Chair’s Corner

Chair’s Corner – Practitioners: We Need You!

By Elizabeth Baron

I have had the distinct privilege in my career of being able to really think out of the box and look toward the future. I could innovate in ways that provide efficiencies by allowing intuitive, agile thought to get at solutions to complex, multidimensional problems.

SIGGRAPH was my inspiration, my foundation, my place where I could go to understand the art of the possible, or the impossible. 

Being a Practitioner, I possibly see the benefits of SIGGRAPH through a different lens than the average SIGGRAPHer. Back in 2017, a Strategy Team was formed to determine what SIGGRAPH should look like in the future. The clear mission was defined as: Enabling everyone to tell their stories.

As a Practitioner, “everyone” includes artists, designers, ergonomists, engineers of many types [electrical, mechanical, structural, materials, thermodynamics, …], roboticists, analysts, AI/ML specialists, and more. Whew! There are a lot of players in the industrial space. They each have their own goals, and perspectives. It’s not the typical cast of characters you’ll find at an ACM SIGGRAPH conference, but an interesting mix, nonetheless.

What is so fantastic about SIGGRAPH is that many of the concepts are universal in application. Our tradition of innovations in media of movies, animations and games also applies to extended realities, photorealism, real-time interactions and sensory experiences and other forms to experience data and concepts. We as a community are creating new and exciting ways to understand and communicate. Our community enables us to use intuitive insight for problem solving. SIGGRAPH enables people with unlike minds (i.e. an artist and an engineer) to communicate effectively, each telling their story to the other in a way that makes sense to the person experiencing the content. 

Problems are best solved when people can connect personally to facts and data through experience. Most people are visual thinkers and learn by doing. In industrial design and engineering, teams are collaborating in real-time in immersive environments, even though geographically the participants may be miles away. SIGGRAPH is the place where we (I) learned how to make this happen!

Think about the value of our conferences. Through our experiences have been mostly virtual recently, the conferences provide the opportunity to learn from the brightest minds in computer graphics & interactive techniques.  SIGGRAPH 2021 Conference this year. (There is still time to enjoy on-demand content – until October 29, 2021. Register here!) And get ready for SIGGRAPH Asia 2021





It is coming up in Tokyo from December 14-17.  

Practitioners of CG&IT are realizing the results of successful collaborations, where design and engineering converge. The power of holistic product creation provides a deeper understanding of an enjoyable experience. Learning both emotive and scientific perspectives simultaneously provides impactful insights into form and function of product. It leads to high throughput discovery; which allows teams to find creative solutions to problems by considering multiple data points in an intuitive manner.

A Strategy Committee called “New Communities” has done great work in bringing in new disciplines from both emerging research and application of CG&IT platforms to the SIGGRAPH Community. There is a lot of thought being given regarding the needs of industry practitioners for Design, Engineering and Manufacturing to collaborate in what is becoming a hybrid society. We would appreciate your thoughts on how to move industry forward, so that they can realize the benefits of holistic communication. Please email me at

Practitioners, please consider becoming a member of SIGGRAPH. The benefits are inspirational. The knowledge you acquire can set you on a path to become the benchmark in your industry for insight and efficiency in solving complex problems with high precision and speed. Check out the profound work in the ACM Digital Library. If you see something you like in a video, go to the DL to deep dive and really understand how to apply the concepts. 

The real power of CG&IT is that it’s holistic. It brings everyone together and everyone can understand the final product (whether it’s a product or service) that makes people’s lives better. And that’s a beautiful thing. Please consider becoming a part of the SIGGRAPH community. You can register here to become a member of ACM SIGGRAPH and join in the conversation.


Chair’s Corner: Farewell Essay

As with most goodbyes, this moment is bittersweet. I am very excited to pass the chores of being chair onto my successor and claw some time back for my own research and other endeavors. At the same time, I have been honored to serve as chair of SIGGRAPH and generally enjoyed the role; I certainly learned a lot. One of the downsides of the one-year term is that it takes a little while to settle in, or maybe that was just the pandemic throwing everything off. I do wish I had started writing these essays sooner, but c’est la vie.

SIGGRAPH has accomplished a whole awful lot over the last year. SIGGRAPH has made incremental changes over time, but the pandemic forced us to make *huge* changes very quickly. All our conferences went virtual in 2020. It was an incredible feat and all our conference organizers deserve immense kudos. We did tons of experimentation and quickly identified some best practices. Sure, we lost money. But, through luck and shrewd negotiation (major props to Ashley Cozzi and Cindy Stark) we lost a small fraction of our liability.

