SIGGRAPH 2008 – Day 4

Alright … … Final Day!! (for me and Sacha at least).  It takes two days to get back to Singapore and we both have to work on Monday.  So here we go … …

Started with breakfast at the Blender Heads favorite breakfast spot (don’t remember the name now but it serves good food and great coffee, its about 10mins walk from our hotel.)  Right after breakfast, we went to check out the animation competition at the Nokia Theatre.  Most of the animation competition submissions are very impressive be it funny, happy, sad, serious or all out weird.  However, it feels like overdose once it gets pass the forth or fifth animation.  Moreover, there were a few sessions, each session shows a different set of animations.  Least to say, Sacha and I only get to watch the first session due to time constrain.  After the competition screening, we went to attend the Computer Animation Festival: Fat Panda: Visual Design Development in DreamWorks’ “Kung Fu Panda”.  I really hope that they would put all these presentation on a DVD somehow (I know the Conference Presentation will be recorded to a DVD but not so sure about the Festival’s presentation).  Its too much to absorbed, not to mention constant jet lag hits on the brain is not conducive to information absorptions. Within 15mins, Sacha could not take it anymore and had to leave the presentation as he is falling asleep.  As for me, I tried my best to stay awake but alas, I was in and out of “coma” for most part of the presentation.  I feel really bad about it as I hope to bring back all these information back to Malaysia and share it with artists there whom do not have the opportunity or budget to go there.

We had a quick lunch and left the LACC to prepare ourselves for our trip back to Singapore tonight.  After a quick shower and re-packing my luggage, Sacha and I waited for Ton and the rest of the Blender Heads to pick us up for a reception at the Dodger Stadium.  The Dodger Stadium is humongous!! Its quite a walk from the car park to the stadium.  They served a lot of hot dogs, American Chinese food, Mexican food and tons of tidbits, crackers, peanuts, frozen treats and ice-creams.  As it was already paid for, its a relief to eat without thinking, but on the other hand, I am a small eater so it feels like I did not get my money’s worth.

As I still wish to spend some time with my cousins, I apologize to the Blender guys that we had to leave early.  So off we go, Ton dropped us off right outside the gates of Dodger Stadium while one of my cousins came to pick Sacha and I up.  I think Ton and the Blender Heads are going to Figueroa Hotel to enjoy some Margaritas, I think they really like that place.

Got my two cousins together with Sacha and I.  We went to a cozy little place serving some nice Milk Tea with Perls to talk and catch up some more before we headed to the Los Angeles International Airport and bid USA farewell.

Now I am back in Singapore typing up the conclusion of my SIGGRAPH USA visit.  Thinking back, it would seem like the future of movie making is Stereoscopic 3D and all the major studios from Disney to DreamWorks to Sony are pumping huge R&D money into effective story telling using depth and to sanitize the notion that stereoscopic is a cheap gimmick that does nothing for movie goers.  For me, I see it as a more impactful way to present story or more like what I think of it as a “depth-based” story telling.  Every facet of the animation pipeline from pre-production to final output has to re-think and re-work the way they tell story in a depth-based visual method.

So … … SIGGRAPH 2008 has ended, it is now time to prepare for SIGGRAPH ASIA 2008.  For all Blender Heads out there, especially blender heads residing in and around Asia, Austrailia, and New Zealand, I look forward to seeing you at the one and only Birds of a Feather session in SIGGRAPH ASIA 2008 in Singapore’s Suntec City Exhibition Hall.  Keep checking blender.org and blendernation.com as I will announce a “Call for Presentation” soon around September.  My name is Victor Yap and I will be your host at the Blender’s Birds of a Feather sessions at this year’s SIGGRAPH ASIA 2008 in Singapore on the 10th of December.

Ton and I during breakfast

Ton and I during breakfast.

SIGGRAPH 2008 – Day 3

Since I wasn’t feeling like myself, I took it easy today and woke up at around 0930hr which makes me missed my other planned scheduled.  Float around the exhibition hall for a while and went to a Computer Animation Festival Talk entitled “Building an Animation Studio”.  Soon after that, I went to have a late lunch around 16:00hr.  Even after a cup of coffee, I am still sleepy.  I know if I go for any seminar then I will be sleeping no matter how hard I try to be awake.  So my next course of action is to go to the Nokia theater.  Just as I arrived there, the competition just finished screening but following that is all the professional studios demo reel screenings.  Highly entertaining nonetheless.

After watching the spectacular demo reels, I went back to the hotel and changed to something a little more formal for the SIGGRAPH ASIA 2008 party.  Its a 30mins walk from the hotel to the party and I was a little overdress.  Fortunately to remedy the problem, all I need to do is to take off my tie and unbutton my jacket.  I am still not myself but tried to maintain my composure.  Time still passes by fast regardless. As the streets that my hotel resides is not a safe street I should get back by 21:00.  Instead, I left the party at 21:40 and arrive at the hotel around 22:10.  One more day to go (for me at least, SIGGRAPH ends on the 15th, but I am going back early in the morning on the 15th).

