SIGGRAPH Asia 2008 Summary

SA2008 is quite subdue when compared to L.A. but the excitement is still there nonetheless.

Day 0 — 9th December

SIGGRAPH Asia 2008 main hall
It’s registration day for me and signing up to test for my presentation on a Mac in the “Speaker’s Preparation” room.  The low-end PC that I have caused the animation from OpenOffice to lag horribly during my previous presentation, thus I made a special request to have Blender, OpenOffice and VLC installed.

Only One Blender Book

Only One Blender Book

Browse through the mini display of books for sale and was surprised to see only “The Beast”.  None of Tony’s books were available.  Maybe they (the bookstore) will bring in tomorrow.

Day 1 — 10th December

Arrived 30mins before my appointed time at the “Speaker’s Preparation” room, unfortunately, some speakers were late on their appointed time to test their presentation.  It seems like time are being pushed back for other speaker.  To make things worse, when it was my turn, they did not get any of the software that I wanted installed and instead of preparing it on my requested Mac, they installed only OpenOffice on a PC.  It seem like they are a bit disorganized and after checking the black and white paper work, they confirm it was their mistake and apologized.  However, there are no longer any available slots then.  The good news is…the next day at room 302, the room where Blender  will be presented is available from 10:30am onwards until Blender’s presentation.  We are glad we can test it prior to the presentation tomorrow.  The tech guys assured me that the software will be installed by tomorrow.

Speakers Preparation Room

Speakers Preparation Room

After straightening things out, my confidence on their promises had been shaken, so I converted my Mac’s OpenOffice presentation to my Linux notebook machine which has since been formatted to UbuntuStudio 8.04 LTS from Fedora 9.  Not sure if it is the Real-Time kernel but OpenOffice could play smoothly now.  Regardless, I still hope to use their Mac tomorrow.

I attended courses for the rest of the day, receiving great tips and advises from “Finding Your Place in Digital Production” and “There Can Be Only One: Independent Animation for the Lonely”.

Day 2 — 11th December

Room 302 Program Schedule

Room 302 Program Schedule

Today’s the day!  I attended an early ‘Educators Programme’ on “Methodologies in Learning” under the context of “Computer Graphics in Context: An Approach to a First course in Computer Graphics” as well as a little intro about Augmented Reality stuff being used to teach Material Science.

I stepped into room 302 around 11:30hr only to find Tony Mullen already there.  Sacha arrived about 20mins later and its a great get together.  With all the feel good feelings, I almost forget to check on the Mac, and true enough, nothing that I requested is there. Oh well, good thing I got backup plan and it ran smoothly.

Victor Yap

Victor Yap

Sacha Goedegebure

Sacha Goedegebure

We have around 40 people turning up from various countries like Malaysia, Thailand, Philippines, India, Japan, etc.  We were surprised that almost everyone in the room knew Blender but less than a handful uses it professionally.  Sacha and I talked about our experience in trying to migrate to Blender from proprietary software.  Sacha came from a perspective of Education Institute while I talked from the point of view of an animation studio.

Tony Mullen

Tony Mullen

Tony talked extensively about the current state of Blender Certification and what it needs to move forward.  In general, there must be more Blender users and the community must mature before there is a demand for certification.  The talk ended with Tony introducing his new book and showing some secret stuff that will be revealed someday.  We wrapped up the presentation with Q&A session and more Blender videos.  More people approach us with more question after the Q&A session.

After the Talk, we briefly went through the exhibits for a bit.  Sacha have to go back to teach while Tony and I went for coffee and some snacks.  We talked a lot more about Certification, Training, and Project Durian.

Jason Leong, Tony Mullen, Sacha Goedegebure, Victor Yap, Ethan Yee.

From Left: Jason Leong, Tony Mullen, Sacha Goedegebure, Victor Yap, Ethan Yee.

Come 1830hr, a group of about 5 of us went for dinner. I was expecting around 10 people to join us but it seem like some never made it to SA2008 at all.  Its was a nice chat about various topics of life and Blender versus M*** in particular.  Issues about the appropriate channels for bug reports, so reports and/or feature request gets noticed.  After dinner, Sacha, Tony and I went to Starbucks for coffee and more talk.  The evening ended around 2230hr.

