By Tai-San Choo
Each year SIGGRAPH offers full and half-day courses over a wide
range of CG related topics included art, science, and engineering.
These courses offer extensive instruction from the top experts in
each area being discussed, meaning attendees learn about the latest
innovations and advances in the industry. Courses vary in presentation
format from lecture-style to more interactive workshops.
With 59 total courses and over a hundred speakers this year’s
Courses program was the largest to date. Courses Committee Chair,
Valerie Miller was on the jury panel that received a record 100
proposals for courses. “We’ve got the web stuff, API,
psychometrics, hardcore math, video, animation…. There’s
something for everybody,” Miller said. Almost no proposals
were immediately discarded, giving the jury that much harder of
a job in selecting which courses to take aboard. “It got to
the point where you almost thought it would be the toss of a coin
as to figure out which ones were going to make it,” Miller
The arduous process of elimination involved weighing which areas
were heavily represented to those more sparsely proposed. Certain
courses like the MPEG-4 and OpenGL 2 courses almost didn’t
make the cut, but since they represented subjects that were upcoming
technologies the jury decided they were more necessary for the conference.
With eight more courses offered then last year, the duty of accepting
proposals and coming up with an appropriate schedule to fit the
rooms available proved to be a juggling act.
Courses placed in the larger rooms like Ballroom A and Ballroom
C1-3 tend to be those that typically draw larger audiences. “The
animation courses are always popular, but what I’ve seen lately
is that a lot of the more advanced courses are being attended pretty
heavily,” Miller said. Most of the movie special effects courses,
like Stuart Little 2: Let the Feathers Fly, are scheduled for the
huge Ballroom A. Other large capacity courses included Simulating
Nature: Realistic and Interactive Techniques, RenderMan in Production,
State of Art in Hardware Shading, Recent Advances in Non-Photorealistic
Rendering for Art and Visualization, Recreating the Past, and Real-Time
Some of the more interactive courses were held in the Creative
Applications Lab. This facility provided computers, projection devices,
and correlating hardware and software to go with the appropriate
classes in order to give attendees a more hands-on approach to the
material. A few courses that took advantage of the lab were Mathematics
and Physics for Coding Motion and Interactivity in Web Graphics;
XML Basics for XHTML, SCG, and SMIL; Introduction to SVG and SMIL;
High-Quality Volume Graphics on Consumer PC Hardware; and An Interactive
Introduction to OpenGL Programming.
A large part of deciding course sizes depends on attendee input.
Every year the course selection committee sees which classes tend
to draw the most audiences and take that into account for the upcoming
year. On the conference website the schedule builder not only helps
attendees plan their week but also helps conference organizers make
last minute changes to compensate for unexpected class sizes. Also,
each course offers comment cards that are helpful each year in improving
the overall program.
The actually make-up of courses has changed over the years as well.
“We’re seeing a lot more advanced courses being submitted
in response to attendee feedback,” Miller said. Some of the
newer research areas, which may have been covered by Papers the
previous years come back the next year as courses as research becomes
more extensive on those particular subjects. “One of the great
things that comes out of this is the cooperation between researchers
who don’t know each other,” said Miller. An example
of this is the Commodity Clusters for Immersive Projective Environments
course, which consists of a panel of lecturers from Brazil, France,
and Illinois who had been working on their ideas separately. Through
a few dinners and email conversations they decided to incorporate
their research for a new course in this year’s conference.
This kind of international cooperation exemplifies the strong community
atmosphere created by SIGGRAPH.
program is an ever-improving system and the courses committee is
always looking for ways to make next year’s program even better.
“I’d like see more interactive stuff in the courses,
however interactivity is an expensive thing, being able to provide
the software and hardware to do things. Being a teacher by trade
I know that a lot of people learn better by doing it,” Miller
said. The Creative Applications Lab has played a larger role in
trying to make courses more hands-on, but there is only so much
time and room available in the lab during the week.
The Courses program provides SIGGRAPH attendees with a wealth of
knowledge and connections in the forefront of the computer graphics
community. They allow in-depth informative sessions to explain and
review research that would be impossible to condense in shorter
sessions like Panels and Papers, Sketches and Applications, or Special
Session lectures. For more information on specific courses you can
check out the conference website or some of the courses covered
by our reports staff.