We also took advantage of everyone being virtual (and no travel costs) to bring more voices into our strategy meetings. We call them “strategy” meetings, but that is probably a misnomer; we do not generate 5-year plans to put on a shelf, instead, these are meetings where we discuss the long-term future of SIGGRAPH and how we should allocate and *create* resources to improve our organization. We try to identify weaknesses, opportunities, etc. So, because we did not need to pay for travel, we could invite almost everyone. The meetings were a bit unwieldy at first, but we hit our stride and they turned out to be really productive. They did not serve all the purposes of in-person meetings—there is no replacing breaking bread with another human—but they did give us directions forward.

Three major initiatives came out of the meetings. First, the establishment of an Online Events Committee. This committee proved too big a lift for our first chair and we are in search of a replacement, perhaps co-chairs given the large scope; maybe we need a committee the size of one of our major conferences. Second, was the idea of online communities organized around similar interests; not unlike chapters, but being virtual and based upon shared interests rather than geography. Third, was a better approach to membership. The topic of membership is perennial at SIGGRAPH meetings. I have been a member since my first SIGGRAPH in 2001 when I got a discount on the SIGGRAPH Video Review. I’ve probably lapsed (I still don’t always pay my electric bill on time), but I am of that older generation where you belong to your professional organization as a matter of course. I am also a member of my local NPR station and give them $6 a month, which is more than I can give SIGGRAPH.

Let me dwell on membership for a moment. I am not a member of SIGGRAPH  because of some transactional benefit; I get reduced registration from my ACM membership and can access the digital library content through my university (or, like everyone, for free through OpenTOC). I am a member of SIGGRAPH because the organization does good things. And those good things affect me in positive ways. SIGGRAPH has published and archived the majority of my publications. I have made many friends and colleagues through the organization’s efforts. SIGGRAPH has made my professional life better. These are the same reasons I volunteer for SIGGRAPH; I am always surrounded by interesting people and the work is very fulfilling.

In addition to these major initiatives, we have done other stuff too. Our standing committees have organized many virtual events over the past year; DEI, Digital Arts, and Chapters have led many of these efforts. We also created a new series, “A Conversation With…” By all reports, these conversations have been fun and low-pressure. I am certain there are more things in the works. In retrospect, I think SIGGRAPH did a pretty great job of leveraging the upsides of the pandemic and has remained vibrant and inspiring despite the challenges.

For those in the technical community, just yesterday the Executive Committee approved a proposal for “Conference Papers.” This idea has been around for years, but finally, there was momentum behind it. Mashhuda Glencross deserves a shout-out for leading the team that put together the proposal; it was an enormous amount of work. Thanks to all of you who filled out the survey. View the approved proposal.

I also want to take this opportunity to thank Paul Strauss and Mashhuda Glencross for their service on the Executive Committee as their terms end tonight as well. And a major thanks to Jessica Hodgins, who has served on the EC for nine (yes, nine!) years, first as a director-at-large, then as President, and finally as past-President. I could not have asked for a wiser sage to help me along this past year.

As my final thoughts as SIGGRAPH chair, I want to say that I have gained so much more from SIGGRAPH than what I have contributed; that is the paradox of being part of something. Please become a member, please volunteer, please engage. You will probably find yourself feeling the same way.

fare thee well,


Chair’s Corner: The SIGGRAPH Budget

One of the most frequent criticisms I hear about SIGGRAPH is that the organization is opaque or, equivalently, I hear about a lack of transparency. To the extent that this critique is fair, it is not due to a desire for secrecy (there are only a handful of things that are confidential), instead, it is because of the difficulty of communicating all that an organization like SIGGRAPH is doing. We have 21 standing committees, 6 advisory groups, and 5 strategy teams; we have a complex relationship with ACM, which is also a complex organization. It took a full year on the Executive Committee (EC) to begin to understand how SIGGRAPH works and after 5 years, 1000s of hours of work, and even a year as chair, there is still plenty I do not know. There are at least a thousand, probably more like five thousand, human hours that go into every week. It would be impossible for anyone to deeply understand everything that SIGGRAPH is doing. So it is an issue of scale, not secrecy. In fact, one of the reasons I am writing these essays is to improve communication with our members.

For those with an interest in long reading, we do maintain documentation of the most significant achievements, meetings, and policies:

– SIGGRAPH files an annual report for ACM every year, and you can look all the way back to 2001 here. While I have not filed one myself yet, I am told by my predecessor that it is surprising just how much work the organization does.

– All of our official meeting minutes are kept here. These are generally pretty boring, but boring is what transparency means. Personally, I have found a few things from the minutes before my time interesting; I am not the first person to bring up a papers-only registration.

