Sunday, August 22, 2010

Done, and done


Thanks to all who came to visit me at the Pixar booth. In such a short time it has been really hard to catch up with everyone I meant to, and I predictably failed to do so. Still, it has been great to see you all, even if only for such a short chat.

Being at the Pixar booth you get to meet all sorts of people. Other than old friends coming to say hi, most people came to ask about the giveaway of teapots and Toy Story 3 posters. There were many students who were trying to show their reels, and a few people interested in purchasing licenses of Renderman. Then again there were people that were just creepy. A recruiter told me there was a guy standing a few feet away, not approaching but never ceasing to stare at her. Another guy, which I will call "The Creep", came just to complain about the teapot design this year, and to interrogate me on my culture on the teapots. The Creep was easy to spot: fairly old, crazy Einstein-like hair, Toy Story shirt over a fake tattooed skin colored shirt. The Creep was at every party I was at and probably many more. He pretended to be a bouncer at The Foundry party, randomly attempting to reject people, including me, before disappearing. He also tried to crash the Renderman User Group. He did not make it because they recognized him for being the one escorted out the previous year for harassing the ladies attending the user group.

It also was a very productive session this year. This is perhaps the first year my primary purpose is not to find a job or to see the cool new papers and courses. I was there to address specific issues related to 3d painting, which is what I am working on now, and I was successful.

For a few years now there has been the feeling that Siggraph talks are getting less and less interesting. Or at least, less groundbreaking, addressing problems that have been already solved and improving on current techniques. I loved last year's keynote by Rob Cook, in which he said that while research on computer graphics for motion pictures might have slowed down, there are a lot of unexplored challenges that fall straight in the original definition of what Siggraph was born for: Computer Graphics and Interactive Techniques. Fields such as augmented reality, mobile gaming, social networks, are still in their infancy, and other fields we haven't even started to explore are waiting ahead. I am looking forward to see what research will bring us in these terms. Still, this year was very focused on improving current computer graphics solutions, so not as exciting as it could have been.

Parties were pretty good. I got invitations and joined the ones from Lucas (thanks Diego), Pixar Renderman, Siggraph Vancouver Chapter, Blur (thanks Alessandro), The Foundry (thanks Rob). It was interesting to see how different companies spent differently their party budgets. Pixar spent it on nice food and wine and a huge, quiet, conference room. Lucas hired a very nice club right next to the conference, with open bar and lovely ambiance. The Vancouver Chapter party coincided with the opening night of Blizzard Starcraft II, so both parties were held in that location, not far from the conference either, but the location was a lot less nice. Blur instead decided to limit invitations, hire a much smaller location, right in the middle of fashionable Hollywood, and enhance the show with gogo dancers and flaming shows and two open bars that required an hour of wait. Parking in Hollywood, however, was difficult and expensive, and the staff was surprisingly unfriendly. The Foundry, finally, were pretty smart and hired a very cool theatre near the convention and used most of the evening showing their technology and, when they were done, they put on a locally known DJ that prevented any further discussion with the volume of the music. A quieter upper floor with a separate bar was provided for those who wanted a productive business talk.