This year marked the 46th SIGGRAPH (Special Interest Group on Computer Graphics and Interactive Techniques) in Los Angeles, the heart of the CG industry. With almost 20,000 attendees from around the world, SIGGRAPH is the largest conference on computer graphics art, animation and interactive techniques. Terrence Masson, chair of MFA Computer Arts, describes SIGGRAPH as "the perfect venue for our annual alumni gathering with our many industry and education friends. I love introducing everyone and seeing new friendships and professional relationships develop to benefit both students and pros alike." Here are some highlights from the event, held July 28—August 1.
A number of SVA alumni working at the forefront of the CG industry delivered talks at the conference. Joji Tsuruga (BFA 2008 Computer Art), senior artist at Epic Games, presented his work in real-time production on Fortnite Shorts. Justin Melillo (BFA 2013 Computer Art) guided participants through experiences with Magic Leap in the Immersive Technology Pavilion.
Dawn Fidrick (MFA 2010 Computer Art), a producer at L.A.'s Griffith Observatory, shared her experience producing the new 35 minute/8k 60fps planetarium show, Signs of Life, at the Foundry Exhibitor Session: Education Summit. Signs of Life explores what it took to put life into the universe and where else we may find it. It is a public-private partnership with Griffith Observatory and Friends of the Observatory and will make its premiere in May 2020.
Members of the SVA academic staff shared their experiences as educators and participated in several panels during the conference. Jimmy Calhoun, chair of BFA Computer Art, was part of the panel “Supporting Students of Animation,” within the Women in Animation Summit at SIGGRAPH. The panel discussed how to manage the cultural and technical challenges faced by students leaving animation schools and entering the workforce. Hsiang Chin Moe, chair of BFA Animation, represented the lead for the NYC Chapter of Women in Animation at the panel "Building WIA Chapters: Vancouver, NYC, Montreal and More." She discussed her experience co-leading the NYC chapter, her collaborations with other local organizations and the many challenges that the chapter is facing in its efforts to reach the goal of 50/50 by 2025.
Moe was also part of the "Women in CG" panel where she shared the stage with Sidney Clifton, executive producer, Deluxe Animation Studios; Kaitlyn Yang, founder and visual effects supervisor, Alpha Studios; Katie Bouman, post-doctoral fellow, MIT; and moderator Diana Arellano, chair of ACM SIGGRAPH External Relations. "It was such an honor to be sitting side-by-side with these outstanding female leads in their industry," Moe says. "I’ve learned just as much as the audience did by listening to their stories, where they came from and what led to where they are in their careers. Most important, we get to discuss what is still left to be done to support more women in their chosen fields."
SIGGRAPH isn’t just a place for educators and artists—it has an important mission to engage students with this special community. This year, two students from BFA Computer Art—Eric Shantzis and Boyang "Brandon" Yu—and a student from MFA Computer Arts—Kangmin Lim—participated in this program as volunteers and were able to take advantage of the entire conference.
"Attending Siggraph 2019 in L.A. as a student volunteer was one of the best experiences I had this year," Lim says. "I worked with so many talented students from all around the world and met artists from the industry who gave me really helpful advice and inspiration."
SIGGRAPH also enables SVA’s systems team to learn about the latest technology and trends in order to support and maintain the state-of-the-art facilities at SVA. "After spending five days at SIGGRAPH 2019, I am excited that everything is moving toward GPU rendering and real-time Ray Tracing," says MFA Computer Arts’ senior systems manager Milos Paripovic. "There is also a lot more industry interest in machine learning and XR than in previous years, and I am hoping the trend will continue."
The SVA team also got to step out of the convention center to pay visits to many animation studios, including Buck L.A., Shadow Machine, Frederator, Netflix and Bento Box. Angie Wojak, director of Career Development, shared some thoughts. "One of the goals of our trip was to conduct animation studio visits to build new connections for our students and alumni. A highlight was a visit to Shadow Machine, the animation studio that produces [the animated Netflix series] Bojack Horseman. I had the chance to meet the directors who were just nominated for an Emmy and was able to chat with their storyboard team, producers and production staff. We're excited to work with the studio in the future." The SVA team also paid a visit to Warner Brothers Animation studio in Burbank, where alumnus Branko Kljajic (BFA 2017 Animation), who currently working as an animator, guided this special private tour.
Last but not least, the biggest highlight of the week was the SVA x SIGGRAPH reception where alumni and friends of the industry were all invited for conversation and inspiration. Jimmy Calhoun, chair of BFA Computer Art observes, "Our alumni mixer was a wonderful way to connect people that graduated as recently as last year and as well as decades ago, and who live both in L.A. and as a far away as Japan. It was a great place for them to catch up, or meet each other for the first time."