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Report on ACM Annual Conference on Computer Graphics and Interactive Techniques ACM SIGGRAPH 95
6-11 August 1995 Los Angeles, USA

Executive Summary

This is a very large International Conference, with 35,000 delegates from around the world. A large Exhibition displays the very latest products in computer graphics, imaging, multimedia and virtual reality. The Conference was held in the Convention Center in down-town Los Angeles with delegates occupying most of the hotel space in the city. Indeed, the conference is so large that only about 4 American cities now have the facilities to host it. The Conference starts with Courses 6-8 August with the Papers and Panel Sessions 9-11 August. Many sessions are in parallel, so it is not possible to attend everything. Some of the key developments and innovations at the Conference were as follows:


The Conference began with the Computer Graphics Achievement Award and the Steven A Coons Award for Outstanding Creative Contributions to Computer Graphics. The former was made to Kurt Akeley, Vice-President and Chief Engineer at Silicon Graphics Inc, a company he co-founded with Dr James Clark in the early 1980's. He was responsible for the design of most of the high end graphics architectures in SGI's product history, and also many of the CAD tools used for these designs. These systms included the IRIS, Power Series, Onyx, and Reality Engine. Latterly he led the design and documentation of the OpenGL graphics software specification.

The second Award was presented to Prof Jose Encarnacao for leadership in applied research using computer graphics for a broad range of industrial and medical applications, in international graphics standards, and in computer graphics education. He is Director of the Interactive Research Group (THD-GRIS) at the Technical University of Darmstadt, the Computer Graphics Centre (ZGDV), and the Fraunhofer Institute for Computer Graphics in Darmstadt. ZGDV also has associated laboratories in Rostock and Portugal. These Institutes are staffed by computer graphics professionals, with over 100 staff in Darmstadt alone. Prof Encarnacao has been a tireless worker and supporter of computer graphics both as a key enabling technology and as a critical academic discipline within the field of computer science.

In his lecture Prof Encarnacao addressed the following topics:

New input and output devices, new visualization structures, new user interfaces were providing new tools for applications. Metrics for measuring picture quality, developments in secure image communication, improvements in network bandwidth brought about by the improvement of information highways and the globalization of the information society, graphics data compression, encryption, teleoperation, navigating in telespaces, and multimedia all combine to provide new facilities for new applications. R & D in computer graphics is at the heart of all these enablers for tomorrow's applications. The integration of academic R & D and industrial applications is an area of great benefit for the future. Applied research is no less valuable for being applied and needs to be accepted more by the academic community. The prototyping of ideas and migration into products and services is an important aspect of computer graphics. The linking together of R & D laboratories, institutions, and industry into a collaborative partnerships on relevant topics will improve developments and produce better products for the market place. The success of computer graphics in the future will depend on the speed of transfer from ideas to implementation. Relationships and alliances will improve the chances of success. The European Commission is seeking to do this through its Framework 4 Programme. Graphics and visualization have a key role to play in supporting the development of the global information society. Users need access to usable and meaningful forms of information. At a meeting of the G7 countries in Brussels on 25-26 February the theme was how to sponsor, energise and promote the R & D necessary for the global information infrastructure. An interactive multimedia showcase demonstrated 7 examples of work in this area including distributed network applications, products and services such as remote learning, VE, teleworking, telemedicine, etc. 11 pilot projects in the areas of databases for multimedia, libraries, museums, and telematics services all depend on computer graphics. There is an increasing need to work together and cross traditional boundaries in order to accomplish more effective progress in the future. This is supported by A King in The New Understanding of the Scientific Area of Complexity and Eric Bloch of the NSF. Solutions to problems will be more quickly found via cooperation and interdisciplinarity. ACM SIGGRAPH needs to seriously consider the need to make a more effective contribution as a professional association - to develop the field of computer graphics, stimulate synergy between academia and industry, support technology transfer, advise policy makers and funding bodies concerned with national initiatives, agendas, and priorities.

The Keynote Speech for the Conference was given by Steve Jobs, founder of Apple Computer Inc, founder of NeXt Computer, and CEO of PIXAR. Steve Jobs outlined the history of the motion picture industry in the following aspects:

1995 is the centenary of the motion picture. The following table summarises some of the key developments of this 100 years: Toy Story comprises 114,240 frames, 1,635 shots, 400 models, 160 billion pixels, 600 billion bytes. It would take 1000 CD-ROM's to hold all the information. There are 34 terabytes of RenderMan files. 800K machine hours on a SUN Sparc quad processor were used. In the film, trees have over 10,000 leaves and vehicles over 20,000 animation controls! Given the developments that have taken place from 1895 to 1995, what will the picture industry look like in 2095, and how will the progress in 1995 be considered? The Conference programme was divided into technical research papers and panels. This report presents only a brief snapshot of some of the topics covered in the Conference. Full details of the research papers appear in the published proceedings (ACM Computer Graphics, 1995). Papers were presented in the areas of Complexity, Computer Animation, Modelling, Interactive Design, Texture Synthesis, Surfaces, Shading Cameras, VR, and Volume Visualization. It is clear, as Robert Cook indicated in his introduction, that computer graphics is a broad and inclusive field, and many other fields such as HCI, multimedia and VR have their roots in this subject.