SIGGRAPH 2008 – Day 2

Today is not a productive day for me.  The combination of jet lag and unable to sleep at night plus a mild cold finall caught up with me. I managed to sit through the 08:30hr Computer Animation Festival: Animated 3D Cinema: Imaginary Worlds Brought to Life but after that session ended at 10:30hr, I am walking like a zombie. Tried to have some breakfast of Tuna Sandwich and Coffee but it did not do much to me except kept my eyes open with a semi-functional brain.

I did not went to my favourite topic BoF session due to my state of mind and went to the exhibition today instead.  Hopeing to get my inivitation to tomorrows SIGGRAPH ASIA dinner, I tried to search for my SIGGRAPH Singapore contacts but to no success.  I managed to find another fellow organizer who is holding the fort at the SIGGRAPH ASIA booth and asked her to convey my message.

As I was walking around the booths and doing my best to do my job in gathering as much information as possible regarding tools for pipeline development from software to hardware, I can slowly feel the fatigue slowly sets in.  If happen to stop for just a moment, I would fall asleep standing on the spot.  Collected a lot of brochures and some “souveniers”.  Got my SIGGRAPH cards swiped in numerous booth that I visited so much so that I do not really recall which booth I had visited and what had happened during conversation.

I hope I can do better tomorrow.  Anyway, the end of the day ended at a good note as my two cousins CheeYan and Sandria brought me out for dinner in a little Shanghai restaurant.  We talked and catch up with each other.  After that CheeYan sent me back to my hotel but though tired, I still have problem sleeping. Bummer!!

The Dragon Warrior

The Dragon Warrior

Robots printed using 3D printers

Robots printed using 3D printers

Other samples printed using 3D printers.

Other samples printed using 3D printers.

Beautiful clouds as the sun set.

Beautiful clouds as the sun set.

SIGGRAPH 2008 – Day 1

Early in the morning I had to get up and walk to LACC.  The weather is cool, dry and nice. Went for my first program of the day, the Computer Animation Festival: 3D Premiere: The Fundamentals of Stereoscopy From Acquisition to Projection.  I finally understood how images are made to pop out of the screen.  The keyword is Point of Convergence.  Its a presentation by Real-D to showcase their system.  Apparently, I also found out that convergence theory has the capability to tired the eyes and create headache if the shots are not plan properly.  The other method is the Parallel method which is what I have been doing when I take pictures with two disposable cameras.  However, in my own experience I have yet to be able to make it pop out of the paper yet, unlike the convergence method.  Coincidentally, just before the start of today’s Blender’s Birds of a Feather, I met with a Dolby (The Dolby company that created Dolby Digital 5.1) system administrator who is promoting Dolby’s 3D stereoscopy technology.  Very interested to talk more with him later to understand their stereoscopy method.  Apparently, it involves using different visual wavelength to separate the left and right eye images.

The Blender’s BoF is split into three session at one hour each.  The first session, is about getting to know the community and Ton went around asking everyone in the room to introduce themselves and talk briefly about how they use blender.  Due to talking with other people outside of the BoF room, I missed the opportunity to introduce myself as the organizer for Blender’s BoF in the up coming SIGGRAPH ASIA 2008 in Singapore on the 10th of December.  Once the audience finished introducing themselves, its pretty much Q&A the whole session of how to get features to be implemented and about supporting Blender’s effort in making the software better either on a personal level or global level.

The second session of the BoF, Ton gave a presentation using Blender’s Game Engine (BGE).  Its quite impressive but at the same time feels a little gimmicky, it works and looked fun nonetheless.  What I am interested most is about Project Durian which will float around massive armies, explosions, monsters and other stuff mainly guys will like.  The key purpose is to improve the Sculpt tool, Particles Systems, Fluid Systems, and other VFX tools.  Unfortunately, I could not stay long enough to hear his presentation as I have made a point to check out how to create “pure awesomeness” — Pursuit of Awesomeness: The Making of “Kung Fu Panda”.  I tried to take as much notes as possible but half way thru my jet lag took over and I slept for a while. How long? I have absolutely no idea. *sigh*

By the time I finished pursueing “pure awesomeness”, the Blender BoF is almost ending.  I went there to check out the final sessions and Nathan and William is doing a presentation on Rigging.  After that Andy wrap it up with Compositing and Pipeline of Big Buck Bunny.

It certainly was a packed day today and everyone wants to take a little break.  After the BoF wrap up, we went to the Figueroa Hotel for some Margarita and then went to China Town for food after that.  By the time we go back to the hotel, its already 01:00hr. Got to wake up in a few hours time. See ya!!

Real-D projection system

Real-D projection system

Photo with Nathan

Photo with Nathan

Photo with Bassam

Photo with Bassam

Photo with William

Photo with William

After a hard day work ... Cheers!!

After a hard day work ... Cheers!!

Cheers to you too!!

Cheers to you too!!

