Friday, August 04, 2006

SIGGRAPH2006 Postscript 1

I'm back from Boston, and here's a little summary of my time there. I arrived Sunday morning and ended up feeling pretty lost. The exhibition space and job fair didn't open till Tuesday, and I didn't have a "full conference" pass to get into the half day course "The Art of Open Season: traditional 2D styling With Today's Bells and Whistles," which was the only thing going on that I thought I could relate to. I ended up spending most of the day in the Animation Theaters, watching the short films that were good, but not quite good enough for the famed Electronic Theater. SIGGRAPH had a record number of films submitted (726 compared to 125 last year), and some of these shorts were quite good. In fact, some were better than what I later saw in the Electronic Theater. . . Later that day I saw the Teapot Exhibit (apparently a SIGGRAPH institution), and went to the opening of the Art Show. I won't even try to describe the fascinating, strange, ingenious, and downright goofy stuff I saw there. Go to this blog to see the photos (and photos of just about every other part of SIGGRAPH) to get a feel for what you missed. Later that evening I went to the traditional "Opening Barrel" event, which I was told was a great, crazy party, but which I found rather underwhelming. After feeling lost on Sunday, and knowing the panels and events I was really interesting in weren't until Tuesday, I spent most of Monday walking Boston's Freedom Trail. Weather-wise this was the best day (the temp. and humidity skyrocketed the next day), and the sights on the trail were truly inspiring. If you've never done this, you should. I only did a portion of the trail, but found it moving and invigorating. Plus the food is fantastic. Nothing like having mussels and clam chowder in a restaurant where Daniel Webster was a regular (The Union Oyster House), or having some amazing Italian food in the North End (thanks, Tom, for the tip). I got back to the convention center in time for the Electronic Theater. The whole giant Etch-A-Sketch thing was a bit of a goof, but silly geek fun nonetheless. Most of the films were pretty good, but there was one, a German student film, that stunned me for it's unfunny old-school racist jokes. How did that get in there, and why did I feel alone in finding it disturbing? Ironically, the two shorts that got the biggest reactions were both beer commercials. Tuesday was when things got really interesting. The Exhibition hall opened, and I started to see people I knew and things I could relate to. Some of the feature studios and effects houses were showing material from upcoming projects, or behind-the-scenes breakdowns of completed work. Karl Gnass was conducting life drawings at the Sony Imageworks section (looked like the models he was using had never done life drawing before, because the poses were completely static and dull). There seemed to be a lot of schools I never heard of advertising themselves, and a lots of cool technical innovations being hawked. The crowds weren't bad, and it was generally easy to talk to people at the displays. I spent most of my time chatting to people from some of the feature animation studios, catching up on what's going on around town (funny to be doing that in Boston).
Holding forth at the Disney booth.
I also cruised the Job Fair. I suspect because this was on the east coast and not LA or San Diego, there were fewer job seekers, and it wasn't as mobbed as I expected. If you haven't before thought of SIGGRAPH as a place to advertise yourself, you should. What I found was that recruiters tended to be reticent to say much or to even take reels, until they learned that you had real industry experience. Then suddenly their expression would change, and they'd warm up. It also reminded me of how many other places there are besides animation studios to practice our craft. Aside from the expected games and VFX studios, there was also recruiting for medical/educational film studios, cell phone animation, gambling machine animation, and more. Wednesday was my last day, and I spent most of it attending a few panels, and being a panelist myself. My panel was the second part of a major panel titled, "Is a Career in Computer Graphics Possible?" Part one took place on Tuesday and was subtitled "Skills and Training," and had an emphasis on getting into the industry. Part two was subtitled "Dedication and Expectation," with an emphasis on having a long-term career. My copanelists were Henry LaBounta from EA and Jenny Fulle from Sony Imageworks. There was some lively give and take, and I'll detail that in a separate post later.


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