The next presentation was called "Spor(T)." This was hosted by EA. Most of the presentations were about tools used to create the upcoming "Spore" game. The final presentation was about real-time motion for sports...thus, you get unified title "Spor(T)."
Spore is interesting because of the procedural aspect...much of the animation and art and design is based on algorithms instead of static pieces of art. This means you can get a large variety of results that the game designers may never have seen or planned for.
They showed off a planet editor and a creature editor that let you quickly build very detailed models with very little input. They also showed how they used the Halton sequence to distribute items (like trees) in a random/natural fashion, yet very reproducible (so you can return to the same place after you turn your console off).
The sport part of the talk dealt with how to animate a soccer player realistically with most of the motion computer generated (instead of motion captured). They use a modeling tool called ANT. ANT allows you to tweak the look of the running style (how much do you lean forward, how much do you swing your arms, etc.) in real time. ANT lets you say you want a player to track a ball with his eyes. As the ball moves out of the players view, the player will automatically rotate his head left or right. Once the head has turned as far as it can, it automatically turns to the other side to continue tracking. All this happens automagically...no animation by humans required.
I found this on youtube. It's an overview of some of the papers presented at SIGGRAPH (voiced by Jim Blinn). It's a nice summary of what was presented this year:
Wednesday I spent most of the day walking around the show floor. I was *really* disappointed...there were few interesting things to see. In the past I could have spent days learning about new products and services...this year I didn't see anything I hadn't seen before.
I use the show floor as an indicator for who is gaining in importance in 3D graphics and who is falling off the radar. The bigger the booth, the more important you are.
Based on the floor plan above, the biggest booths were:
It is interesting that 3 of the top 5 booths were there to recruit people, not sell products. That is definitely a change from previous years (when the floor was more interesting).
Also interesting was who was not present, but usually is...
From that list, I was most surprised by Adobe and Apple. Normally Apple has a huge booth promoting Final Cut Pro, Shake or Motion. Same goes for Adobe. They recently released CS3, and I would have figured they would have been showing it off at SIGGRAPH. PDI/Dreamworks was at SIGGRAPH for the job fair, but not on the show floor. Here is a list of all the exhibitors.
We had a large booth at SIGGRAPH because we are hiring a lot of people (see here, here, and here). We also had some really good presentations. I sat in on the John Knoll/Pirates 3 presentation that was packed...
Lucasfilm hosted a party in the Gaslamp District that evening. It was pretty easy to find...just look for the place with a bunch of Stormtroopers out front...
Two girls I met at the Autodesk party (Dorina and Laura) won a record single of "The Imperial March (Darth Vader's Theme)" during a contest at the Lucasfilm party.
The girls wanted me to autograph their record...which is ridiculous because I haven't done anything. They still wanted my autograph so I signed it...but I told them I could get some guys that actually worked on Transformers to sign it. I saw my bball buddy Nick Woo at the party and asked him to autograph the record...
I also saw Jeff White there and he signed it and then took a picture of me with the girls...
After the Lucasfilm party, I headed to the SIGGRAPH reception at the Marina Park to get my one free drink. After the drink, we went back to the Gaslamp District to hit the Softimage party.
The Softimage party was at the House of Blues. Initially, the line to get in was over 2 blocks long and it wasn't moving. We went to another bar and hung out until I got word from The Intern (Noah) that the line had disappeared and they were letting people in.
The HoB is a cool venue. They had a woman DJ spinning some groovy industrial dance tunes with go-go dancers on either side of the stage. Other than those women on stage, it was SSS (Standard SIGGRAPH Sausage-factory)...
I started the day with "Transformers: Giant Frickin' Robots." Several ILM guys were on the panel (Scott Farrar, Russell Earl, Scott Benza, Jeff White, Richard Bluff) to talk about how they did the effects in Transformers. It was packed...I had to go to an overflow room that had audio of the panel and video from the effects sequences...but no video of the panel. The best part for me was seeing the reference video of the actual martial artists fighting and then see the equivalent sequence preformed by the robots.
I stopped by the show floor to see what Nvidia was pimpin'. The most interesting was Mental Images' "Mental Mill." Mental Mill is a shader development environment where you graphically connect the output of nodes to the input of other nodes to get a shader. It creates MetaSL shaders that can be converted into C++, Cg, GLSL, and HLSL or other shading languages using the developer kit. The full version (cost...no idea) has a shader debugger! There is a free version (Artist Edition) that is shipping with Nvidia's FX Composer, but it does not include the debugger.
