18 - 24 July 1998
"Now here, you see, it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that!" ("Through the Looking Glass", Lewis Carroll).
"This is a picture-in-your-face kind of place"
"The greatest thing is to get the true picture - whatever it is" (Winston Churchill) "In order to deviate from the norm, one must have a clear idea of the norm one is deviating from"
Some 35,000 people attended SIGGRAPH 98 in Orlando in temperatures of 96 degrees and upwards, with high humidity! Delegates from around the world attended to hear the latest research results in computer graphics and interactive techniques and see the latest products from key vendors in the field. A fellow delegate in the registration line-up reminded me that there were many alligators in the swamplands of Florida and they could run faster than humans. However, they couldn't turn as fast, so the best solution if you were pursued was to double-back on yourself!
This year's Conference comprised 46 pre-Conference Courses, 19-21 July, and 45 papers in the technical sessions selected from 303 submissions, and 18 Panels with a wide range of topics from real-time auditory interfaces, through behavioural modelling, to ubiquitous computing. Further major aspects included a full Educator's programme with technical papers, panels and electronic schoolhouse, an enhanced realities exhibition, a digital pavilion, an interactive dance club, a technical sketches programme for animators, artists, and designers to present the technical aspects of their work, and a TV and film programme, aspects of which were fed on to the Internet in real time.
Walt Bransford, SIGGRAPH 98 Co-Chair, welcomed everyone to the Conference and drew attention to the expanding reach of computer graphics and interaction to scientists, artists, educators, entrepreneurs, vendors, visionaries, and dancers which illustrated technology's current reach into ever widening forms of human experience and creativity. He also highlighted the 25 year Anniversary since the first Conference in Boulder in 1974. Various aspects of the Conference - the "Time Tunnel" illustrating the key developments over the 25 years, the International Videoconference Panel session on Thursday, where computer graphics pioneers assessed the history and future prospects for computer graphics, and parties and receptions which would celebrate the 25 years.
Prof Steve Cunningham, SIGGRAPH Chair, outlined the purpose and objectives of the committee - to promote the development and application of computer graphics and interactive techniques, and to support the values of excellence, integrity, passion, and cross-disciplinary interaction.
Prof Bert Herzog presented the 1998 Computer Graphics Achievement Award to Dr Michael Cohen (Microsoft Research) for his research in radiosity, constraint-based animation, shape design, image-based rendering, and realistic image synthesis. His work is the key to making radiosity usable for complex scenes. The beautiful images created with these methods still remain state of the art, both technically and artistically. His work has unusual breadth and creativity attributable to his multi-disciplinary background and approach to problems. With degrees in art, engineering, and computer science he has capitalised on the skills and opportunities arising from these three domains.
An exhibition chronicling 25 years of computer art from early algorithmic drawings and paintings to modelled figures and drawings by computer artists. Touch was used as a metaphor to illustrate concepts such as being in touch via the Internet. Artworks included digital paintings, drawings, photographs, interactive installations, and teleperformance projects. Web creations may be found at http://www.siggraph.org/s98/conference/art/artsite.html
In the course on using touch interfaces with computer graphics applications, Thomas Massie (SensAble Technologies) focused attention on haptic rendering and devices which were both input and output, as a move away for one device for input (e.g. keyboard) and another device for output (printer).