A number of Panel Sessions brought together the great and the good to discuss key and strategic issues in the field and offer their collective, or divided, wisdom (depending on the topic) to the large audiences who attended! Hot topics that were covered in Panels included Media Production, TV Set Top Boxes for Interactive TV Services, Using New Media to create Musems without Walls, Interactive Multimedia, Videogames, Visualizing the Internet, Working in Virtual Environments, Graphics Standards, Cross-Media Authoring, Visual Effects Technology, and 3D on the Internet.

Developments in HDTV and Video CD were discussed in a course on Recording Video Animation from Computer Graphics. John Mareda of Sandia Labs outlined the grand alliance proposal which has been drawn up to resolve the problem of conflicting standards. The proposal supports multiple formats, two principal formats: 1280 by 720 and 1920 by 1080, square pixel formats, support of interlaced scanning at 60 Hz, support of progressive scaling at 30 Hz, and compression is based on the MPEG2 standard. Video CD's are based on the MPEG1 format and the resolution is 320 by 240 at 30 frames/sec. Digital Video disks (5 inch) will offer the following:

Recording is in two layers or on two sides to provide the capacity. They can hold 135 minutes of MPEG2 video per side, and 5 channels of audio. Production is expected in 1996. Recordable versions are planned in the future, and therefore Video CD is expected to supercede VHS video tape!

Interesting features of the Exhibitions included Interactive Communities and Interactive Entertainment. The former was a large number of interactive displays illustrating how groups of people are using computer graphics, interactive media, and network communications to build new types of communication and engage in new forms of social interaction. It used an environment of large screen projectors and new media technologies.

The Interactive Entertainment exhibition was motivated by the convergence of the film business of Hollywood and the interactive graphics business of Silicon Valley. For example, Hollynet is an ATM based network allowing the interactive production and editing of feature films by group working across the network in the South Los Angeles area. The special effects in Jurassic Park were done by Industrial Light and Magic on Silicon Graphics equipment. Interactive Entertainment featured outstanding examples of interactivity in location-based entertainment, TV, on-line entertainment services, and electronic games. Some displays also took attendees behind the scenes to demonstrate how the projects were produced and how future projects might be conceived.

In the products Exhibition, Silicon Graphics, in association with Dimensional Media Associates (DMA), were demonstrating a display where high resolution images are suspended in free space were they can be seen by the user in 3D without the use of stereoglasses or special headset. This volumetric display technology should have potential applications in molecular biology, medicine, fluid dynamics, and all areas where real 3D is important.

Microsoft had a large number of exhibits on display, including high powered graphics boards (eg for OpenGL) from third party vendors. A new book by Roy Hall on "Interactive Computer Graphics for Windows" describes tools and techniques for Windows-based, interactive 3D applications. A user interface toolkit called Joey links in with Microsoft Visual C++ and the MFC development environment. It provides access to OLE, OLE automation and multiple graphics/rendering systems. It provides 3D graphics windows for SDI and MDI applications, clipboard support for 3D metafiles, enhanced metafiles and bitmaps, versatile 3D geometric bases classes, context sensitive help templates, and editing dialogues for cameras, grids, materials and lights. A wide range of 34 Courses were also available on topics such as VRML, OpenGL, Curves and Surfaces, Visualizing Multi-dimensional Geometry, Realistic Image Generation, Warping and Morphing, RenderMan, Artificial Life, Programming Virtual Worlds, Electronic Publishing on CD-ROM, Recording Video Animation, Graphics Design for GUI's, Wavelets, Visualizing Large Scientific Data Sets, Advanced Techniques for Scientific Visualization, Procedural Modelling, Programming OpenGL with X, Designing Real-time 3D Graphics for Entertainment, Developing Advanced VR Applications, Sound for Animation and VR, Real-time Synthetic Humans, Making Multimedia, Video and Audio Compression Techniques, Programming Open Inventor, 3D User Interface Design, Computer Vision, Visualizing Mathematics, Perception-based Visualization, Interactive Walkthrough of Large Geometric Databases, and Physically based Modelling.

Rae Earnshaw