SIGGRAPHICON - Sharon Eisenberg
What is SIGGRAPHICON? It’s the term I’ve coined for the rare phenomenon that occurs when both the SIGGRAPH convention and Comi-Con occur consecutive weekends at the San Diego Convention Center.
This year, Comi-Con ran from Thursday July 25th to Sunday July 29th. On the Wednesday evening they held their famous preview night – an event where people from all walks of life get great deals on collectibles ranging from the latest and greatest in cult classic television show memorabilia, to a whole gamut of comic books catering to a plethora of interests. SIGGRAPH occurred the first week in August.
For those who are not familiar with Comi-Con, it’s a convention dedicated to the art of the comic book and animation, and all characters related to these genres. The convention started in the 70’s in a basement of a hotel, and has now grown to an attendance of over 100,000 (including 60,000 on Saturday alone). It’s a convention for fans of television shows, and where new television shows are often previewed. A bevy of Star Wars characters, superheroes, cartoon favorites and even those that concoct their own identities are seen walking the convention floor.
Like, Comi-Con, SIGGRAPH is also a convention for “fans” of a different type: fans of new technologies. Here, fans await breakdowns of the year’s effects-laden films and discourse about mathematical solutions to graphical conundrums. Its professional focus engages networking, as well as the “party circuit” of which the convention is also known for. It’s where companies make announcements (often for the first time) on advancements through upgrades in graphics software, as well as introduce new partnerships.
The following is a tale of two conventions – Comi-Con which I attended on the 28th and 29th, and SIGGRAPH which I attended in its entirety.
COSTUMES & FASHION
Do you have to dress up when attending Comi-Con? No. I didn’t. In fact it’s almost more fun if you don’t – to be on the outside looking in. Costumed attendees often compete in the Masquerade, a main attraction of Con. This long-running event is where individuals and groups compete in different categories for a variety of prizes.
Competitors in group categories adapt well-known musical selections, forming an array of bizarre visuals. For example, “Greasy Harry Potter” included characters from the beloved franchise singing songs from Grease. Another group took on the Silent Hill video game by singing “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life. Even a collection of Princess Leahs, along with Han Solo, tackled “Dreamgirls”. May the force be with us, for all those who were subjected to these spectacles.
Have you ever seen a moonwalking Transformer? This was one of the highlights of the individual categories. Another favorite individual contestant wore a Beetlejuice costume, complete with hammered tentacles, the black and white suit, full make-up, and everything else that comprised this mischievous well-loved Tim Burton character. The construction of this costume was truly something to marvel at, and one can tell that this took a lot of time and pain-staking detail to create.
SIGGRAPH’s annual Fashion Show is one of the staples of the convention, featuring labors of love encompassing unique functionality, artistic use of built-in circuitry, and a multitude of fabrics. At the Chapters Party, the audience had a chance to view the creations up close and ask designers questions.
“Jacket Antics,” created by Barbara Layne/Studio subTela, exemplifies the convergence of social interaction and technology. When wearers join hands, messages displayed on the backs of the jackets reflect a symbiotic relationship.
The “Solar Bikini,” created by Andrew Schneider, seemed like the perfect product for a futuristic GAP store. According to the fashion show program, the bikini is “retrofitted with 1” x 4” photovoltaic film strips sewn together in series with conductive thread. The cells terminate in a 5 volt regulator into a female USB connection.” It is designed to power an iPod.
PROGRAMMING AT COMI-CON & SIGGRAPH
Comi-Con programming lasts from 9AM Thursday to early morning hours of Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. There are also concurrent movie screenings at the Sheraton Marina. At the convention center, rooms are also dedicated to Anime and short films. Some feature films are also premiered. The later evening “cult-programs” at Comi-Con include a screening of the World’s Worst Cartoons, from the collection of animation historian Jerry Beck. Spike & Mike’s Sick and Twisted festival is another main event, in which the audience shapes what show tours by cheering or jeering the prospects on screen.
I attended an 11pm screening of the musical episode of Buffy The Vampire Slayer entitled “Once More With Feeling.” The experience resembled the Rocky Horror Picture Show, and was worth staying at the San Diego Convention center until the late hour to see. On a different note, there was a very moving panel on the Sunday morning – a tribute to Jack Kirby, long-time inker for both Marvel & DC comics. One of the participants was Neil Gaiman – famous for creating/writing the Sandman books, as well as being a prolific novelist and screenwriter. Kirby’s daughter was in the audience and was greatly appreciative of all who came. This was a great conclusion to my weekend at Comi-Con.
This year’s SIGGRAPH’s Course, Paper, and Special Session offerings were the best they have ever been. “Surf’s Up: The Making of Animated Documentary,” elaborated upon techniques to recreate the film stock of previous decades, the camera-rig created to capture the look of surf documentaries’ complex cinematography, the realistic rendering of waves, character animation, and other aspects. When seeing reference footage from surfing documentaries like Step Into Liquid it was truly astonishing to see how close the technicians and artists at Imageworks came to mimicking live action.
“Giant Frickin’ Robots”, was a special session presented by Industrial Light and Magic on the world of the Transformers. Once again the astounding power of CG solved complicated rigging issues involved in transforming vehicles of varying body styles into 30-foot robots. No, there weren’t any examples of moonwalking Transformers, but one did roller-blade.