FX Composer has a shader debugger planned for version 2.4 (they are currently on version 2.0). Nvidia has no plans to support GLSL (only Cg and HLSL) in FX Composer...bad news for GLSL (from my view, GLSL is really struggling).
HP was showing laptops that have 3 button touch pads and 3 buttons for the pointing stick. I don't know why laptops have skimped on the 3rd button for so long, but I'm glad to see this change.
I went to the Highlights From SCA (Symposium on Computer Animation) sketch and also the Highlights From UIST (User Interface Software and Technology). Each sketch was like a "best of" summary of their last conference.
An example they give is looking for a hotel. You can use hotels.com to find out how much a hotel is, availability and its address. You can provide the address to Google maps to see the hotel's location. You can provide the hotel name to yelp.com to get a review and a rating. That requires three different web sites for a single hotel listing.
Using the software presented in the paper, all this information can be placed on a single "card" so that you can focus only on the information you care about. Once a card is setup, just click on other hotels you are interested in on the hotels.com page and their cards are immediately filled in with maps from Google maps and reviews and ratings from yelp as well as the hotel price, availability and address from hotels.com.
It is a simple concept, but a *huge* time saver! I could definitely use this. The videos do a great job of showing this in action. I tried playing these in the browser, but audio would not work. When I saved them to my hard drive (right-click, Save Target As...) and played them, I got audio. Check 'em out:
The pre-show had 3 graphics "celebrities" play old vector-based coin-op classics on the big screen. I didn't catch the name of the first guy playing Asteroids or the last guy playing Star Wars. The middle guy was Ken Perlin playing Tempest.
Most of the good clips are not available online, but a few are...
HP Hands "Paulo Coelho"
En Tus Brazos
Sears Tools "Arboretum"
U2 and Green Day "The Saints Are Coming"
Vigorsol: The Legend
ILM showed a clip on how some of the effects in Transformers and Pirates 3 were done. We show this clip on Friday's at noon as part of our "Friends and Family" demo reel. So if you are coming to visit...make sure you can stop by for lunch on Friday.
I walked past the PDI/Dreamworks SIGGRAPH party at 9pm and there was a line two blocks long to get in. The party was at Stingaree in San Diego's Gaslamp Quarter. I was meeting up with some friends for dinner and then we were going to drop by the PDI/Dreamworks party.
We arrived at Stingaree around 10pm. There was no line, but they were at capacity. The party was on the roof and they were not letting anybody in until people left the party. Surprisingly, not very many people were leaving (go figure, free booze and sushi).
So myself and several co-workers were the first in line to get let in once other people left the party.
As the line formed behind us, it was fun watching people walk up to the bouncer and say the equivalent of "I'm with the DJ," only to be shot down and sent back to the line.
Then a blond girl from HP showed up.
The HP girl spoke with the Dreamworks recruiting manger about getting into the party without waiting in line. She said HP is a partner of Dreamworks and that means she should not have to wait in line.
I listened as the recruiting manager explained that nobody is more important than anyone else and that the reason for this party is to get potential candidates inside. Without the candidates, there is no party.
The HP girl refused to accept this...she was from HP and she should be let in NOW!
She was denied and sent back in line.
The recruiting manager apologized to us all about the wait and said she really wanted us all inside.
Then a second blond girl from HP arrived. She looked like an older woman that was trying to relive her glorious clubbing days. She had the same "we don't wait in lines"-attitude about her, except she was more hard-core about it. I'll call her PHP (Past Her Prime).
The first blond explained why they were waiting in line to PHP. PHP was outraged and brought the first blond with her to demand they be let in NOW!
The bouncer explained the situation again, but PHP wanted to talk to a manager. A rep from Dreamworks began to talk the blond girls.
Now mind you, all this is happening outside with a line of potential Dreamworks candidates listening to every word.
Then I heard the magically line that made me start recording...
"If Dreamworks values its relationship with HP..."
Oh no you didn't! You did not just claim that the corporate relationship between Dreamworks and Hewlett-Packard is contingent on you getting into this party without waiting in line!
The conversation went on for about 10 minutes before she was finally let in. It really didn't matter...enough people had left that they began letting us in anyway.