– We keep our policies and procedures updated here. We update them every few months as we strive to achieve the best governance of our organization (the governance committee meets every other week to discuss updates, which accounts for about 10 of those human hours per week). Importantly, we document the rationale for our procedures and policies, so that the next generation of leaders knows not just how we do things, but why.

But one area we are a bit opaque is the financials, again that is simply because things are complex enough that it is difficult to explain.  So, in an effort to increase transparency, I will try to explain how SIGGRAPH’s finances work.

First, we are a Special Interest Group (SIG) under the ACM umbrella, which means we inherit ACM’s not-for-profit (501(c)(3) under US tax law) status. This status is actually different from a “non-profit.” Significantly, it allows us (and ACM) to have paid staff and has less stringent financial reporting requirements; there are other differences as well.

Under ACM policies we are required to have a reserve fund, which is basically a bank account, held and managed by ACM, that has enough money should we encounter really bad times (e.g. a pandemic or global financial crisis). The reserve fund requirement is based on a percentage of expenditures and, before the pandemic, SIGGRAPH was required to keep about $4M in the bank. Going below the reserve fund is a big no-no and results in unpleasant oversight. I’ve heard horror stories of the times it has happened before (after financial crises in the early and late 2000s). So, we mandated a cushion (in the policies noted above we are required to have an extra $1M in 2018 dollars) so that it would not happen again. SIGGRAPH had been so successful over the last decade that we actually had a $3M cushion and were planning to re-invest that money in the community with initiatives like student travel grants and other things before the pandemic. I’ll keep my fingers crossed; we lost about $850K last year and are budgeted to lose $675K this year (our fiscal year starts July 1), so half our cushion will be gone by the SIGGRAPH 2022 conference.

SIGGRAPH (and all the SIGs) pay overhead (formerly called allocation) to ACM. Overhead is charged based on total expenditures, which matches most University models I know of. One wrinkle is that the overhead is on a sliding scale. SIGGRAPH pays more overhead on its first $10K than on its last $1M. This approach makes sense since our need for ACM services does not scale linearly with our spending and, in fact, ACM cannot provide many of the professional services SIGGRAPH requires so we must rely on contracts for professional services (e.g. Conference Management and Administration).

Conferences create their own budgets. Whether it is SIGGRAPH or HPG, the conference leadership comes up with registration fees and determines how to spend that revenue. They do include ACM’s overhead charge in their budgets, albeit at different percentages. The SIGGRAPH conference’s budget must be approved by the Executive Committee, but the conference chair puts together the budget with input from the Conference Advisory Group (CAG), which contains several members from the EC, and members from the conference management team. The SIGGRAPH conference budget before the pandemic was about $7M (about $8.5M for SIGGRAPH 2019) and dwarfs everything else SIGGRAPH does. The year before the pandemic (July 2019 – June 2020) our total expenses for the entire SIGGRAPH organization were $9.8M, the year before that it was closer to $8M. SIGGRAPH Asia is handled quite differently and is more analogous to a licensing agreement, SIGGRAPH has no financial liability and receives a set fee plus a percentage of the expenses over a threshold; the EC does not approve or have access to a detailed SIGGRAPH Asia budget.

Okay, now that your eyes have glazed over or you have fallen asleep, what does SIGGRAPH’s budget actually look like? I will answer that in two parts: before the pandemic and after.

Long ago, I am told, the organization budget was entirely supported by conference returns. There was no digital library, and we actually lost money on membership (because we printed and shipped magazines). But, in recent years, the organization revenue was roughly 1/3 membership dues, 1/3 digital library revenue, and 1/3 conference returns; the budget was in the $1M—1.5M range, with roughly $500K of that going to ACM in overhead. See here for a bit more detail, but note this data does not provide a complete picture; we were operating at a surplus before the pandemic because our conferences were more successful than expected. Aside from ACM overhead, we mostly spent money on travel costs, professional support, and initiatives at our major conferences. Most of the travel costs were for people to attend conferences, either to work as a volunteer or as volunteer recognition for work over the course of the year. While I have had a few manhattan’s on SIGGRAPH’s tab, I have not seen any malfeasance and I doubt it occurs.

Over the last year, of course, our travel costs have gone to zero. Our main costs are for zoom lines and administrative support. At the same time though, we are generating very little revenue. Membership is down and our major conferences are losing money, only the digital library is mostly holding steady. We still have a cushion on the reserve fund balance, but a very bad SIGGRAPH 2022 could knock us below.

