After a whirlwind of tech talks, studio tours, art displays, and job hunts, SIGGRAPH 2012 has come to a close.

I intended on posing daily updates from the conference but I ended up having almost no time so I’ll attempt to sum up the entire experience ex post facto.

Sunday, August 5
We started the morning with a walk through the Art Gallery. There are usually some pretty odd pieces there for my taste but I was impressed with two of them. Someone had covered a screen with phosphorescent paint that had a high powered UV laser light traversing the canvas in a circular pattern being modulated by sound. Another piece had a sort of a moving backlit diorama projecting its shadow on a thin piece of cloth.

Emerging Technologies is always an interesting display of new and experimental tech that usually hasn’t been announced to the general public yet. Haptics and 3d displays dominated the showroom this year. There are some interesting advancements in glasses-free 3d, including a layered LCD screen and a large theater screen with some freedom in viewing angle (generally one has to stand at just the right spot to see the stereoscopic effect). I had quite a bit of fun playing with an augmented reality system where real house plants reacted to your touch with light displays.

Later that afternoon, I attended a talk called Optimizing Realistic Rendering with Many-Light Methods. It covered a lot of technical details that I won’t go into, but it was great insight into some real time global illumination techniques.

Monday, August 6
Monday morning, we got up bright and early for a Pixomondo talk about the VFX work in Hugo. It was one of the highlights of the week; everything from CG assets, to compositing, to physical models, to 3d filming techniques were discussed.

After the Pixomundo talk, we headed out to DreamWorks where we met Eric Walters and several other Purdue alum for lunch and a quick tour. As always, the DreamWorks campus is marvelous. We saw several new posters and art displays for Rise of the Guardians and The Croods, both of which I’m super excited to see!

A Pixar talk followed next, about the making of Brave. This talk focused a lot more on the visual development of the film, and even went into some of the new simulation and rendering techniques developed by the studio to handle specific challenges. They created something called “Wonder Moss” to dress the sets with some impressive vegetation; a process that I can’t even begin to explain. Suffice it to say that it employs ray marching to generate curves at render time that displaces and shades the geometry at an impressive level of detail, turning the forest creation into a shading problem, rather than a modeling problem. I expect a paper to be published or something that documents the technique, but as of now there aren’t many references to it on the web.

Tuesday, August 7
At precisely 9:30, the doors to the exhibition opened. Naturally we were at the front of the crowd rushing to the Pixar booth to pick up our Brave posters (which look great by the way!). We spent a fair part of that morning visiting the booths of all the exhibitors. NVIDIA had a lot of impressive things to show as always, the coolest of which is a real time demo of fluid dynamics combined with ray traced rendering; a technique that employed both their PhysX and OptiX technologies. Aside from handing out posters, Pixar had their usual RenderMan team demoing the latest software, and they even hosted guest speakers throughout the day that used RenderMan in their latest productions. Purdue was there as usual, showcasing the best of the students’ work (I had stuff on the reel!). Wacom’s newest Cintiq product had me wishing that I was a good enough painter to warrant owning one, and I got to test drive a $300 3d mouse.

After the exhibition, we visited the Walt Disney Animation Studios for lunch with Dan Garza. He took us around, showing us all the different buildings and explained a lot of the history of the studio.

That evening we went to the Computer Animation Festival’s Electronic Theater. Two hours of amazing, and sometimes disturbing, animated shorts. Plus, a special screening of Disney’s new short, Paperman.

Wednesday, August 8
I’m a huge fan of stop motion filming, so I was the third in line to the Laika talk about the making of their new feature, ParaNorman. Their integration of stop motion and CG was almost seamless, and I am really looking forward to when this hits theaters this fall.

Afterwards, I waited in line for the famous RenderMan Teapot at the Pixar booth. This year’s design was a cloudy transparent teapot, to showcase their new RenderMan cloud rendering service (get it?).

I also attended a talk on OpenGL shader programming as well as an NVIDIA talk about advancements in their ray tracing solutions.

After dinner with a friend we met at SIGGRAPH 2010, we headed over to the Purdue Birds of a Feather meeting, where we could catch up with current and former Purdue students and faculty.

Thursday, August 9
Our last day wrapped up with a morning talk about the making of Paperman, which included a screening before and after the talk. After having viewed it three times, I’ll say that it will be worth the ticket price of Wreck It Ralph just to see this short beforehand. It was interesting to hear about the blending of 3d and 2d techniques that went into making this short happen.

I spend a little time talking to there recruiters at the job fair and got some helpful feedback about my upcoming graduate studies. I was pleased to find out that Pixomondo really liked my work and gave me some great advice on some possible demo reel pieces.

After hitting up the SIGGRAPH store (I can’t believe I fit all those DVDs and tshirts into my luggage), we said goodbye to the Los Angeles convention center for the conclusion of another great SIGGRAPH conference. I look forward to SIGGRAPH 2013 in Anaheim next year!