their own. 

And we are still planning to have some quick, five and 10 minute crash courses on specific topics that we will be revealing very soon.

What are the most compelling reasons why people should attend?
In both of the Symposiums to date, we had incredibly honest, unfiltered, and foretelling conversations with some of our speakers.  We have worked very diligently to create an environment where our attendees and speakers can talk off-the-record, with no-holds barred. What other conference lets you hear those conversations, cross paths and share ideas with business and creative leaders that range from film, games and broadcast to NASA scientists, world-class researchers and car designers?

What motivated you to become involved?
Selfishness. All joking aside, as my career moved from being on the box with Houdini, Maya, and game engines, to being “creative” with PowerPoint and Excel, I quickly realized that my options for learning, growing, and staying abreast of the changes in the business were becoming more and more limited.  When I heard that Jill was putting the Symposium together, I immediately volunteered to help out.

What do you identify as the biggest 3 threats to content creators?
Tunnel vision, complacency, and hubris.

A large segment of my business is working with clients to help them with project and studio-level turn-arounds. I get to see firsthand how teams find themselves in tough corners.  With many CG clients, I often find that they developed a method, process, and/or business practice that was quite good and effective (or sometime less so), but they’d hold on to that methodology with a very, very firm grip. When times were good, they were too busy to look up and around to see how things were changing around them and get in front of those challenges. Then when things slowed down, the fear of what might not happen would keep them holding on longer and tighter.

I have also been advising some financial clients on possible investments in our space as a result of working with them, and looking inside their companies that are widely perceived as successful, leading companies.

Granted, in doing this work I have the advantage of 20-20 hindsight, but I have been utterly amazed at some of the decisions that were made.  In each case, it wasn’t the decision by an exec team to make one big bet or take one big risk, but the decision to take two or three risks at one time.  It’s the hubris behind the belief that “we are so good, so smart, so brilliant that nobody else can do X.”  Then one thing goes wrong, something else unexpected pops up and there was no real mitigation strategy -already in place- in case any of these things went sideways. 

Which in some ways bring me back to your question, “Why did I get involved with the Symposium?”  Since I can’t talk publicly about my work, I want to create a community where we can learn from each other and help each other grow.

After 25 years in this industry, how do you stay motivated?
The constant evolution of technology and creativity in this business guarantees that I will never ever be bored, and that certainly keeps me on my toes. It’s also why I have not missed a single SIGGRAPH since 1991.  Seeing the work that is presented and shared, the endless creativity of how people in this community come to define and solve problems is deeply inspiring to me. Every year, the bar is raised which only stokes my hunger to keep learning and growing. 

Some years it’s small, other years it a “big thing” but I have yet to attend a conference where sometime later in that year, I couldn’t apply some knowledge gained at the conference and use it to innovate a project I was working on.   

If your children were considering a career choice in game development or the movie industry, what direction would you give them?
Pick a craft you are deeply passionate about and do the work. The real hard work.  There are no shortcuts and if a school tells you that anything other than hard work and putting in the time will get you there, then run, don’t walk away from that school.

The people I know in the business who succeed through thick and thin have a craft they love, and love working hard at it.  Make sure that whatever program it is, it teaches problem solving for all four years.  I am not a fan of the generic game design or generic “Digital” programs that confuse learning software with learning a craft. Whether that craft is physics (the best TD’s I have worked with are often physics grads), math, or in the arts, photography, industrial design (my background), something in theater, sculpture, true character animation (acting), I have always found that people who can do something in the physical, real world and then translate that thought process and craft to the digital world never cease to amaze me. 

The SIGGRAPH 2013 Business Symposium is open to the public, but a separate registration is required and attendance is extremely limited.  The event takes place 21 July 2013 at SIGGRAPH.

10 May 2013

SIGGRAPH 2013 Releases Preliminary Line-Up of Production Sessions

SIGGRAPH 2013, 21 -25 July at the Anaheim Convention Center in California, released an early preview of its impressive schedule of production sessions that will be featured at this year’s conference and are a part of the Computer Animation Festival, which is open to the public.

Jerome Solomon
“The production sessions at SIGGRAPH 2013 are your only opportunity to experience the world’s best talent in one place during one week,” says Jerome Solomon, SIGGRAPH 2013 Production Sessions Chair from Cogswell College. “Major studios share their latest creative work, allowing attendees to experience the newest and most significant achievements.  In many instances this is the first time these particular topics are discussed with the public. Nowhere else but at SIGGRAPH is this type of cutting-edge content available.  There are 'must see' sessions every day at SIGGRAPH.  It’s very exciting for our attendees.  And, this preliminary line-up is just the beginning of what we have in plan.”

The Computer Animation Festival, chaired this year by Jason R.M. Smith, is recognized by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences as a qualifying festival. Since 1999, several works originally presented in the Computer Animation Festival have been nominated for or have received a "Best Animated Short" Academy Award. This year’s selections will be featured during the Computer Animation Festival through a series of daily Festival Screenings and the iconic Electronic Theater, allowing attendees to get a glimpse behind the making of computer generated effects, visualizations, and animations

In all, there will be more than 15 sessions. Following are the details on just some of the 2013 Production Sessions:

Industrial Light & Magic Presents:  'Cancel the Apocalypse' – The Visual Effects of “Pacific Rim”
Panelists: John Knoll, Hal Hickel, Lindy De Quattro and Eddie Pasquarello
Image copyright: © 2013 Warner Bros. Courtesy of Industrial Light & Magic
From aliens that threaten Earth’s very existence to massive human-piloted robots, this panel will discuss the wide-ranging scope of Industrial Light & Magic’s effects work on Guillermo del Toro’s science fiction epic “Pacific Rim.” The artists will cover creative and technical challenges overcome in the areas of asset development, character animation, lighting, digital environments, advanced fluid simulation work and more.

