The San Diego Convention Center overlooking San Diego Bay

-photo by Tai-San Choo

Sea of Change: SIGGRAPH 2003 Returns to the West Coast

by Tai-San Choo

SIGGRAPH 2003 made a triumphant return to the West Coast for its 30th international conference on computer graphics and interactive techniques. After a lower than expected attendance and exhibitor turnout for last year’s conference in San Antonio, Texas, SIGGRAPH had high hopes to draw a larger crowd to the annual event. They received that in full force as the attendance for technical registration surpassed 2002’s conference on just the second day of the week. The conference committee, headed by 2003 chair Alyn Rockwood, made several changes to the program to compensate for a tighter budget.

The most visible change in the conference program was the expansion of the Art Gallery exhibit which was spread out across the upper level hallway of the San Diego Convention Center. Previously segregated to its own area in previous conferences, this year’s spread out Art Gallery allowed more viewers to casually view pieces as they traversed the conference between courses and sessions.

Another physical modification to the layout of the conference was scaling up the size of the Vortechs area, where attendees had a multitude of networking, gaming, demonstrations, presentation, and discussion opportunities in a common environment. Strewn across Sails Pavilion Vortechs area were everything from lounge areas, to huge art installation pieces, to a volleyball court. “We wanted to have a larger area where attendees could come to just relax, have fun, and network with each other,” said Rockwood.

Another subtraction from the conference was the Creative Applications Lab (CAL) that previously allowed attendees an interactive hands-on experience for specific courses and sessions during the conference. “Last year we used cameras to monitor the usage of the lab, and we decided that it wasn’t used enough outside of the workshops to be cost effective,” said Rockwood. Instead, the SIGGRAPH committee opted for a conference-wide wireless network so attendees with laptops could gain internet access throughout the convention center. Several courses also allowed attendees to access hands-on material through their laptops during the sessions.

One noticeable change was the elimination of Panels from this year’s conference. It will be on hiatus until next year due to budget restraints and to allow the conference committee to reevaluate the program.

The exhibition floor has been the largest surprise for the committee as the west coast location seems to be an easier move for potential vendors hoping to set up booths at SIGGRAPH. “We were able to break even this year through the exhibitions,” Rockwood said, “Usually exhibition floor requests flatten out several weeks before the conference, but this year we continued getting last minute entries up until a few days before the start of the conference.” In fact, most conference committee chairs will have returns submitted this year.

While changes for the 2003 conference seem to have significantly eased budgetary issues brought upon by the shaky economy, the SIGGRAPH 2004 conference in LA hopes to push things even further. Preparations for next year’s conference are already underway as 2004 conference chair Dena Slothower works busily this week to promote the coming conference, including the new location, and proposal deadlines, and recruiting committee members and volunteer staffers for next year.

The 2004 conference was originally scheduled to follow the east coast/ west coast alternating conference locations as it was previously committed to Atlanta. Due to budget issues, the conference was moved to Los Angeles. Some benefits to moving to LA include a cheaper convention center cost, familiarity with the venue, as well as numerous benefits garnered by city subsidies. LA is also a major hub for exhibitors as previous space capacities have exceed double the current floor space.

One of the goals of the 2004 committee is to simplify and improve the quality of next year’s conference. Costs saved on location will go directly towards boosting the quality of the conference. Content-wise the committee hopes to bring back the Panels program with more diverse ranges of viewpoints, in addition to including the Electronic theater on site, and hopeful new additions like a papers poster sessions program. Changes to the annual conference continually seek to improve the overall SIGGRAPH experience through each passing year.



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Last updated 8/4/03.

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