I don't know who this girl is...but in my experience, people that claim they are really important...aren't.
So the net result: There is a line of industry people that got to watch HP tarnish its image. Well done!
The video doesn't capture the best parts of the conversation, but it does give you a feel for what happened. You can see the two blond girls talking to a Dreamworks representative.
At the user group meeting, we got some nice long sleeve (great for SF!) black shirts with a Maya logo on the front, Max logo on one sleeve, and a Combustion logo (I think...it looks like a flame).
One of the speakers was the head of marketing for Chrysler. She brought along a Dodge Demon that was unveiled on stage like this was an auto show. Very good-looking car.
Max and Maya have now use years instead of versions numbers. The latest offering is Maya 2008 and Max 2008.
Max gains lighting/shadows in the interactive 3D viewer. No need to re-render when placing lights...very cool.
Maya gains some rigging features that made the crowd very happy. A new widget for controlling the view is in the upper right corner. It lets you switch views (e.g. left to 3D view), or rotate your view in screen space (turn upside-down, for example).
ILM was the final presentation with how we did Transformers using Maya. Jeff White was the presenter.
After the User Group, everybody (it seemed like a few thousand people) headed to the USS Midway aircraft carrier for the party.
We started out on the flight deck where all the airplanes are kept. They had a fireworks show right in front of the USS Midway. After the fireworks, we went downstairs to an area that had flight simulators we could ride (I passed...I've already done enough of that!).
It was an open bar until 11:30pm (we got there around 10). They also had free pizza and desserts.
There was a DJ, dance floor, and go-go dancers...
It was quite a sausage factory, except for this one area with several cute girls. I walked over and asked one girl if she'd like to dance. We danced a little and I asked her if she uses Maya or Max. She didn't know what I was talking about. I asked her what she does, and she said "actress." I asked if she had done anything I would know, and she said "yes." I said, "Let me look you up on IMDB on my cell phone"...and she was there.
Her name is Zoe Quist. She played the memorable part of "crowd onlooker" in War of the Worlds. I told her my company did the effects in that movie. She said, "What company is that?" I told her "ILM"...to which I was greeted with a blank stare...she had no idea who ILM was. Oh well...at least she was easy on the eyes.
It turns out she was hired by CafeFX (did the effects in Pan's Labyrinth, co-sponsor of the party) along with almost every other cute girl on the dance floor to make it less than 100% computer dorks on the dance floor moving non-rhythmically to the music.
I started the day with a papers session called "Image Analysis & Enhancement." The first talk ("Image Deblurring With Blurred/Noisy Image Pairs") was about how to use a blurry long exposure image with a noisy short exposure image to get a sharp, clear picture with great color reproduction. My camera has image stabilization...it is not blurry, but it does contain a lot of noise. This technique would give you great pictures even when you hands are shaking or in low light situations. Very Impressive...I want this in my next camera!
Two other papers in this session were related. The first, "Photo Clip Art", showed how to add objects (like people or cars) to a photo by using MIT's LabelMe photo database to find candidates that matched the correct size and color properties of the original photo. The idea is to mimic the clip art added to PowerPoint a presentation, but for photos.
The next paper was called "Seam Carving for Content-Aware Image Resizing." Check out the video to see it in action. Basically, they just get rid of the least important parts of a picture until it is shrunk to the desired resolution. To increase resolution, the least important parts of the picture are duplicated. The results are surprisingly good and fast. This only works for images, not video yet. Could this be the end of black bars and stretched/compressed people on TV's?
"Image Vectorization using Optimized Gradient Meshes" is a paper that deals with converting a photo into a vector format (like what is used by Adobe Illustrator or Flash animations). I have dealt with shapes as vectors, but never photos. With Windows Vista supporting vectors in the UI (to support arbitrary dpi settings) and the rising popularity of flash, storing information in vectors will become more important.
Later, I went to the sketch "Highlights from I3D". One paper presented "Tile Trees"...an alternative to normal texture mapping. The advantage is that you don't have UV's to adjust to fit a flat texture on a surface. It also does not waste any space of a texture map (like in this texture atlas).
I started the day in Course 3: Sketch-based Interfaces. This course was about using sketching (i.e. using a pen interface) as input to a computer.
This technique throws out the idea of using the ubiquitous WIMP (windows, icons, menus, point and click) interface in favor of using a more natural human interface...drawing with a pen. The computer does more work so that the human can work the way he is accustom to working.