LAIKA Presents: The Seamless Fusion of Stop-Motion and Visual Effects Technologies in LAIKA's Feature Films
Speakers: Georgina Hayns, Creative Supervisor, Puppet Fabrication and Brian McLean, Director of Rapid Prototype.
Image Credit: LAIKA, Inc.
LAIKA, the Oregon-based animation studio behind the remarkable features "ParaNorman" (2012), "Coraline" (2009) and "The Boxtrolls" (in theaters 17 October 2014) has inspired audiences -- and industry professionals -- with an unprecedented visual artistry. Animators breathe life into meticulously hand-crafted puppets while visual effects artists seamlessly enhance the performance with cutting-edge technologies. This unparalleled fusion of stop- motion and computer graphics has garnered the studio two Oscar nominations and worldwide acclaim. In this session, Georgina Hayns and Brian McLean address the key interdependent and collaborative relationships between these uniquely different but critically important departments.

The presentation will address the following:
•    The use of Maya and Zbrush to enhance practical sculpts;
•    3D Printed material and subsurface scattering to allow puppet builders to break free of previous design limitations;
•    The advancements in color 3D printing and the enabling of puppet builders to evolve beyond prior design limitations;
•    The use of in-house developed silicones which enable character performance previously unseen in stop-motion animation;
•    The utilization of 3D Printers to pre-vis puppet construction issues and control how practical materials perform;
•    The use of laser cutting fabrics to enhance the design and functionality of the puppets costumes;
•    Production puppets will be displayed during the presentation.

OLM Digital Presents the Anime Spirit: From Pokémon, Pac-Man to live action films
Panelists: Koichiro Sato, CGI director OLM Digital, Masashi Kobayashi, CGI Producer OLM Digital, Moto Sakakibara, CEO and creative director Sprite Animation Studios and Ken Anjyo, R&D supervisor OLM Digital
Image Copyrights: ©Nintendo•Creatures•GAME FREAK•TV Tokyo•ShoPro•JR Kikaku, ©Pokémon ©2012 PIKACHU PROJECT, ©2012 NAMCO BANDAI Games Inc. and ©2012 CAPCOM / "Ace Attorney" FILM PARTNERS
Anime has gained great popularity in the world for its unique expressiveness in contrast to western animation. OLM Digital, a digital production company in Tokyo, keeps trying new anime styles, making the Pokémon movies over 15 years. This session presents the company’s various works in 2D anime, 3DCG and live action films. The showcase focuses on how the anime spirit of OLM Digital is put into various visual forms. The brand-new Pac-Man animated TV series, which is a collaborative work with Sprite Animation Studios, is also one of the highlights of this session.   

Rhythm & Hues Studios Presents: How to bake a Pi

Image credit: © 2012 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation. All rights reserved.
Courtesy Rhythm & Hues Studios.
Learn first-hand about the story behind the Oscar-winning visuals of “Life of Pi” as Rhythm & Hues takes you on a journey from script to screen through a world of vast oceans, carnivorous islands, flying fish, bioluminescent jellyfish, whales and tigers. Leaders from the visual effects team will discuss in detail how they attempted to tackle the project, share the hard lessons learned along the way and explain the complex process used to seamlessly combine live-action with extensive digital environments and hand-crafted character animation in a fully-stereo pipeline that required a total rethink of much of the traditional vfx process.

Sony Pictures Imageworks Presents: Take a Journey Down the Yellow Brick Road
Presenters: Scott Stokdyk, Senior VFX Supervisor; Troy Saliba, Animation Supervisor and Francisco De Jesus, Digital Effects Supervisor

Sony Pictures Imageworks, under the direction of VFX supervisor Scott Stokdyk, created the majority of the visual effects for Disney's "OZ THE GREAT AND POWERFUL".

© 2013 Disney Enterprises Inc. 
As a cinematic prequel to L. Frank Baum’s first book “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz,” the film explores the backstory of the wizard character. The goal of the film was to create a beautiful stylized environment for the land of Oz and bring to life computer graphics characters that accompany Oz on his journey, including Finley the monkey, the porcelain China Girl, and various creatures that surprise them along the way.

Walt Disney Animation and Pixar Animation Presents: Scare School 101: The Making of "Monsters University"
"Monsters University" - Copyright/ImageCredit: ©Disney•Pixar

The filmmaking team will guide attendees through the production process of the summer 2013 Disney•Pixar film, "Monsters University".  Twelve years after the original film, see how creators rebuilt the Monster world; updated familiar characters into college-age versions of themselves; designed, built and lit a campus fit for a monster; and populated the university with a student body of diverse, unique and terrifying monster types.

Walt Disney Animation Studios Presents "Frozen": The Craft of Character and Cold
Copyright/ImageCredit:  © 2012 Disney
The team from Walt Disney Animation Studios gives a first-time, behind-the-scenes look at the their
November 27, 2013 film, "Frozen".  Attendees will learn how the team of artists and technologists created the film's characters through visual development, rigging, animation and advanced rendering tools and discover how the elements of cold - ice, snow and frost - were brought to life through new simulation techniques.