Eve of SIGGRAPH 2008

Oh what a day!! In the morning I get to meet Ton and the other Blender Guys: Sacha, Andy, Nathan, and Bassam for breakfast!!  Talked a lot about Blender, the guys current personal projects, rigging, animation, questions my own group of Blender user have and a little about Blender and Asia Animators and company in general.  After all the talk and a good breakfast, Ton had to go back to the hotel to pick something up and drives to the Los Angeles Convention Center (LACC).  The rest of us prefer to walk there and hang out for a while.  We talk seriously fun topics like Blender and some nonsensical happy stuff like crap.

Walking to LACC

Walking to LACC

From Left to Right: Bassam, Sacha, Andy, Nathan

More walking to LACC

More walking to LACC

Behind: Bassam, Sacha
Front: Andy, Nathan

After a 30min walk, we arrived at the LACC but was a bit too early for registration.  The registration starts at 13:00hr so we went to Star Bucks and entertain ourselves for two hours.  Ton is putting more pretty stuffs in his presentation while Nathan and Bassam were talking about rigging, animation, workflow,  and pipeline.  We talked quite extensively about version control in the line of CVS vs Subversion vs Bazaar.  Nathan says would test Bazaar as a central server and create a simple quadped rigg for my group of Blender Animators to play with.  Thanks Nathan!!!

Ton unpacking the merchandise

Ton unpacking the merchandise

Working on presentations

Working on presentations

Andy and Nathan checking out Bassam Latest work.

Andy and Nathan checking out Bassam Latest work.

Around 13:15 we all went to confirm our registrations and got our badges.  Its was a long queue but highly efficient nonetheless.  After that, I went down to pick up my merchandise which includes 4 DVDs, 2 books, and 1 T-shirt.  There are other advertising stuff that came with it as well but none worth mentioning.

After all that exciting happenings, I called my cousin who is suppose to call me earlier.  Shockingly, there was no connection but the signal is strong!?!  No wonder I did not receive any phone call.  I called and apologize for the problem.  He came and fetched me and we went to eat some Japanese food in Little Tokyo and some famous frozen yogurt from Korea which even celebrities of Hollywood would rather get a parking ticket than not being able to get a cup of that sourish frozen treat.  Upon finishing our food, he drove me to Hollywood Boulevard to check out the Kodak Theatre and the Chinese Theatre beside it.  We went for long stroll and talked about our lives, the world around us, families, and each others future.

Chinese Theatre

Chinese Theater

Kodak Theatre

Kodak Theater

Hollywood on the Hills

Hollywood on the Hills

Time for dinner and we hop over to iHop.  I have forgetten how big the portions are and man are they too much to eat even for a simple order of Straberry and Banana Pancakes.  Sheesh!!  After dinner, my cousin sent me back to my hotel where I say to call him maybe Tuesday to confirm on Tuesday schedule.  Upon going back to my hotel, I discovered that I will be rooming with another person for the rest of my stay here in LA.  Its quite shocking to me as I was not expecting roommate.  As I have expected, this is a high class back-packers hotel.  My roommate is a student and seems to be looking for a job during SIGGRAPH.  I wish him well.

Seems  like I might be coming down with a cold.  Got catch some Zs now.  Hope I could get up by 0630hr.

Journey to Los Angeles

Reach Taipei airport at 13:00hr but my next flight leaves at 16:40hr but boarding starts at 1600hr. Lots of shops here but none caught my interest.  Interesting concept is you can buy tokens for massage chairs and enjoy relaxing music while getting a mechanical massage. There was this soup in a bread bowl thing that I was extremely tempted to try but did not have the appetite for.

Arrived Los Angeles around 1400hr LA time. By the time I get out of the Airport and took a “Share-A-Van” ride to my hotel, its already 15:30hr.  Its was quite a shocker when I entered my room.  It has a toilet and a double decker bed.  Feel like a kid again when I see the bed.  Its has no air-con and the bathroom is shared among the other guest living in the same floor.  Feels more like a high class back-packers hotel then a real hotel/motel.  Quite an eye-opener.  By the time I showered its about 17:00hr, called my cousin, CheeYan, up and he brought me out for dinner and went to Walmart to get some stuff that is not availble in Singapore.  Brought me to this nice Korean restaurant where eating the appetizer alone is already quite filling.  Fortunately, he knows how much two big guy can stomache so the amount was just nice.

The trip to Walmart was quite nostalgic but it closes at 10pm even though its a Super-Walmart. Its seems like the layout of the palce is still the same as in 2004, the year I left USA for good.  This is my first trip since then.  Anyway, after the Walmart trip, I came back to my hotel to find that my keycard is no longer working and upon getting it fixed at the reception, apparently mine is not the only one. Once I settled down in my room, I got my computer down to the lobby and tried to access the internet, lo and behold, I saw …… Sacha and Nathan!!! They were having some trouble with their room but the big thing is the ENTIRE BLENDER GANG is in the same hotel I am staying!!! Quick someone go buy lottery.  I think half of this hotel guests are SIGGRAPH attendees.

Tomorrow agenda: Learn how to to walk to LA Convention Center from hotel. Get Badge. Explore some more.