Image-based modelling and rendering (IBMR) was now becoming a well-developed discipline with a technical papers session and a new course to explain the detail. This was well set out by Paul Debevec (University of Calfornia at Berkeley, http://www.cs.berkeley.edu/~debevec/IBMR98/). In conventional computer graphics, modelling is hard and rendering is slow. IBMR starts with photorealistic images (multiple views of a scene) and by reconstruction of other views via geometry, is able to generate a complete model of the scene. IBMR is a spectrum of techniques including movie maps, light fields, depth, geometry, materials, and kinematics. Dayton Taylor's virtual camera may be found at http://www.virtualcamera.com/
A course on the theory and practice of "Tour into the Picture" (originally presented as a technical paper at SIGGRAPH97) is a technique for providing a powerful graphical user interface for making 3D animation from a single 2D picture or photograph. Software is available at http://koigakubo.hitachi.co.jp/little/DL_TipE.html
"This product is so good you are only limited by your imagination!" Wrong. You may be limited by the vendor's imagination because you can't do what you really want to do! (Andrew Glassner)
Current applications of computer graphics in entertainment were reviewed by Prof Pat Wenner and highlighted the booming games industry with revenues of $5.3 billion in 1997 and a 20% increase expected in 1998. Global piracy of software currently costs about $3 billion per annum. Games environments could now be driven by low cost VR helmets, force feedback joysticks, and intensors - a force feedback chair. The Riven game sets new standards in the quality of the imaging by the use of new algorithms and textures. One of the latest games has taken 2 hours to load the model into Softimage during the development process.
Motion picture special effects during the year had been dominated by the work on Titanic. A motion capture on only 25 people had been used as the basis for creating a large number of variations to be used to populate the decks of the ship for various shots. Costumes of the period were used in the texture maps, and each character was rendered individually along with their shadows.
Location-based Entertainment Centres were on the increase with 5 locations from Gameworks (Sega, Universal, and Dreamworks) and 2 for Disney Quest. Some of the park attractions used real-time 3D graphics. Further information is contained at http://www.e3.net/ the annual conference on entertainment and theme parks.
A new course on "Art for Computer Graphicists" organised by Andrew Glassner concentrated on composition, colour theory, layout, and social and historical context. All are essential prerequisites to creating clear and powerful messages. Emphasis of technical topics over artistic ones can hide and obscure the importance of good content. The fundamental principles creating great visuals lie well before the recent era of computer and computer graphics, and are enshrined in the work of great artists, sculptors and painters down the ages.
Guidelines for good design include:
In the course on "Immersive Environments: Research, Applications, and Magic", Jesse Schell (Walt Disney Imagineering) offered the following:
Design tips included:
|Mainframe or mini $$$||Desktop $|
|Everything is hard||Easy|
|Had to be clever
|More brute force|
- higher standards
|Talks gave the whole paper||Talk is a trailer for the
Over this time period a number of people had put together lists of "Unsolved Problems in Computer Graphics" starting with Ivan Sutherland in 1966. A current list was proposed as follows:
The technical conference had moved forward and brought in art and dance.
In a sense the world had been changed too - a new medium is now available, just as television had changed the world over 25 years ago.
This summary highlights points of particular interest in the Conference to the author, since there is not enough time to attend everything.
A paper on the "Office of the Future" described a unified application of computer vision and computer graphics in a system that combines and builds upon the principles of the CAVE, tiled display systems, and image-based modelling. With the help of synchronized cameras, the geometry and reflectance information can be captured for all of the visible surfaces in the office so that images can be projected on the surfaces, images of the surfaces can be rendered, and changes in the surfaces can be interpreted.
A new method for using measured scene radiance and global illumination to add new objects to light-based models with correct lighting is discussed by Paul Debevec. Further information is at http://www.cs.berkeley.edu/~debevec/Research
InterSense presented a new tracking system for augmented reality and virtual set applications, based on an inertial navigation system aided by ultrasonic time-of-flight range measurements to a constellation of wireless transponder beacons.
The Tangible Media Group at MIT Media Lab discussed a tangible user interface based upon MediaBlocks: small electronically tagged wooden blocks that serve as physical icons ("phicons") for the containment, transport, and manipulation of online media. MediaBlocks interface with media input and output devices such as video cameras and projectors, allowing digital media to be rapidly copied from a media source and pasted into a media display.
A new method for creating an image with a hand-painted appearance from a photograph was presented by Hertzmann of the Media Research Lab, New York University. This framework can be used to describe a wide variety of visual styles, resulting in different forms of art, e.g. impressionistic.
(to be continued in the next issue)