View Full Version : Siggraph 03 always a trip

08-01-2003, 12:45 PM
As every year, I will post some pictures (this weekend on my website, for those who are interested), http://www.cosmic-pearl.com/ just click on Siggraphs.
I arrived Monday after two short puddle-jumping flights from hellishly hot Sacramento in the humid, relative coolness of San Diego. 10:30 saw me heading between the ornate facades of 6th and 5th streets of the Gaslamp quarter toward the stunningly modern Convention Center to pick up my badge. The confused computer spit the badge out, labeling me a Newtek employee, but who was I to complain about that? Knowing from the announcements that some LW training was taking place at a bar called Onyx, I set out to find it. After some confusion, I discovered a small sign to the effect, attached to a maze of black waist-high fencing in the middle of the sidewalk, indicating that one should descend into the darkness below the sidewalk. Bravely following in the footsteps of those who surely packed the house, I picked my way through a dark and empty bar toward an even darker backroom from which disembodied voices drifted toward me. By now well adjust to darkness I saw a small crowd grouped around a screen showing the familiar LW interface, and in front of that, Jennifer Hachigian, who, you guessed it, was discussing her beloved cell shading methods. She was followed by Larry Schultz who discussed rigging. After a lunch break and more interesting demos, we were eased out of the place at 5pm, to return around 6 for the party. I left to go to my hotel, leaving a small cluster of LW afficionadoes standing on the sidewalk to wait for party time. I crashed for a 15 minute nap, havoing been up since 0330 that morning, changed and returned only to have to march half way down the block to find the end of a huge line of those who palnned to attend the party. For those of you who were at last years San Antonio party, except for the excellent and unique Riverwalk location, this was much nicer. Good food, good drink, good demos, and upstairs a few XBox consoles where those who dared could play some games, Serious Sam among them. I quickly found out that I did not like the way the game runs on the XBox. I've been playing Serious Sam the 2nd Encounter (available at CompUSA for a mere $5), on my computer at 1024x768 and it is lightning fast and dazzlingly (and LW) designed. Here it was sluggish and frustrating. Even adding a couple of Coronas did not improve my perception. The sound was muted enough to allow us to have conversations and to chat with the LW8 Layout demonstrators, Deuce Bennet and William "Proton". The latter, btw, being ever so gently persuaded to share his time between the computer and some long-legged, rather gorgeous, mini-skirted, long-haired young lady. He was winding like a snake, but she did win out in the end. I was not surprised. Lee Stranahan briefly assured me that while I would find Newtek Pro glaringly absent from the vicinity of the Newtek booth at this show, not to worry, that this was just a temporary hiatus. After also chatting with the charming editors of Keyframe Mag, both ex teachers, btw, who promised to drop off some copies at the show to keep the time-honored tradition alive, I headed toward the hotel up on the hills of 7th street, once more braving the street people begging gauntlet. I was diverted briefly into the absolutely huge Anark party. It was noisy and I quickly left, tired of listening to shouted conversations. In fact, on Monday night there were parties all over the district, but you know where my loyalties lie. The next morning the expo. Making a b-line for the Newtek LW booth, I have to say that not only did it stand out pleasantly prominent, but it was a huge improvement over last year. As was its location. No face-to-face high-volume speaker contests with an unfortunately placed competitor. I had actually written to the Siggraph conference management about that. The display wall disected a square footprint diagonally, one side sporting the big demo screen, and the other side a bank of machines and hands-on demos, as well as the reception desk. All was well done, excellently illuminated, and the only complaint I had, having gone to many Siggraphs, was the absence of chairs. With the demo screen being high on the wall, sitting on the floor forced you to look nearly stright up. To avoid that, some people ended up lying down, and thus using all kinds of floorspace, keeping much of the walk-up traffic outside of the booth area. Chairs, expecially at large expos, draw the tired and laden masses and expose them to your product, while they are relaxing and are gratefully receptive to what they are seeing. Let's hear it for chairs. Newtek was generous with their give-aways of free LW 7.5 programs and had lively demos and good guest speakers (the heads of Zoic Studios - Firefly etc. - to reemerge btw.- and award-winning Area 51 - Dune etc.). Compared to last year, the show was much better visited and somewhat larger all around. Caligary was not present, for those of us who come from the Truespace camp, nor was, to my surprise Cinema 4D. At least I did not find them. Maya 5 drew large crowds and showed some awesome ocean/water wake dynamics and ran at least some of their demos in both Japanese and English. Smart move, I think. Discreet was well visited and demonstrated Studio Max 6 and handed out little pins to everyone's delight (a little snake, making a 6). Maya, Softimage were, for this year, heavily used as demonstration software for other products, though LW could be found at a number of sites as well (I remember Intel, AMD, HP). The Hash brothers were there with Animation Master, as was Houdini and Anark. The usual suspects. I didn't see Dan Ablan or Bill Fleming, but they were probably away making big bucks. Future Publishing was there, selling their latest issues of 3D World and Computer Arts for a mere $5 each. That's a steal. Our friendly Darktree shader folks were there, with LW always on one of their monitors. Oh, here's one: at the animation theatre, the free one, upstairs, shomeone showed an excellent 5 minute short called Akryls by Maud Bonassi, and it was credited to LW. I hope we'll see more of that one. Proper begging got one the 3D Buzz LW training CD, and racing into the show early, a tube-protected poster from Pixar depicting a scene from 'Finding Nemo". The impending Shrek 2 was celebrated with endless free cups of Starbuck's double shot and lemonade. I have a feeling that lots of people were rushing about powered by the double-shot caffeine. Oh, an everfriendly smiling presence was a person who I thought might have been less so, Chuck Baker. Easy to talk to and happy to chat from time to time. All in all, I had a wonderful time and am looking forward to next year's Siggraph in L.A.

08-02-2003, 02:09 PM
As I do each year, here are some pics for those who were unable to go. Click on the Siggraph banner and you'll be taken to the picture page. http://www.cosmic-pearl.com/