Friday, August 15, 2008


I'm at the airport, leaving Los Angeles. The plane has an hour delay, so I have a little time to reminis over this years SIGGRAPH conference. As always I had a great time. Highlights? Really enjoyed seeing a lot of artwork from the Blue Sky animation "Horton hears a Who", which apparently is not going to be published in a book. Saw a number of interesting technical talks, but now that the developments in the computer graphics world are mainly incremental with tiny steps, there was nothing shockingly new.

There were a few amazing images on display though: holographic computer prints! Not the way we (that is: Harris Kagan in his Holography lab at Ohio State in the late nineties) did it analog by multiple exposures of computer generated images printed on slides, but by printing directly on the photographic film. It actually turned out that the guys who were with the exhibit of these images had no idea how traditional holograhphy is done. The images were stunning, but I did not take pictures of them because they would not be able to display the dimensionality of the images

As far st the Art show goes: one installation stands out: "Echo Location" by Kirk Woolford (U.K.) and Carlos Guedes (PT). If you walked in front of it, it displays a cluster of white lines moving frantically over a background of what seems to be an old castle, moving through the door or window like opening. When you stand stand still long enough, the lines slow down and eventually form a human figure. I like the atmosphere of the piece

But the best part of the conference was meeting people and as always: being inspired by the strong computer graphics community!

It seems the delayed plane is finally at the gate, so I'm signing off!

You may wonder: how come he has internet at the airport. Well, I was quite suprised to find a "co_presidents_club" WiFi network, and even more so when it turned out to be open: no password. For those of you who may need internet at LAX: go to gate 60!

Dodgers Reception

It is already the last day of the SIGGRAPH 2008 conference. Yesterday was reception night, which was this year held at the Dodgers Stadium. During a ballgame. Which was fun, since I had never seen a ballgame. But as a reception it was worthless, there was no room for socializing. And that is what receptions should be about, right? At least the Dodgers beat the Phillies 3 to 1

Meeting people and renewing contacts is also one of the functions a conference in general. Had ample opportunity for that. Like getting reacquainted with the guy nobody recognized at the ACCAD alumni reception. He had transformed from a bald and bearded grad student into a clean shaven chair of the department with a wavy head of hair. Go figure!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Computer Animation Festival

Got an early start at the SIGGRAPH 2008conference today, with a presentation on "Teaching Computer Animation for Results" where the importance of knowing the basics was stressed. Not the software is the pivotal issue, but knowing how to have your objects convey the proper weight through their movement. Or as Karen Sullivan from Ringling School of Art and Design put it: it is not about moving objects, but about moving an audience". I do not entirely agree with her observation that we are in the business of entertainment. I teach at a fine arts program so there should also be an element of Art in there

Kevin Geiger (like me a former ACCAD student and currently heading Animation Options) showed an interesting animation off off YouTube that I like to share with you all: Believer by Jim Ellis. (Kevin also blogs about the conference)

When next I could not get into the technical session I had picked because it was full (e.g. the room was too small) I went to the Computer Animation Festival (CAF) screening and enjoyed two hours of animations. There was a remarkable amount of European student animations in the selection. The CAF is completely changed since last year, and unfortunately they killed the Electronic Theater where the best of the best used to be shown. But still, watching this many animations of high quality is always inspiring. No clear favorite form me yet.

If you are wondering how the cowboy music saga from last night ended: I do not really know, but when I returned to my room it was quiet. Until four in the morning at least, when the next door neighbor returned and again played the TV loud. I banged the wall, heard some cursing and the volume went down. Let's hope that's the end of it. Slept well for the most part

The image shows Sandro Alberti (who made the T-Shirts for the International Committee), Kirsten Cater (One of the International Committee chairs) and me in front of the International Center booth

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Sleep I must!

Right now I'm enjoying what I think to be the constantly looping music from a DVD menu coming through the hotel wall from the room next door. Nobody is responding to anything in that room, someone from security is now banging on the door with just as little result.

So, I have some time to blog about my day. Spent spent some time on the exhibition floor, where companies display there ware, and at the "New Technologies" exhibit, which used to be called "Emerging Technologies" or "E-Tech" for short. Most of the things on display have to do with haptic displays and the like, not quite my cup of tea. Went to a few talks as well.

The evening I spent at two Japanese parties with Miho, a friend from grad school. Free food again :), and we had a good time. In the photograph it seems like I gave Professor Kawaguchi quite a scare when I used my flash.

And to come back to what I started this post with: I'm now in the lobby, the only place here with internet access. It is midnight and I would rather be asleep but the continuous loop of cowboy movie music is driving me bonkers. Apparently the lock on the inside of the door is on and security is now fetching cutters to cut the lock and get in. Did I mention the alarm in the room is also going off? If there indeed is somebody in the room, he (or she) cannot be feeling too well

To be continued...

Monday, August 11, 2008

Ed Catmull

Today is the first day of the conference, which for me started off with booth duty at the International Center and an Education session, followed by the International Committee lunch.

In the afternoon there was the awards ceremony (my former professor Stephen Spencer received the award for outstanding service) the conference officially kicked off with the keynote by Ed Catmull, the computer graphics pioneer who is currently heading both the PIXAR and Disney animation studios together with John Lasseter. It was not a technical talk but addressed the issue of how to have a creative team create the best films by working as an open community. Quite insightful!

I found it interesting when he mentioned that when the goal he set for himself while a student, namely creating an animated feature which he then thought would take ten years, left a big gaping hole when it was finally achieved twenty years later. A huge: "what's next?" Building a healthy studio community was the new goal he then set, and while this might have been achieved at PIXAR, Disney still has a way to go there. Although he made it sound like the new Disney production coming out this fall will suck a lot less.

And now I'm off to the Chapters Party!

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Meetings Day

Sleep last night was OK. There was a reason the Hotel was cheap: no AC (but luckily there is no heatwave) and really thin walls. My next door neighbors were watching a action movie 'till after midnight).

Today is the day for pre-conference meetings. Spent the morning in the Education meeting, than off to the conference center for the Chapters meeting (I am the secretary of the New York Chapter). Good food today, with the education dinner coming up tonight. Which is good, since feeding oneself tends to be a bit of an issue during the confence, especially in L.A. where the conference center is kind of in the midle of nowhere. That is to say: that wasteland of empty parking lots is filling up with new buildings soon!

As for the picture: looks promissing for the conference, right? :)

Saturday, August 9, 2008


After doing quite a bit of work on our new home (friends can see an image of our newly painted porch on Flickr) and preparing for a new arrival, I have just arrived in Los Angeles where I will be attending the annual SIGGRAPH conference. I hope to find the time to blog a bit from here, or at least post pix on Flickr. The image to the right shows my point of departure: Broad Street Light Rail Station in Newark. The trip wasn't as messy as this image might imply: all went according to plan. And now it's time for bed