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Here we present a viewpoint on the SIGGRAPH 2000 Conference prepared by a game developer - Aaron Foo, Director of Research & Development at Ratbag Pty Ltd in Australia. We hope you enjoy Aaron's viewpoint on his first time attendance at the annual SIGGRAPH conference.

ACM SIGGRAPH 2000: Views from a game developer

Aaron Foo


The annual ACM SIGGRAPH conference held 23-28th July at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, New Orleans, Louisiana, showcased the most innovative and visionary theory and concepts in computer graphics to date. No exceptions to the outstanding quality in all aspects of the conference were made, with the standard breakdown of courses, papers, panels and parties lasting well into the night. This was my first SIGGRAPH, and like my peers and colleagues, game developers are attending in ever increasing numbers. It is my hope to shed a little light on these mysterious creatures, who are driving consumer hardware, rivaling the box office and emerging as a new breed of graphics professionals.


From day one with so many things occurring simultaneously, it was hard deciding on events to attend. Preparation and knowing what to expect were essential to getting the most out of the conference. Information on the Pathfinder's web site and a chapter on "How to attend a SIGGRAPH Conference" in Jim Blinnís "Dirty Pixels", were two invaluable sources of tips and background information.


Courses started Sunday with Disney's "The Art and Technology of Disney's 'Dinosaur'" and Tuesdays "Industrial Light + Magic: The Making of 'The Perfect Storm'" were inspiring presentations, discussing both artistic and technical problems faced during production of these ground breaking films. Being an 'interactive graphics' person, I attended Monday's course "Approaches for Procedural Shading on Graphics Hardware". The material covered new techniques and presented 3 different approaches in creating an interactive shading language. It would have been great to see the course topic extended to Interactive Photorealistic Rendering, including techniques such as the paper on "A Fast Relighting Engine for Interactive Cinematic Lighting Design".


"Advanced RenderMan2: To RI_INFINITY and Beyond" was an excellent discussion on the finer points of RenderMan and the technical challenges in the making of 'Toy Story 2' and 'Stuart Little'. It was a tough decision to attend this course, over "Advanced OpenGL" or "Games Research" but as made quite clear by Mondayís course, procedural shading and lighting will be critical for computer games in the coming years.


Ray Kurzweil's keynote, "The Human-Machine Merge: Why We Will Spend Most of our Time in Virtual Reality in the 21st Century", depicted a chilling yet highly compelling vision of the future. He described, from the study of exponential "S" growth curves, how and why a human-machine merge will occur, and the essential role computer graphics will play in this event. The keynote was so popular it was extended during the lunch break on Thursday.


Paper sessions began Wednesday, presenting the latest developments in cutting edge research. Subdivision presented theory and ideas for surface representation, with an excellent discussion on increasing geometric detail using displaced subdivision surfaces. Thursday's Simplification and Compression session discussed approaches on reducing mesh transmission bandwidth, and Efficient Rendering began with "Silhouette Clipping", a practical method to increase the perceived geometric detail, and concluded with "A Fast Relighting Engine for Interactive Cinematic Lighting Design", a truly innovative technique that moves a step closer to production quality rendering at interactive speeds.

Friday's session, Hardware Accelerated Rendering, discussed excellent techniques on shading, and the design of next generation graphics hardware. Lastly, Non-Photorealisic Rendering addressed algorithms to generate Cel, and stylized rendering facilitating the deformation of the Linux Penguin into classical art.


Panels started on Wednesday, and continued until Friday allowing technology leaders to present their ideas and visions of the future, including questions and discussion with the audience. Consumer products were on show at the expo, displaying the latest and greatest in hardware, software, and some really cool display technologies. Sony's GSCube was particularly frightening, rendering a shot from "Final Fantasy" the movie in realtime. "Emerging Technologies: Point of Departure" was a step into the future, with building sized screens, direct retina projection, and hardware concepts from the pages of a sci-fi book.


Finally Kurt Akeley, the 2000 Papers Chair, concluded with a video presentation by Eugene Fiume, next years Papers Chair. This was a call for papers and words SIGGRAPH 2001, in Los Angeles, California will have diversity never before seen, focusing on "Creating Interaction and Digital Images".


The week had finished as soon as it started, with SIGGRAPH 2000 leaving thousands drained and exhausted, but enlightened with the latest knowledge, trends and perhaps a clearer picture of the future. It was a conference similar to game developer events but with content of a much higher standard. There were only a few things that could be suggested: Firstly, not content but public speaking skills of some presenters could be improved and secondly, paper sessions presented excellent ideas and techniques, but there wasn't a great deal discussed that couldn't be extracted from the paper. It would have been nice to see more than the final solution such as alternate working, what approaches failed or developments since the initial submission.


Overall SIGGRAPH 2000 to me, as a game developer, provided insights into trends in graphics hardware, new techniques, and inspirations for future research. Aside from theory, the cross-disciplinary interaction between, film, the web, and the academic world was an eye-opener, and invaluable experience. ACM SIGGRAPH 2000 was a unique experience where art meets technology, paving the way of the future - something I highly recommend and will definitely be back for in 2001.