The Hype, the Chaos, the Swag and Miscellaneous

Walk in just before the doors open to the public and you hear the preparations that go on behind the scenes, the last minute scrambling to make things work, the pep talks and run through of booth setup, complete with detailed presentation slides and maps. You hear booth managers direct their teams on which way to wear their pins, you catch the pre-show banter and sound check between motion capture model and the technician in charge, and you watch in disbelief as Pixar posters are rolled in on trolleys stacked eight feet high. And all this goes on before the doors are even open to the public. If you are around and privy to this spectacle, you can do little but get drawn into it, drifting off into the surreal experience and mass marketing that is the exhibition floor. The low rumbling noises behind you work their way into a frenzy - a sure indication that the doors have opened and the full fledged chaos of the exhibition floor has begun.

Last minute demo check
Welcome the masses

The Hype


So, what's happening in terms of new technology? Who has what to offer, and for how much? If you seek answers to these questions, the exhibition floor is definitely the place to be. Whether it's hearing about the latest in 3D animation software (Maya version 5, XSI version 3.5, and 3D Studio Max version 6 come to mind) or hearing about the products, hardware, and software add-ons that serve to make 3D imaging, animation and special effects possible, information bombards you at every turn. And what about jobs? Whether you’re looking for a job, looking to meet people working in your dream job, or trying to find out where to get the education to land those coveted positions, you can be sure to find a multitude of options to keep you occupied. And if you just want to take a break from the SIGGRAPH courses and papers, or meet a few new people, all you need to do is hang out and watch a product demo, take a short class, stop for a free cold beverage from the mini Starbucks in the PDI booth, or wander aimlessly on the carpeted floor. Who knows, you might just win something, meet the behind-the-scenes stars behind the blockbuster movie effects, or find yourself face-to-face with the Softimage robot. Whatever the case, until excessive exposure to the exhibition leads to a massive information overload, you are bound to enjoy the experience and revel in the fact that this is one of the few places where you can see the coolest most recent products from so many companies, all under one roof.

Free drink at Starbucks
Softimage robot

The Chaos


A minute-and-a-half after the doors open to the public (give or take a few seconds) the atmosphere on the exhibition floor is charged. The booths are busy, the PR people are voicing the great new improvements of their products, questions are being asked, some are being answered, motion capture men and women are prancing about in strange outfits, and a multitude of voices intermix to set the soundtrack for the scene. Pixar avoids mass pandemonium (as people flock to get their hands on coveted posters) by making attendees form a line to reach their goal. Within minutes the line has extended five booths down, and is already three people wide. People are moving this way and that, grabbing, talking, walking, and even running, to catch a glimpse of everything and get the most of these three days of the exhibition.

Pixar Posters
Poster line

The Swag


Free stuff, the appeal of it never ends. This year’s most sought after swag includes but is not exclusive to the Intel blue-glowing pen, the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) tote bag, the Pixar poster and walking teapot, t-shirts, t-shirts, t-shirts, and various little tidbits I have yet to acquire myself. Oh, and we must not forget glowsticks, buttons, and pens of every shape and color.

SCAD tote bags

Miscellaneous – Visuals, Drawing and Contests


Eye candy. Yummy. Company demos playing everywhere, images bombarding the conscious mind, it’s only when you leave the exhibition floor that reality kicks in again. Among the most “effective”, or at least “eye-catching” demos, is that of Dawn, Nvidia’s attractive fairy character (now leather clad, of course). Other trade floor favorites include the numerous drawing classes and product demonstrations being offered. I remember having spotted at least three different booths with life drawing classes set up. Only at SIGGRAPH do these include classes offered with traditional mediums as well as using computer mice and monitors as pen and canvas. Speaking of drawing, Nvidia’s drawing contest seems to have attracted a fair amount of attention in terms of attendee participation and appeal. My friend and I were among the first to try the competition. Essentially, it involved drawing an image, given a theme, and including the Nvidia logo in the artwork. With prizes including graphics cards and high-end software, artist or not at some point during the exhibition, time and space permitting, most people gave it a try.

Nvidia's Dawn
Nvidia's drawing contest

Miscellaneous - The Space Sale


Ever wonder how certain companies seem to occupy choice locations on the exhibition floor? Perhaps it was my willingness to believe that marketing ploys could be thwarted and randomness upheld, that led me to overlook the Space Sale that has been going on for years. For those of you like me who had never heard of it, the Space Selection Sale is a means for Exhibitors to choose the best exhibit space before the general industry is invited to select space. Only after those selections have been processed are the companies who have not exhibited in SIGGRAPH allocated space. And who gets to choose first? It is actually based on a company’s history with SIGGRAPH (how many years they have been exhibiting, how much space they have bought, etc.). Priority points are assigned to companies over the years. Based on those priority points, companies currently exhibiting on the floor are invited to review next year’s floor plan in advance, and are scheduled short (2-5 minute) meetings to select a space. And what if two companies share the same number of priority points? That’s where randomness finally comes into play.

Top Ten Companies in Order of Priority Points Accumulated:

Hewlett-Packard Company
Softimage Co.
Sony Pictures Imageworks Inc.
BARCO Simulation Products
Computer Graphics World
Polhemus, Inc.
Pixar Animation Studios

* editor's note: Alias|Wavefront has changed its name to Alias to celebrate its 20th Anniversary (correction thanks to Yusheng Li).

Hewlett-Packard Booth
Alias* Booth
Softimage Co. Booth
Discreet Booth




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Last updated 8/9/03.

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All photos courtesy of Cybershot digital cameras generously loaned by SONY.