They showed an example of a 3d modeling package. It simplified the user interface by providing the user with only a single 2d view. The computer assumed any drawing was meant to be on top of another object on the screen. So if you drew a 2d rug, the computer would assume it was meant to lie on the floor, and would create a 3d rug for you. What if you wanted the rug to float in the air? You simply draw a shadow in order to position the rug in the air...pretty slick!
This course really makes you rethink how you should write computer software. They used some techniques that were clearly easier for people to learn, but were nothing like the software we use today.
They listed a few SDK's for getting started with sketch-based interfaces:
Tablet PC SDK
Ink as a first class object
Window Vista's Windows Presentation Foundation
Doesn't have all that Tablet PC SDK ahs
Uses Rubine's Recognizer (Rubine 1991, an oft-cited paper)
I'm tempted to get a Tablet PC just so I can play with this stuff.
Next, I headed to the Emerging Technology area. I wanted to see Microsoft Surface, which I heard would be on display there.
There was a large group of people around the Microsoft Surface area. I waited for a while until I could get close enough to try it out. They didn't show anything new...everything they showed I had seen in their promo video.
I did get to play with the video puzzle that used real glass squares that the Surface would project portions of a movie on. Your goal was to reconstruct the movie (some of the squares were upside down, which caused the movie to be played inverted).
I asked about the way Surface could ID objects played on it. It uses circles of varying size and position as a bar code. I asked why they didn't just support bar codes and the guy said that the camera couldn't make out the details of a bar code.
In one example, you place a credit card on Surface and drag items from your bill to your credit card to pay. For this to work, the credit card needs to have the special ID circles on it. I asked if I wanted to use my existing credit card, could I make my own dots. He said there is nothing special about the dots, so you could print your own pattern on an adhesive and add it to anything.
The One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) was on display and I got to play with it a bit. It is very different than typical laptop...it would take a little getting used to. I didn't play with it enough to get a feel for where this project is going.
They had some e-ink on display. It looks just like paper...but it is a video screen. It looks perfect from any angle and the text is very sharp and easy to read with the high contrast. They had an example of a display that could be rolled up like a scroll...try that with your LCD!
Later, I went to the Fast Forward session to get a preview of the upcoming papers. It's a great way to figure out which papers you should check out.
I checked into a hostel today (my first). It certainly is a bit different than a normal hotel. So far...I like it. It works just fine for me. I don't think any of my former girlfriends would have approved of this place. People are very friendly and want to talk to you. I'm in the middle of the Gaslamp Quarter, so I'm surrounded by restaurants and night life...and I'm only 4 blocks from the convention center.
Here are some pics of my room. It was $30/person per night and my room is for 2 people. So I paid $60/night to get a private room.
My main concern was the bathroom...I wasn't looking forward to sharing a bathroom and a shower. It looks like it won't be too bad after all...here are some pics of the bathroom...
The outside (see the first pic) has a painting of a guy trying to commit suicide...not sure how that fits into staying at a hostel, but I'll let you know after I've been here a week.
So if you want to try this experiment, we need to get connected! I think the way it works is you go here and click "Follow." You will receive any update I send. Then I know you are "following" me and I can follow you and get your updates!
I *believe* you can do all this from your phone without an account (I haven't tried this). If you text message 40404 and send "FOLLOW RGBA", you should get updates about what I'm doing on your phone.
I am using the mobile web version of Twitter on my cell phone. It won't work from IE7, but it does work with a WAP browser (phone web browser). The address is http://m.twitter.com.
After SIGGRAPH, this might be a good way to get friends together for basketball, a movie, dinner, bar hopping, etc.
I tried a few things, like changing the name of the script that posts comments, but it only worked for a few hours.
I read this article in search of a better solution.
I followed a link for a CAPTCHA approach, but it took me to a list of Movable Type plug-ins instead of directly to the CAPTCHA plug-in.
In searching through the list of plug-ins, I found Comment Challenge. I decided to give it a try. It was easy to setup and it looks like it will do what I need. Now when you post a comment, the comment won't go anywhere until you type in a phrase at the bottom.
I'm curious if this works for everybody. I haven't gotten any spam in the last hour, so it seems to be working. I also haven't gotten any real comments, so it might be a bit overzealous.
I want to know if it stops real people from posting. So give it a shot! Post a comment!