Wednesday at Siggraph 2017

Staff Writer By: Ricky Grove (gToon)

The Siggraph conference is such a large and unique event that you could go through it several times and still not have tasted everything this great event has to offer.

No description is really adequate; you simply have to go to the conference and discover it for yourself. However, you can share with others aspects of the conference through description, pictures and quotes. That's what I'm doing today by sharing my Wednesday at Siggraph 2017 experience.

Wednesday at Siggraph
An exciting, but hectic day at this great computer graphics conference. I spent the entire day meeting with various software companies that I have a great respect for (and two that are entirely new to me). Each company represents the kind of innovative thinking that Renderosity Magazine looks for. Not only are their applications trendsetting and original, but the companies themselves and the people who run them are special as well. We want to bring to you, our readers, something unique and original in our coverage of computer graphics. The people I met with today are exactly that - original and forward thinking.

The day started off with a wonderful conversation with fellow journalist, Karen Moltenbrey from Computer Graphics World. We talked about the various trends in computer graphics and shared our experiences. We both shared the idea that Siggraph brings people together in ways that stimulate creative thinking. Partnerships are made, ideas are exchanged and everyone is charged with this mood of creativity and forward thinking. We both love it.

I'll be going into more detail on my meetings in separate articles in the future. Here are some quick notes on the companies and people I met today.

An excellent computer graphics training company (see quote above from Andy Rahden) that is innovative online learning. "Taking a good user and making them an expert" is their mantra. Some highlights of our talk included their push for VR and AR training. The Swords and Shovels project which I will cover in detail soon. They are also setting up their first Pluralsight Live event in September which will be a 3 day conference on training.

Black Magic Design
A fabulous meeting where we talked about the just released Fusion 9 (lower price, VR tools with a spherical camera and new planar tracking). We also discussed why Black Magic doesn't use a subscription model and the benefits to their users in this idea. There is a synergistic relationship between their cameras and their software that allows for customer feedback. I came away with the clear impression that passion for getting the best technology at a reasonable price is a big focus for their company.

Mettle is a new company to me. Skybox Suite, their main 360 video creation tool, was recently purchased by Adobe and will be part of the Creative Suite at the end of 2017. I had a great demo from Mike Dopsey, who took me through the workflow of ingesting 360-degree video and editing it in Premiere Pro CC. Fascinating technology from a company that I will certainly be following closely. Look for a review when the application is available.

Reallusion and iClone 7
I met with John Martin (an old friend) to discuss the recently released iClone 7. Also, I was introduced to a representative of Xsens (advanced motion-tracking) and Faceware (facial motion-capture) both of whom have partnered with Reallusion to bring their motion-capture technology, once only found in very high-end applications, to users of iClone. They explained to me that this is an effort to bring advanced technology to the indie market. A "democratization" of motion-capture, if you will. I was very impressed with the result and excited about the impact this will have on everyday media creators, which is the bread and butter of Reallusion's user base.

This company has revolutionized the world of materials in 3D. 95% of material creation is done using Substance, their innovative application. Alex Khouri, the VP at Allegorithmic schooled me in the importance of material creation. The company has the sweet spot in this domain. "Material creation is the most artistic part of 3D creation," he said. And I believe him. The new Substance Painter 2017.2 is out and looks to be their best version of this remarkable application yet.

Chaos Group
V-ray is probably the best ray-tracing renderer on the planet. In meeting with Colin and Dave, we discussed the idea that offline rendering is going to be a thing of the past at some point. It will be a combination of ray-tracing and real time rendering. For example, virtual reality production will get the best results from ray-traced rendering. Chaos group is at the center of this innovative technology. Their presentations on V-ray days at Siggraph are always mobbed because unlike some of the show-floor presentations theirs a good give and take and the discussions are always frank and open.

I always meet with Autodesk at Siggraph, but not for the obvious coverage of Maya and 3D Studio Max. We discussed the fact that Autodesk has been involved in VR technology for a very long time. Also, the company has a huge outreach to students who use the Autodesk applications for free. We also discussed how Maya LT is an inexpensive gateway to indie game design. I'll be bringing you more coverage of Autodesk's VR developments and especially their Stingray game engine.

This company is working hard to make VR creation easy and fun. In the demo I saw, it was like picking up pieces (they used the Vive headset) and animating them in real time. I liked the people at their booth and enjoyed learning about their unique approach to creating VR scenes and characters. Check out their video for Siggraph's Real-Time Live event.

Maxon and Cinema 4D
Interviewed Paul Babb, CEO of Maxon USA, with the help of my friend Ko Mariyama. Paul talked about the new features of Cinema 4D Release 19. The booth presentations were wonderful and unique. Paul told me about a presentation by a young woman who uses C4D to create stage illusions. He shared with me the fact that Maxon has a long term project to modernize their code base. You'll find that aspects of C4D R19 like the new Media Core and Modeling Core are examples of their innovation. Check the Cineversity "What's new in Cinema 4D R19" video for full details.

Red Shift Renderer
A new company to me, but one that is making waves in their approach to 3D rendering. I didn't get much time to chat, but I was impressed with the speed and quality of the renderer. It's all GPU based and looks wonderful. Plus, their business model allows you to use all of their plugins for one license fee. That means if you have Houdini or 3D Studio Max or Cinema 4D, you don't have to buy a plug in for each application. Plus, you can transfer your license to another computer as well. Very innovative and smart ideas. More info on this company soon.

The day was very long but rewarding. The exhibition hall seemed a bit smaller, but the enthusiasm in everyone I met was high. Of course, virtual reality was part of practically every conversation, but real-time rendering and physically based materials were also hot topics. I suspect the big break-through in virtual reality for the mass user will come when prices go down and the headset is less like a Fred Flintstone helmet.

I'll be working on a video of my Siggraph experience which will be posting soon. Also, we'll have individual coverage of all the companies mentioned here so we can share more detailed information. Be sure to check the Maxon site for their recorded presentations at the booth and look at the Siggraph FaceBook page for recordings that will post right after Siggraph is over. I am particularly interested in the keynote address which is a fire-side chat with the famed Floyd Norman which is available now for viewing at YouTube.

And be sure to follow the links for each company I met with to learn more about them. Big thanks to Ko Maruyama for wonderful conversation and help in video production.