SIGGRAPH: Web Graphics
For years people have been creating visual imagery and movement
that serves both to entertain and extend the boundaries of our imagination.
Modeling, animation, programming for animation, rendering and lighting
techniques, the list of content shown at SIGGRAPH goes on.
However, with the evolution of the web as a staple source of information
and communication, we were left to wonder why web graphics coverage had been so sparse at SIGGRAPH. This year's inaugural Web Graphics Program
addresses the issue by bringing together a series of sessions, presented
by speakers from 13 different countries, covering everything from
color and compression, to the evolution of 2D animation.
As Simon Allardice, Chair of the Web Graphics Program, pointed out,
the crossover of talents from other areas of the CG industry is
growing. One of the goals of the Web Graphics Program is to help
demonstrate to artists, engineers, animators and modelers how they can tap into and enrich this resource.
A Flash user myself, I was happy to finally have the opportunity
to learn more about web graphics and animation within SIGGRAPH.
Here, I could sit through sessions given by people whose books
I had been following just weeks before. Given the amount of content shown at SIGGRAPH, having
the Program divided into sections helped attendees, myself included, pinpoint which sessions were most personally relevant and interesting.
Among my personal favorites was the section on Animation. A digital
artist, I now found the opportunity to explore the finer points
of classical animation. As such, I was surprised to learn about
the cost of creating a hand drawn cartoon and the history of the
field. Having been introduced to 2D animation using Flash, I never
really thought about the cost efficiency of such a software program. Whereas
hand drawn animation would take an animator a minimum of three frames
to turn a character's head, programs such as Flash and ToonBoom
would involve manipulation of a single drawing. As such, the cost
and time involved in web graphics production could be substantially
less than that of more traditional methods.
In terms of staging animation, it was nice to see that 2D software tools
worked off the genius of classical animation masters such as Hanna
Barbara. That is to say, they took the genius of "limited animation systems",
where drawing for animation was structured to reduce labor
intensive redrawing of cells, and furthered it. By doing so, and allowing drawn images to be flipped over in
a plane, a sequence, such as a character moving from right
to left across the screen, could be manipulated within a few mouse
clicks and easily reversed.
After hearing someone speak about the production of the Web 3D RoundUp
art prize winner of SIGGRAPH 2001, “Horses for Courses”,
exploring the line between film and game, exploring web-safe colors
and learning about the creation of interactive 3D content for the
web, I was starting to really gain a sense of the reach of this graphics sector.
The scope and applications of web graphics, which was once confined
to the dot com industry, now thrive. The dot com stigmata of stick
figure/flashy animation will eventually wear off. When it does,
and people fully embrace the possibilities web graphics offers,
the future of visual internet content will change forever. Until
then, web graphics enthusiasts must continue to find their way into
the mainstream spotlight. Presence at SIGGRAPH is a promising
forward step towards that goal.