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August 14
2017

ISSUE

Web Exclusive

THE BUZZ AT SIGGRAPH: A SIGN OF THE TIMES IN VFX

By IAN FAILES

There was something in the air at SIGGRAPH this year, which recently wrapped up at the Los Angeles Convention Center with more than 16,000 attendees checking out the latest in computer graphics and interactive tech.

While that number doesn’t near the dizzying heights of the mid-to-late ’90s (upwards of 40,000 attended), the biggest take-away from SIGGRAPH 2017 was still a noticeable buzz about the visual effects, animation and gaming industries.

Certainly there seems to be an increase in television visual effects, large-scale feature film work relating to comic book and sci-fi material, and animated features.

One of many booth presentations carried out on the show floor at SIGGRAPH 2017.

It’s a feeling that perhaps had been missing over the past several years, as production had slowed down immensely in L.A., fueled by work heading to other key VFX locations like London, Vancouver and Montreal, which tend to offer greater financial production incentives.

Has there been a major turnaround in LA? It’s hard to be definitive without hard-core empirical data, but certainly there seems to be an increase in television visual effects, large-scale feature film work relating to comic book and sci-fi material, and animated features.

ILM Chief Creative Officer and Visual Effects Supervisor John Knoll was on hand to discuss Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.

And it’s not just in L.A., of course, but around the world (SIGGRAPH organizers said that along with attendees from the United States, people came from 87 other countries). Then there’s VR/AR and real-time content, all of which was highly represented at SIGGRAPH.

And while the number of exhibitors at SIGGRAPH was also not nearly as high as the ‘golden’ years, it felt like plenty of software and hardware companies were back to hosting big parties and/or popular user group meetings. Some like Autodesk, Chaos Group and SideFX Software also ran a few days of side presentations by their key users, often in overflowing rooms.

SIGGRAPH organizers said that along with attendees from the United States, people came from 87 other countries.

Animal Logic recruiters at the studio’s booth in the Job Fair.

The Job Fair was always bustling during the week, too. Many recruiters made comments that finding experienced visual effects artists was harder than ever. SIGGRAPH might not be the ultimate place to recruit experienced or senior artists, so the user events and Production Sessions and Talks held during the week performed double-duties in both sharing the amazing work that has been carried out, and encouraging potential employees to find out more about the companies behind the work.

Speaking of Production Sessions and Talks, SIGGRAPH 2017 was a stand-out year for blockbuster presentations. Among the projects featured were Cars 3, The LEGO Batman Movie, Moana, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, Valerian: City of a Thousand Planets, Game of Thrones, Spider-Man: Homecoming and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. Props from these films and other past movies were also on display – the effect was that Hollywood’s impact on computer graphics research, and vice versa, was a clear theme during the week.

For artists already working in the visual effects, animation and gaming industries, and for those aspiring to join, SIGGRAPH also proved that the industry was not just abuzz about what’s happening now, but also about the future. Sessions on AI, digital humans, AR, VR and interactive technologies hinted at what work might be available in years to come, if not already.

Film props from recent films featuring large amounts of VFX were one of the big additions this year.

For artists already working in the visual effects, animation and gaming industries, and for those aspiring to join, SIGGRAPH also proved that the industry was not just abuzz about what’s happening now, but also about the future. Sessions on AI, digital humans, AR, VR and interactive technologies hinted at what work might be available in years to come, if not already.

Finally, there was something else prevalent at SIGGRAPH this year – a sense of belonging. In fact, if you wanted to, you could go the whole week without witnessing the incredible array of in-depth presentations, and instead just catch up with old friends, or make new ones.

Epic Games and The Mill’s “The Human Race” won the Best Real-Time Graphics & Interactivity Award at Real-Time Live! this year.

All images copyright ©2017 ACM Siggraph. Photos by John Fuji.


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