SIGGRAPH 2003, After You, Christopher Cordingley

CG Cinema: The Convergence of Computer Graphics and the Film Industry

by Tai-San Choo

The film industry was well represented at this year’s SIGGRAPH 2003 conference, with a slew of courses, sketches & applications, papers, and two of the five special sessions as well as the Electronic, Animation, and two Art Gallery Theaters displaying the growing influence of innovative computer graphics applications in current movies. With a vast array of applications from new video matting techniques, photo-realistic computer generated imagery, to fully computer animated short and feature length films, and scores of other techniques, computer graphics constantly drive the film industry in new and astounding directions.

SIGGRAPH continued its tradition of being the premiere exhibition and competition arena for computer animation and computer generated imagery in commercials, feature and short films through the annual Computer Animation Festival. This consists of the Electronic Theater which screens the top twenty-eight entrees of the year that most exemplify the festival’s criteria of creativity, innovation, and technical achievement in animation. This year’s winner created by independent digital animator Sam Chen was Eternal Gaze, an intense 16 minute animation examining and re-creating the tortured mind of the 20th century sculptor Alberto Giacometti and the painstaking heart and soul he put into creating his work, undoubtedly experienced by Chen himself while single-handedly creating such a long and detailed animation. The Jury Honors Award was given to Tim Tom by Supinfocom/ One Plus One. The various other pieces in the program displayed a great range of creative in style and storytelling, in addition to it’s usual presentation of the latest advances in computer graphics technology.

SIGGRAPH 2003, Eternal Gaze, Sam Chen

“The selection process is a 3.5 day whirlwind. Jurors are instructed that Electronic Theater pieces should exhibit technical and creative excellence and innovation. Animation Theater selections should exhibit at least two of these three,” Animation Festival Committee Chair, Darin Grant, explained of the selection process of narrowing down to the two main theaters, “There is a first round pass where each submission is reviewed by a sub-section of our jury. If the piece makes it through that round, it is reviewed by the entire jury in the second round. From this second round, another cut is made and then a line is drawn where pieces above the line are in the Electronic Theater and pieces below the line are in the Animation Theater. This year and last, we have been able to jury the entire Animation as well as the Electronic Theater. I think that this has really helped to improve the quality of the Animation Theater as a whole.”

The Animation Theater screened 53 animations throughout the week, broken in four main topic groups of It Takes Character, Fun & Games, Realities Challenged, and Storytelling. These animations ranged from the cute, to the sad, to the gross, to the outright hilarious. Overall they proved to be quite an entertaining three hours of material.

SIGGRAPH 2003, Daredevil, Scot Byrd

Some of the animations portrayed the latest new innovations in computer graphics, many warranting their own sketches and applications or even papers. The latest big studio blockbuster hits of the past summer were well represented like Matrix Reloaded, X-Men 2, Terminator 3 and The Hulk as the top digital special effects houses converge for the SIGGRAPH conference. Top effects companies like Digital Domain, Sony Imageworks, and perennial powerhouse Industrial Light + Magic were met by some great new competition with the likes of Weta Digital, ESC, Cinesite and other non-US companies like Framestore CFC and Duran Duboi. These CG gurus showed off their techniques for incredible explosions, 3D performance and facial matching of big shot movie stars, and numerous other advances they progressed through in order to achieve the latest box-office hit.

On the animation front, companies like Pixar, Blue Sky, DreamWorks PDI, and Aardman Animations expelled rich stories full of character while still blazing through new technological advancements. Every year a huge breakthrough is made in animation and thoroughly exploited as with Monster, Inc. and Sully’s thick realistic fur, to last year’s feather fetish, this year seemed to flourish with new techniques for modeling underwater animations as in Pixar’s Finding Nemo and Sony Imageworks Electronic Theater short animation entry, Early Bloomer. A few other innovations include advances in non-photo-realistic rendering techniques as well as fluid motions of smoke and steam.

A major theme reverberating through the various programs hinted at the history and development linking artists with past inspiration and the importance of personality and emotional influences on the development of computer generated characters. ILM’s special session focused primarily on each animator’s background and what life experiences affected the personality they inject into their work. Dave Andrews noted early slapstick cartoons influencing his work with Mars Attacks! or Colin Brady’s method of requiring animators and even director Ang Lee to act out the physical motions of the characters they create, as Lee portrayed in a motion capture suit for the Hulk. Meanwhile the animation festival to time to dedicate a full course to educating SIGGRAPH’ers on the appreciation and criticism of short animated films by showing non-CG manipulated animations and how we can analyze and reflect on the meanings and personal interpretations of the animation.

SIGGRAPH 2003, Painting by Numbers, Lise-Helene Larin

This year SIGGRAPH made a conscious effort to promote the importance of film as a medium for computer graphics and digital technology. Art Gallery committee chair Michael Wright incorporated, for the first time in SIGGRAPH history, a venue for artistically influenced animation and digital video shorts in the Art Gallery Theater. An Art Gallery panel was also called to discuss the current state of digital video and promote the incorporation of the format as a vital addition to the computer graphics community. The direction and future of DV artistic and experimental films was discussed as well as finding a distribution outlet as well as an audience for the work.

SIGGRAPH 2003 made great strides presenting the strong integration between the computer graphics community and the face of the film industry it is increasingly changing. Rapidly advancing CG technology is progressively expanding the limits of creativity, innovative ingenuity, and technical wizardry previously impossible in the film industry, while still strongly promoting the basic film element necessities of storytelling and artistic expression vital to the medium.







This site is maintained by ACM SIGGRAPH Reports.
Last updated 7/31/03.

The ACM SIGGRAPH Reporter program is sponsored by ACM SIGGRAPH.
All photos courtesy of Cybershot digital cameras generously loaned by SONY.