SIGGRAPH animation finalists presentation

Thursday night I nipped over to DA3 where ACM SIGGRAPH were presenting the animations that were short-listed, more or less, in last years’ conference. They had 906 entries, or something like that.. 55 hours of animation, which they someone managed to review in 3 days. Of those, 36 or so were shortlisted, and those were the ones we saw.

I went along to the same thing two years back, and was surprised and impressed. There’s a lot of people out there – particularly in Europe – doing amazing 3D shorts, which you never ever hear about or see. I have no idea why… this year was even more impressive. Some of the animations were just short little things, random… some weren’t technically brilliant, but clever and/or funny… others were serious or poignant…

It’s hard to recall all of them… one funny one was called “The Itch” and was just some random dude, who picked up some old guy that just started tapping on his leg with his cane. The main character monologued the whole thing, explaining how he tried to rid himself, at first, of the old man, but he was persistent, and eventually he gave up and grew used to him… then, years later – predictable ending, but still amusing :) – the old guy suddenly just stops and walks away. It was quite clever.

Another was ‘Ark’, which was chosen as the winner of the conference… it’s hard to summarise… basically the whole doomsday virus scenario, and people try to escape to untouched islands on giant ships – Arks, duh… and there’s one guy… I dunno, hard to explain; there’s a twist at the end which I probably shouldn’t ruin..

Anyway, they also had a few of the usual ads – one of them about some dude tripping over at the top of a steep street, and collecting garbage, people, cars, etc as he rolls down, snowball style. And a coke ad, one of the ones with the world inside the coke machine that bottles, freezes and delivers on demand. I do quite like those ads, admittedly, though I’m still not quite sure I like the idea of ads being part of SIGGRAPH.

IL&M showed some demo scenes and partial wireframes, etc, from Pirates of the Caribbean 3 and Transformers. Interesting, but standard stuff. And similarly, there was a brief SFX ‘making of’ for Pan’s Labyrinth, too.

There were some nVidia GPU demos, too – yet more waffling crap about skin and subsurface diffusion, which surely has been done to death already. I noticed that their demo team is like twenty people… huh.

And there were some game engine demos, which was very poorly orchestrated – they opened with CryEngine 2. And then had Gears of War, Resistance: Fall of Man, and whatever else… but after CryEngine 2, it’s like, what’s the point? Trumped, completely. Gears of War actually looked crap anyway, let alone in comparison – their fire SFX was really dodgy, and their physics of a helicopter crashing just made no sense, unless this was the moon they were standing on…

Anyway, it was pretty cool. All presented on a 2048×1080 LED projector lent by Sony, and run ironically by a PS3 for its Blu-ray player – I knew someone’d find a use for them, eventually!

What was missed in this demo, versus the real presentation at the conference in San Diego, was their introduction using a 5W multicolour laser projector, hooked up to MAME so they could present StarWars, Tempest and Asteroid in their original glory. That would have been really cool; they showed a recording of some dude playing StarWars, but, nothing like being there. Plus, their laser projector was roughly 100x brighter than the digital cinema projector they later presented the animations on; impressive in itself.

So that was Thursday night. I often mean to go to the SIGGRAPH presentations each month, given they are approximately at work anyway, but I either forget or … well, just don’t. I knew this one’d be sweet, though, so I refused to miss it.

All in all, it both reminded me of the [very] amateur 3D stuff I used to dabble with, and the fact that I’m about twenty years of experience behind the level displayed in those animations. :(

They also had a thing on water FX in Surf’s Up, which was cool. And some random video about how their scientists had created three liquids, each of which caused translation, rotation and levitation in objects that contacted them. So they had some almost-comatose dude, with amusing backstory as a public swimming pool instructor with belated dreams of travelling the world, or somesuch… the acting was very funny. Anyway, they had him with a giant cone on his head, in test rooms – where they dropped blobs of the liquids onto his head, to ‘train’ him in common real world tasks, like walking, passing through doorways, etc… the experiments got more and more ludicrous and amusing as it went on, especially once they introduced clones of him.. :)

It’s called ‘Raymond’, as it turns out, by The Mill… there are versions on their website and YouTube, but they’re not quite the same as the one I saw, and not as funny. :/

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