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SIGGRAPH 2016: Computer Graphics Show Round-Up

At this year’s slightly smaller SIGGRAPH show in Anaheim, the focus continued to be on VR (virtual reality) this year, in addition to a new focus on real-time rendering, cloud and other interactive areas such as AR (augmented reality) and of course gaming.

This year SIGGRAPH 2016, the 43rd International Conference and Exhibition, was held in Anaheim, California; with the heart of Disneyland, one block away, frequented by families from all over the world and cherished for the power of joy, imagination and narrative and the visual arts, SIGGRAPH 2016’s location reflected the power of creativity and technical artistry. This year geeks descended on Anaheim with their Pokemon GO app and their desire to network, connect, and learn the tricks of the trade.

SIGGRAPH Attendees

SIG GRAPH 2016 had a smaller footprint with a lower number of attendees. What you have to remember is that the market in computer graphics and interactive technology has gone global so people are no longer centrally located in one place. SIGGRAPH this year was primarily focused on virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR) and the gaming market.

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Just one look at the success of Pokemon Go answers the question why. As an architect, there are more opportunities then ever for jobs in other vocations outside of traditional roles, something the readers of this publication may want want to bear in mind.

The layout of SIGGRAPH 2016 was different than in years past, with the Exhibition Hall on a smaller footprint, but this did not mean that you got less. Vendors had opted to rent rooms on the second floor, that was not officially a part of SIGGRAPH, but offered training, talks, and demonstrations.

Hotel Rooms Offer Competition to Show Floor

Side Effects Software, the developer’s of Houdini, did training on the second floor of the convention center all day on Tuesday, using two Mac laptops to do the training. It sort of gives you the understanding that despite a smaller Exhibit floor, the vendors found another way to reach their audience. The rooms added a level of privacy from distractions that were unavailable on the Exhibits floor.

Shotgun  being demoes on iMacs. Image Photo by Akiko Ashley.

01  – Shotgun being demoed on iMacs. Image Photo by Akiko Ashley for Architosh. All rights reserved.

It gave a wider variety of attendees access to these sessions as it did not require a full conference pass; Autodesk, Houdini, Walt Disney, Blue Sky, Dreamworks, The Foundry, Chaos Group and a few other companies had sessions on their schedule on the second floor.

Courses, Tech Papers and Birds of a Feather

This year the Courses section of SIGGRAPH was mostly focused on VR, AR, and real-time rendering. Technical Papers didn’t really have anything new to say. Birds of a Feather gatherings were numerous and a great way to network and talk about common subjects. Production Sessions were my favorite part of SIGGRAPH as I learned a lot about how the film production technology is changing.

MORE: Autodesk intros new LIVE visualization environment—viewer for iOS platform

Readers who are architects may be wondering how this relates to you. A lot of the movies that came out this summer had full CG (computer graphics) environments—including airports, cities, and fantasy worlds. Architects now have an option for work that many may not have thought about. Work in motion pictures, games, or in virtual reality is growing for those with design and technical skills.

Mac Pro and Looking for Apple’s Role Elsewhere

Even though I didn’t find a single Apple Mac Pro on the show floor, it does not mean Apple is out of the game in the broad computer graphics industry. It just means that you have to look at their hardware a lot differently. I saw Shotgun using a fleet of iMacs running Shotgun without a hiccup, because it was accelerated to run on Mac hardware so that it wasn’t necessary to use a Mac Pro.

One of Apple’s key technologies is still QuickTime, and no matter what anyone tells you, QuickTime is still the best way to view, create, or show a movie. Most of the presentations on the show floor were done on Mac laptops and the same can be said of the Production sessions. Take a look at my photo from the Pixar USD announcement (see, Architosh, “SIG: Pixar Animation Studios Open Sources Universal Scene Description,” 27 July 2016) and you will get the picture!

I must of easily counted over 50 Mac laptops. These people didn’t need a Mac Pro to get what they needed done. On a funny side note, SIGGRAPH was a hub for hundreds of Pokemon for Pokemon Go fans. My friend Dean must of caught 100 of these critters in 3 days, something you never thought you would mention about SIGGRAPH. Yes, change is inevitable. So now let me break down some of the news from SIGGRAPH 2016 and my experience at this year’s show.

Software & Hardware News

MAXON

Maxon demonstrated their new upgrade to Cinema 4D R18 with booth demoes and with presentations front and center on the Exhibits floor. Always a popular exhibitor at SIGGRAPH, Maxon’s latest has many exciting new features. Key new items in this release include:

  • Voronoi Fracturing – allowing users more control over how to break apart objects to create interesting particle effects.
  • Interactive Knife Tools – gives users an interactive display real time to see where they make their cuts then lock in the edges and make the cut.
  • Object Motion Tracking – Giving the user ability to track something in the real world while integrating 3D objects into the scene.

The latest release also includes Substance Engine integration from Allegorithmic. Cinema 4D is a popular visualization tool in certain industries, particularly the architectural industry in Europe in particular.

Maxon Cinema 4D Booth at SIGGRAPH 2016, image photo by Akiko Ashley.

02 – Maxon Cinema 4D Booth at SIGGRAPH 2016, image photo by Akiko Ashley for Architosh. All rights reserved.

To this point, the new features related to Shaders and Surface Effects offer advanced rendering possibilities for creating iridescent surfaces such as bubbles and oil slicks, for capturing shadows for more efficient compositing, parallax mapping for enhanced bump effects, and creating masks for worn edges using inverse ambient occlusion.

AMD

Radeon has rebranded their graphics (GPU) card line, and what a welcome change it was. AMD introduced the new Radeon Pro WX series of professional graphics cards. This was once known as the FirePro line. It is the FirePro line that powers the custom AMD GPUs in the new Mac Pro which Architosh has recently published critical and questioning pieces on. (see, Architosh, “If Jobs Failed Twice, Why Would Ive & Team Succeed? RIP new Mac Pro,” 17 June 2016)

MORE: The chip the new Mac Pro may have been waiting for is out and ready!

AMD showed a commitment to the high-end graphics professional by announcing they opened an office in Los Angeles to work with visual effects studios, production studios, and other clients to create graphics cards that can do what the company calls “Art of the Impossible”. The new Radeon WX series represent a revolutionary approach with a commitment to open, non-proprietary software with power-rich features. It is good to have competition in the graphics card space as it provides innovation and can keep prices more competitive. Among their new product line offerings are:

  • Radeon Pro WX 7100 GPU — is capable of handling demanding work flows of the most challenging tasks that include the entertainment industries animation and VFX pipeline as well as demanding engineering workflows.
  • Radeon Pro WX 5100 GPU — is the ideal for real-time content engines and immersive real-time design and manufacturing, including CAD and CAM.
  • Radeon Pro WX 4100 GPU — gives users great performance in half the height design for mid range applications and demanded by CAD professionals to small form factor workstations.

One wonders if the long over-due update to the Mac Pro has been waiting for these new workstation-class Radeon™Pros. It is interesting to note that like Apple, what AMD has done here is simply take the consumer brand or gamer brand (i.e.: Radeon) and add the word “Pro” to it; with Apple the MacBook has the MacBook Pro, with the iPad we now have the iPad Pro.

The new Radeon Pro family utilizes the latest advances in AMD’s fourth generation Graphics Core Next (GCN) architecture.

next page: Nvidia, Intel and Lightworks and more…

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