Day 3 — 12th December
I am much more relaxed now that the talk is over.  Went to a course entitled “Seeing in 3D”.  I was very intrigue and surprised by how much trickery you can do to our own eyes.  The course get more and more difficult as it progresses.  The instructors were fun and interesting but the topic is slowly giving me headache as I struggled to imagine a lot of imaginary lines and boxes, planes and spheres.

Pixar Animation Booth

Pixar Animation Booth

Went over to the exhibits again and this time, spend some serious time inside.  I was surprise to see Pixar having a very small corner booth. I was surprised to learn that Rhythm and Hues is coming to Malaysia.

Imagi Studios booth

Imagi Studios booth

Lucasfilm Animation Singapore booth

Lucasfilm Animation Singapore booth

Imagi is advertising about Astroboy while Lucas is still horning Clone Wars and Jedi Master training program.  Animal Logic recruiters are great to talk to and very selfless in giving advise.

Meet up with Tony at 1500hr and took him around a mini Singapore tour.  Took him to the Esplanade, The Merlion Statue, the Central Business District and Chinatown.  After all that tour, we were invited by Sacha to visit his teaching school at 3Dsense.  Checked out their various courses and studios.  They named each room after famous Animators or Story Tellers. Cute.  What amazes me most is that they are switching to using 15inch notebooks to teach Animation.  In a way I guess I could understand the rationale, their classroom space is extremely compact and narrow. (O_o)

After the Tour of 3Dsense, Sacha treated us to dinner and we parted ways there as Tony has an early flight to catch the next day.

Day 4 — 13th December – Last Day
Today is basically Computer Animation Festival day. The program booklet is pretty much filled with CAF throughout the day.  Other than that, its there are some very technical papers/courses/conference spread out here and there.  So for the first half of the morning, I spend time writing the summary of the first 4 days of SA2008 for my blog as I should have done it everyday if not because of my cold. Right now, I am almost out of voice already.

Having written my blog, I went to check out the Emerging Technology section.  I must say that the booth there goes from “doesn’t make any sense to me” to “utterly amazing!!!”.  The most impressive ones are the “Waka Scrolls as Media”, “Uncompleted Contents”, and a device that allows travelers to take photos which tags to GPS location which in turns allow the same photo taking device to “see thru” buildings! It literally can replace maps and brochure altogether.

After Lunch, I attended a Sketches entitled “Calibration & Acquisition” which contains for small talk with the following topics “Image-Correction Method for Multi-Projector Display Using SIFT Features”, “Gloss and Normal Map Acquisition Using Gray Codes”, “Considering Shape Reconstruction From Specular Reflection” and “Image-Based Roughness Modeling Using Perlin Noise”.  The sketches were short and easy to understand as the speakers did not go into too much of technical details.  However, one of Japanese speaker from the first topic does not have a good command of English which kind of make it difficult during Q&A.   It is interesting to see the R&D people are doing in trying to auto acquire a 3D model complete with layers of textures.  So at least for now, modelers and texturers still have a job but looking at the sketches, the technology is getting close in replacing them.

After the sketches, I went for one more round around the exhibits to see if I missed anything.  Found Sacha there at his booth playing with the Cintiq and I went to try it out as well.  As a non-artistic guy, it feels fun to play with but the tactile feel is weird.  Other than that, I went to the AMD-ATI booth to check out what they have to offer as their reputation seems to be making a come back since they open-source  their drivers.  Got to know that they are open to do any forms of development to cater to their clients needs including utilizing their GPU for other purpose than graphical.

Clark Quay at Night

Clark Quay at Night

There it is, SIGGRAPH ASIA 2008 in Singapore is DONE!!! Now its up to the Blender User Group of Japan to see if they are willing to organize something for SIGGRAPH ASIA 2009 at Yokohama next year.  To all Blender Users in Japan, Gambate!!!

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