Siggraph 2008 Day 3

I started the day easy with a sit-down demonstration of eyeon’s Generation suite. It builds on the Fusion compositor and allows versioning, collaboration, and annotation of assets including 4K DPX plates. They had two screens set up simulating to different users logged into the system and it was neat to see the way the collaborative features worked in real-time. The pricing for the suite, at $10K seemed high for the functionality shown, but apparently the trick is in being able to show multiple streams of 4K DPX plates, and this represents breakthrough pricing for that type of capability.

Walking around the outside of the exhibit hall, I spotted the 3DConnexion SpaceNavigator left hand controller. After about 60 seconds with this device I bought one on the spot. It allows you to pan, tilt, zoom, and rotate your workspace with your left hand, while your right hand continues to work. I’m left-handed so when I’m using my pen tablet, I’ll use this controller with my right hand. Everyone should have one of these. The company claims that it improves productivity by 20%-25%. I believe it.

I then sat in on a couple of amazing Cinema 4D demos. One on on particles and included a clever use of cloth to create a moving flame front. The other was on their new matte painting tool called Projection Man. I will probably wind up upgrading to R11 just for this, the new Mac 64-bit support, and the new SpaceNavigator support for Mac.

There are a several 3D printers and 3D printing services here at the show. This stuff is just so cool. Basically, anything you can model in 3D can be ‘rendered’ out as a plastic model. Some include color. Great for character design, prototyping new products, and architectural models. Sounds ‘so what?’ until you actually see the models. I’ve just got to think up something to model for no other reason than to have something cool to put on my shelf.

Heard about the new Squiggles iPhone App by Scott Squires (VFX artist extraordinaire) which is essentially a mini-Photoshop for the iPhone. I can totally see using it to rough out concept art as it has great brushes and support for opacity and transfer modes (like overlay, screen, burn, etc.)

The highlight of the week for me was the fxPhd roof top Bar Camp attended by John Montgomery, Mike Seymour, and Jeff Heuser of fxguide.com. A bunch of folks from fxphd.com and pixelcorps.com were there. The discussions were lively and insightful. About halfway through, they started recording on a podcast and I was the first ‘volunteer’ to talk about the conference. Several folks took pictures of the affair which featured a spectacular sunset.

My celebrity photo-op with Mike Seymour of fxguide/fxphd!

I missed the Ed Catmull talk on Monday, but heard all about it at the Bar Camp. The central theme of his talk was a question: Are good ideas, or good people more important to the creative process? This was in response to a (now infamous) high-level level Hollywood studio head’s comment that “our central problem is not finding good people, but finding good ideas”. Through many anecdotes taken from Pixar studios, he explained why some projects work and others don’t. He made a convincing argument that it is not the idea, but the team who drives the implementation that leads to success. (i.e. “Its all in the execution.” Where have we heard that before?) A mediocre team with a great idea will produce a mediocre result, and a good team with a mediocre idea will find a way to make it great, or reinvent the whole thing.

This was my first Siggraph conference and I found it to be an intensely educational and interesting trip. It will take my brain many days to catch up with all of the things I’ve seen and heard, and I met a lot of really great folks. I came away with whole new perspectives on how I might integrate more pre-vis and VFX techniques into our productions.

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