By Alyn "Rock" Rockwood, SIGGRAPH 2003 Conference Chair
(Not a completely serious summary)
- What is the CAG?
The Conference Advisory Group. Some think of it as a board of
directors for the conference. Others think of it as... well, never mind.
It is composed of 8 members: a CAG chair, two appointees representing
the ACM SIGGRAPH Executive Committee, the Chief Staff Executive
(non-voting), and four conference chairs:
- The past ( compost ) chair, who has the happy relaxed smile.
- The current chair, who is highly stressed, do not annoy.
- The next chair, focused, but OK to annoy.
- The next to the next chair, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed.
- What exactly does the CAG do?
The CAG advises each conference year to help them put on the best
possible conference. Specific areas that they are responsible for
include (Note that all recommendations by the CAG must be approved by
the ACM SIGGRAPH Executive Committee):
- Sets all formal policies and procedures for planning and
executing the conference
- Recommends the Conference Chairs (nominates to the Executive
Committee for approval)
- Reviews and recommends all multi-year conference contractors
(approved by the Executive Committee)
- Recommends the conference site (Why not Maui this time?)
- Conference budget review (Starbucks espresso for session
- Strategic Planning
- Multi-year conference issues
- Conference Program reviews to determine their effectiveness
- And sooo much more.
- How do future sites get selected? (Where is that dart?)
Actually it is a complicated choice with many factors. Traditionally
it alternates between the far west and not-so-far-west (non-west). There
must be a conference center large enough, which is surprisingly
restrictive now that SIGGRAPH is so large and complex. In addition to a
large exhibition, SIGGRAPH has a full technical program and installation
programs (such as Art and Emerging Technology) that require a great deal
of space. Other questions include: Is the center available when we need
it? What kind of deal is being offered? How did previous conferences do
at this location? What is the local support, housing, environment? What
locations have our attendees expressed an interest in (we do attendee
and exhibitor surveys every year to get feedback)?
- Why is the conference held in Los Angeles so often?
LA draws lots of attendees, it has lots of local support and
interest, it is a central location for a large contingency of our
community, and LA is very good to SIGGRAPH
- the last few years they have charged only one dollar ($1) for the
convention center. (You thought it was for the clean air?) In addition
to LA for our west coast location, we are currently planning San Diego,
and evaluate Anaheim, San Francisco, and Las Vegas (a pseudo-west coast
location). At the current time we have no plans to return to LA after S
- Why is the conference always held in July / August?
Tradition. It is also a good time for academics, where SIGGRAPH has a
lot of roots and debris. Under current policies, the conference is
always held sometime within the last two weeks of July and the first two
weeks of August.
- Why is SIGGRAPH always held in such hot locations?
The biggest reason is the availability of Convention Centers large
enough to hold SIGGRAPH. But, hey, it's been in Minnesota, Detroit,
Boston, and Chicago. The former two do not have big enough convention
centers anymore. Boston is expanding their center and will be a welcome
option soon. There are some cost and union issues with using Chicago.
Maybe something can be extrapolated from these data about the North?
Toronto has been discussed, but we do not fit into its Convention
Center. We are still waiting for Nome to make a bid.
- What is in SIGGRAPH's future?
"He bored with his auger, he bored once and twice,
And some were playing cards, and some were playing dice."
With that warning, the CAG completed a market survey recently and has
held a number of strategic/planning meetings with leaders in the field.
Some areas seem poised for dramatic growth like gaming, web graphics and
interactive techniques. SIGGRAPH is attempting to respond to such change
and is open to suggestions. Areas like the technical programs, emerging
technologies, CAF, art show, studio, educators' program are solid and
serve large numbers of attendees. Continued improvement is expected in
- What the heck is this fascination with teapots?
Blame Jim Blinn, whose supervisor at Utah was Martin Newell, an
Englishman, who had a teapot in his office. Jim digitized it into 28
Bezier patches and used it in his research. Because of its early
availability and varied eigenvalue surface structure (:-) it became a
popular benchmark. It now sits in the Boston Museum of Science.
- What does SIGGRAPH do with all the money they make?
Simply put, it tries to put on the best possible conference! SIGGRAPH
is a Special Interest Group of the ACM which is a not-for-profit
professional society. SIGGRAPH budgets each conference to break even.
Money earned via registration and the exhibition is used to offset the
tremendous costs associated with organizing an event as large as the
conference. A lot of the money goes to support a variety of professional
contractors (the best in the business) to make the conference happen.
AV, exhibition management, facilities, PR, registration, program
administration, website design, publications layout, signage etc. are
each major enterprises and require significant funding. Other SIGGRAPH
offerings like Electronic Theater, receptions, Studio, jury meetings,
organizational meetings, convention center rental (outside LA), and
networking cut heavily into the budget. If any of these things don't
work people would notice. The fact that they work so smoothly and stay
in the background is a tribute to a lot of planning and effort. Finally,
believe it or not, the money is used to help subsidize conference
registration fees, which are much lower than other (superficially)
comparable conferences. There is, of course, no real comparison.
The "profit" is transferred to ACM and ACM SIGGRAPH and
used to support their activities. For anything above a certain level
there is a reserve fund that takes up any leftover monies. It is
used to balance out fluctuations from year to year, and is also
available for special projects relating to the conference or ACM
SIGGRAPH such as the recently produced film "The History of