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SIGGRAPH 98 Online.


Subversive CG

Monday, July 20, 1998

by John Dudley Miller

While you were sleeping last night, a band of self-proclaimed guerillas infiltrated SIGGRAPH 98. Toiling away subversively in the Guerilla Gallery in Room 205 of the Convention Center, they were actively recruiting new members, and even worse, giving away knowledge for free.

These people, whose leader calls them "highly irregular troops in the advancing army of technology," have been here all week, running the only 24-hour-a-day venue at the entire conference.

"The Guerilla Gallery is, by its nature, sort of a secret venue," says Patricia Johnson of Miami, a.k.a. guerilla leader, and the coordinator of the underpublicized but widely (and wildly) different activities that go on inside the gallery. "The main point is to allow people to work collaboratively."

Started at SIGGRAPH six years ago, the gallery invites anyone attending --artists, students, people without enough money to take the courses -- to meet and work with experts and other kindred souls. Bring in your visual ideas, and somebody will play with them with you.

For example, she explains, "The adult professionals who've been at it for awhile come in and meet dewy-eyed high-school students who are so excited just to be able to try new things." Or artists who've never seen one another's stuff find new ways to work with it. "People have more fun in there," she says, "because they never know who they're going to meet."

What can you do in the gallery? Bring in an image, any image, and the Unique Editions Collaborative will make you a mousepad with your image on top. Or if you prefer, they'll put it on a T-shirt.

A few feet away, your image can be printed 8 feet long and 3 feet wide, on paper, canvas or anything else that will roll through the Hewlett-Packard DesignJet 2500CP color printer.

Got an image of a 3D object to bring in? A milling machine from Roland Digital Corporation will render you the real thing in minutes. Or if you've got the thing already but no image of it, a Roland 3-D scanner will make a data file of it for you.

On the other side of the room, a worldwide computer artfest is underway. "As Worlds Collide," is taking in artwork from artists all over the globe this week and distributing it over a Web site.

In Outreach Outpost, back in the far left corner, you can see the computer-graphics work done by Florida high-school students who received computer-graphics training from local SIGGRAPH professionals over the past year. Many of these kids go to schools that couldn't afford the equipment this SIGGRAPH outreach program loaned them. You can see their group tapestry, a montage of their finished projects, at the sigKIDS exhibit.

Administratively, the Guerilla Gallery is part of the CAL, or Creative Applications Lab, located in Room 230. But the two places are quite different. Whereas the Guerilla Gallery is open to everyone, CAL is open only to people who paid to attend courses, panels or sketches.

CAL also operates on an entirely different metaphor. "We call it a petting zoo," says Garry Paxinos of Metro Link Inc. in Fort Lauderdale, who runs the combined CAL/Guerilla Graphics operation You getto play with the software, and it won't bite you while you figure out which end is which.

"It's a chance for the conference attendee to actually sit down and play with the software they hear about," he explains, "not just go to a presentation in a room, and then move on to another presentation."

"It's cool," said Bensin Joseph, a student at International Fine Arts College in Miami. "I wanted to use SoftImage, because at our school we only have Power Animator and Maya. And we don't have these computers--Intergraphs and [SGI] Octanes. We only have [SGI] O2s." So he used it, and he was instantly converted.

Scott Messer, a student at the Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale agreed. "I'm likin' it," he said. "Very fast, so I've just been scrolling from site to site.

Rows of computers filling the room allow you to sample dozens of programs. An Environmental Protection Agency program lets you take satellite remote sensing data, make 3-D topographical maps of an area, and then superimpose highways on top, so you can anticipate the ups and downs of your coming trip. The GoCAD program allows you to model geography and natural objects.

With the Marine program you can play harbor pilot trainee, learning what a new port feels like to navigate into the first time, without fear of destroying any piers while you get your bearings. Fog and smoke are realistically rendered, and all the harbor natural sounds seem realistic. Several other VRML (Virtual Reality Markup Language) programs are loaded.

And for people who have everything else in life, one last program will let you design your own personal cloud. Setting a variety of parameters you learned earlier in class, you can create a fluffy place unique to you, which you don't have to share with anybody else. Mick Jagger, eat your heart out!