In terms of the conference, the vast majority of the registration and exhibitor revenue goes into putting on the conference. The conference is supposed to make a prescribed transfer to the reserve fund and budget for the ACM overhead, both to support the organization and protect against future losses, but it is not supposed to make money (we are a not-for-profit after all). However, putting on a highly professional conference is an expensive endeavor. We rent very high-end A/V equipment and we try to find nice venues for our reception and sometimes our premier events like the Electronic Theater are off-site. We also contract for professional staff to ensure everything goes smoothly. Next time you pick up your reviewer mug, look around at all the people working long days to make sure things run smoothly. Or the next time you give a talk think about the fact that there is at least one A/V expert in the room should something go wrong. All these expenses add up, which is really the answer to the question I often get, “why is SIGGRAPH so expensive?”

In recent years, SIGGRAPH revenue routinely exceeded the expenses and the reserve fund grew too large, $2M above our policy. So, we started to reinvest this money in the organization and conference to create new programs and initiatives, like the Frontiers Talks and Workshops, the Doctoral Consortium, the Diversity and Inclusion Summit, and the Production Gallery (including that wonderful Syd Mead exhibit in 2018). We also support various CRA and ACM initiatives like the CRA-W grad cohort workshop. We had set up a student travel grant program to kickoff for SIGGRAPH 2020. But, travel grants don’t make sense in a pandemic.

In the last two years, we have lost a lot of money, roughly $1.5M by the time our budget cycle ends in June 2022. Unlike a lot of our specialized conferences and our friends with less complex conferences, SIGGRAPH has multi-year contracts for (and reliance on) management and administration professionals to create a professional, polished experience. The planning for the SIGGRAPH conference begins several years in advance; the CAG will be interviewing candidates for the 2024 conference chair this fall, in a normal year, the city would already have been chosen. The SIGGRAPH ship cannot turn on a dime. We can eliminate travel (that is easy in a pandemic), but we still need help to organize the hundreds of overlapping sessions that have very different needs. The fact that our contractors remain hidden in the background is a testament to their professionalism, but I assure you, especially for these virtual events, there has been an enormous amount of work going on behind the scenes.

We hope that next year will be better and we are looking for new ways to generate revenue, including tiered membership. (It turns out that not-for-profits cannot make money selling t-shirts, but we can have a $150 membership that includes a t-shirt—the beauties of tax law.) I will take this opportunity to ask you to become a SIGGRAPH member. SIGGRAPH is, at its heart, a membership organization. Please join us and help support all that we do. And volunteer too!

I hope you enjoy this year’s virtual conference and I look forward to seeing you in person or virtually for a hybrid conference in Vancouver.


Chair’s Corner: Results of the Conference Papers Program Survey


I wrote last month about a proposal for a new Conference Papers program. Over the last month we conducted a survey of the technical papers community (if you want to participate the survey is here:

I have been tracking the results since the survey went live and they have been pretty stable. It is clear that 2/3 of respondents want a Conference Papers program (with the majority preferring that title). The next step is that an ad hoc committee consisting of members of the SIGGRAPH Executive Committee, the Papers Advisory Group, the Publications Committee, and the Research Career Development Committee will draft a program proposal. That proposal will need approval from the above bodies as well as the Conference Advisory Group and the SIGGRAPH Asia Conference Advisory Group. And, if we establish a relationship with PACM on CGIT, we will need approval from several ACM committees as well.

I want to thank everyone who participated in the survey. This idea has been kicking around for years and it is nice to see some momentum building.

If you want to see the results of the survey they are here:

Chair’s Corner: Thoughts on a Proposal for a New Conference Papers Program


As far back as I can remember, the SIGGRAPH technical papers community has complained about the technical papers program. As I have gotten older I’ve begun to realize that *every* technical papers community complains about their program, whether it is the review process, acceptance rates, or the additional comparisons required by reviewer #2, etc. It seems just to be human nature. There is almost always a sense that the “grass is greener” and I am often reminded of the Churchill quote: “Democracy is a very bad form of government, but I ask you never to forget: all the others are so much worse.”

But, I do think that something has shifted over the last five years. Page counts and author lists have gotten longer; the number of hours of work to produce a SIGGRAPH Technical Paper is far greater than when I was a grad student. This trend is not, in and of itself, bad and is, in part, due to progress in the field; over the past decades the community has built up an enormous body of prior art for reviewer #2 to point to, and much of that work is available in open-source repositories. A very positive effect is that SIGGRAPH technical papers are highly novel, very rigorous, and contain thorough analysis; I think the quality of our papers rivals the top journals in all of science, as evidenced by the fact that ACM Transactions on Graphics (ToG) has the highest impact factor of any ACM journal that publishes novel research (apparently ACM Computing Surveys scores higher).

