While its focus is firmly forward thinking, SIGGRAPH 2018, the computer graphics, animation, virtual reality, games, digital art, mixed reality, and emerging technologies conference, is also tipping its hat to the past thanks to its theme this year: Generations. The conference runs Aug. 12-16 in Vancouver, B.C.
“In the literal people sense, pioneers in the computer graphics industry are standing shoulder to shoulder with researchers, practitioners and the future of the industry — young people — mentoring them, dabbling across multiple disciplines to innovate, relate, and grow,” says SIGGRAPH 2018 conference chair Roy C. Anthony, VP of creative development and operations at software and technology firm Ventuz. “This is really what SIGGRAPH has always been about. Generations really seemed like a very appropriate way of looking back and remembering where we all came from and how far we’ve come.”
One of the first SIGGRAPH memories for both Anthony and this year’s keynote speaker, Rob Bredow, SVP, executive creative director and head of Industrial Light & Magic, had to do with “Jurassic Park,” which came out in 1993.
“The movie itself was inspiring, but the way that the [effects] team presented the work [at SIGGRAPH) was incredibly inspiring,” recalls Bredow. “I learned so much in that production session. I remember thinking as I was sitting there, ‘Oh man, this is what I want to do. I want to be working on movies like those guys.’ And it turned out to be the team from Industrial Light & Magic!” Bredow recalls running into someone from the team on the convention floor whose nametag read “Dino Handler” and being impressed. “I should remember the name; I wish I did,” says Bredow. “It’s probably somebody I work with today.”
Anthony remembers seeing “Jurassic Park” and, being a special effects fan, being blown away by the film. “When ‘Jurassic Park’ came out, it had a huge digital component and I really wanted to get a peek behind the scenes. SIGGRAPH seemed to be the place to do that,” says Anthony. “I went to SIGGRAPH in 1994 and my flagship memory about that year is of dinosaurs and VR.” He came for the dinosaurs, but stayed for the VR. “There I was at 18, thinking I can take over the world and I’d been introduced to this thing called virtual reality. That kick-started a journey for me.”
Past SIGGRAPHs are informing Bredow’s keynote address on creativity, set for Monday, Aug. 13. “I’m actually drawing on some of the keynotes of the past that have inspired me and helped steer my career. Specifically one made by [Disney Imagineering exec] Joe Rohde back in 2006,” says Bredow. “He talked about his systematic design process and how creativity informs great design.”
Bredow hopes to pay it forward and inspire attendees to look for creativity in everything they do. “Whether it’s actually painting a picture or taking photographs or all those things that everybody thinks of as being creative, but also things that people don’t think of as being as creative as they actually are. Whether it’s writing code or creating a detail in a shot, but making those images, those are all things that I feel are creatively driven. I’m just trying to inspire people to think of their work from a creative perspective and how to develop that.”
And while he’s there, Bredow is looking forward to seeing some of the people he’s met at conferences past. “One of the best things about SIGGRAPH for me is seeing the people I haven’t gotten to see in a few years. SIGGRAPH is a great place to connect with those people.”
For conference chair Anthony, he’s most looking forward to an exhibition of work by futurist artist Syd Mead, who created conceptual designs for such films as “Blade Runner,” “Aliens,” and “Tron.” “Syd put together a gallery experience of his original artwork, matte paintings, and concept drawings, but with an augmented reality experience that viewers can run on their phone,” says Anthony. “It allows you to step through Syd’s creative process as you look at the art. This is a really great way of looking at an inspiring voice from the future even though he’s been stimulating our minds with his vision of the future for years.”
Anthony’s also looking forward to the conference’s art gallery, which is featuring work from indigenous artists throughout Canada. “I’m just delighted that we were able to pull together a show that has more than 60% content from indigenous people. It’s all extremely future looking,” says Anthony. “Indigenous people really are, in my mind, the original visual storytellers. I think people will be completely blown away by these two exhibitions.”
SIGGRAPH 2018 has a number of treats in store for attendees, including the debut of Disney’s first VR film, the short “Cycles”; production sessions on the making of “Blade Runner 2049,” “Game of Thrones,” “Incredibles 2” and “Avengers: Infinity War”; as well as sneak peeks of Disney’s upcoming “Ralph Breaks the Internet: Wreck-It Ralph 2” and Laika’s “Missing Link.”