But, as with all things, there are downsides. I would argue that the increased amount of work required to go from research results to a paper published at SIGGRAPH has had some significant deleterious consequences.

First, we have shifted somewhat from basic research—gaining insights, running experiments, and solving problems—to extensive evaluation. Extensive evaluation is certainly important. But, I would argue that this is separate from contributions to basic research. In fact, I would argue that authors proposing a new idea are the very worst people to be evaluating that idea; no one is going to spend as much time understanding or tweaking the parameters of others’ methods as they will their own.

Second, the amount of work required to publish means that graphics researchers publish fewer papers, garner fewer citations, and are jumping ship to neighboring conferences that have just as much credibility in a tenure review, but require less work.

Over the years, I have heard many proposals to change the SIGGRAPH process: accept more papers, accept fewer papers, re-impose page limits (granted there was never an official limit, but in 2001 if you went over 8 pages, you must have made a *very* significant contribution; Hertzmann and colleagues “Image Analogies” was a major outlier at the time at 14 pages). But, one idea has recently started gaining traction: introducing conference papers / short papers / technical briefs. There is little consensus on what to call such a program and there are many other details to also figure out.

To be clear, the idea that is building momentum is not to create a “low-bar” SIGGRAPH paper. Whatever form this program would take it would have the same high level of intellectual merit and technical novelty. But, given page limits, papers may, for example, have only a demonstration of an idea, rather than a complete systems with an exhaustive comparison to prior work. As with conferences like CVPR, authors would have to choose which details and evaluations to include; they would be forced to focus on what they consider most important and what will likely benefit future readers. Philosophically, I would argue that in any optimization it is very difficult to find a good solution in the absence of constraints, but that once you start introducing constraints, e.g. page counts, you are forced to make decisions to honor the constraints and quickly converge to a (probably local) minimum.

While the review process would be rigorous and may include a rebuttal, it would not include a second review cycle or mandatory revisions, further reducing the workload for the authors and the committee. The door would remain open for publishing extended versions in a journal, and we may be able to work with the PACM on CGIT to invite papers to submit such versions, perhaps with reviewer continuity.

These are the broad-brush outlines of the sort of program gaining momentum. Let me mention some of the positive and negative potential consequences.

On the positive side, we may stop losing researchers to other communities and bring more researchers into the SIGGRAPH community. Since I joined the EC, I have seen plenty of graphs which show that SIGGRAPH submissions, and in fact all graphics submissions, are basically flat while CHI/CVPR/NeurIPS are skyrocketing. Sure, some of that is simply the fact that Machine Learning is the hottest thing in Computer Science right now, but you can publish Machine Learning papers at SIGGRAPH. More practically, with this new program the community can publish more papers and members of our community will appear stronger on all of the imperfect, but influential, metrics from G-number to publication count; resulting in more funding, more hiring, and more recognition. And, in my role as SIGGRAPH chair, the most important thing is keeping members of the community engaged and sharing their work in our publications.

On the negative side, this may draw some papers away from the regular Technical Papers program. Personally, I think this is okay; the work is still in SIGGRAPH, though in a different program. I think it would be important that authors decide on where to submit; maybe this new program has a deadline two weeks later than Technical Papers and it is disallowed to submit to both.

In my view, the potentially bigger downside is a decrease in submissions to our specialized conferences, which historically have hoped to pick up rejections from SIGGRAPH. One idea I have heard suggested was to allow papers accepted to this new program to give oral presentations at specialized conferences and posters at the SIGGRAPH and SIGGRAPH Asia conferences. Such an approach would presumably provide the specialized conferences with great content. Of course, it is also possible, though maybe counterintuitive, that a such a program would generate *more* submissions to our specialized conferences; while authors may be tempted to send rejected Technical Papers to ToG or hold them for the next upcoming SIGGRAPH or SIGGRAPH Asia, papers rejected from non-journal program may well find their way into the specialized conferences.

Of course, if we implement such a program, there would be all sorts of unintended consequences that we can only guess at now, just as there were when we made the decision in 2002 to include SIGGRAPH and SIGGRAPH Asia papers in special issues of ToG. There are also many questions that need answering before we could move forward, and that is why I am writing this essay, to invite the community to be part of this conversation.If you think this is a great idea, we want to know. If you think this is a terrible idea, we also want to know. If you have ideas on how this broad-brush proposal could be improved or how details could be filled in, we want to hear from you.

In this spirit we will be creating a survey and holding a town hall later this month to get feedback from the community. This page will be updated with more information as it becomes available.