Trip Report
1998 ACM Computer Graphics Conference
Orlando, Florida
Commentary by:
Michael L. Davis.
Software Farm, Inc.
Software Federation, Inc.
My comments on my commentary [meta commentary] are enclosed in brackets [].
I attended the conference with Cornelia Stinchcomb (Neli).
	The conference took place in Orlando from Sunday, July 19 through Friday,
	July 24 at the Orange County convention center. The convention center was
	about 8 miles from our hotel (30 minutes by bus from hotel to the convention
	center, and about 15 minutes back). Why were we so far away? Two reasons:
	(1) the conference hotel was full by the time, end of May, when we received
	the advance program in the mail and (2) the map of the in advanced program
	indicated our hotel was only ~1 mile away. Our lesson, should we choose to
	remember it is: register really early and don't trust the maps in the
	advanced program.
	There were about 30,000 attendees. The male to female ratio was about 
	1.5 to 1, much better than previous years we have attended. We saw Chris
	Malley, a graphics programmer type friend from Boulder at the conference. 
	We did not attend the papers or panels or courses and arrived Monday 
	afternoon and left Friday afternoon.
	Why did we not attend (pay for) papers, panels and courses? Because they seem
	to be more and more focusing on rendering algorithms, and/or how to use
	graphics libraries (OpenGL, Java3D, etc.) and graphics creation applications.
	Well we don't implement rendering algorithms (anymore) and now rely on the 
	graphics libraries to do this and we can use the graphics library's API by 
	RTFM and whatever artistic talent we have is deeply buried in our inner child.
	What we look for is on how to 'apply' the technology. To various problems,
	peoples, hardware, domains, etc.
	The conference is: "International Conference on Computer Graphics and Interactive
	Techniques". Well, "Interactive Techniques" are just no longer present anymore
	and have apparently moved to the CHI, UIST and IEEE Visualization conferences. Jim
	Blinn, in his keynote, said the reason for the lack of papers on 'applications'
	is because none are submitted.
	Why did we go at all? The exhibition!
	It is hard to describe the exhibition to those who have never seen one. I
	have not been to Comdex or any of the other conferences that have large
	exhibitions so I do not know if they are also overwhelmingly cool. But I
	think SIGGRAPH must be unique in using the ultimate in cutting edge 
	technology to attract and impress the visual cortex. If it is not cool, 
	if it is not fast, then they don't bring it to show at SIGGRAPH.
	SGI was the most popular booth again this year, by far. How this translates
	to popularity in the marketplace is unclear. Animation tools seemed to be
	popular attractions [whether this is because they make for a better demo or
	because people are unhappy with their present tools or because there was a 
	bevy of new releases with desirable features is unknown].
	[Note to self: get more demos]. There were quite a few editors using
	data-flow visual languages. They are used for data visualization
	(, shaders (shadetree at, compositing
	(chalice at, and animation (Houdini at
	Some of these are kind of like representing an undo stack as a graph, 
	each node of which can have it's parameters adjusted in-place. 
	SGI had a large enclosed booth that one had to wait 0.5 - 1.0 hours to
	get in that had a large, wrap-around screen driven by an Onyx. 1/2 of
	the show was 2D, the other 3D. The 2D show zoomed and panned around on 
	a satellite photo of the Earth. It smoothly went from orbit-high to
	a pixel/meter. This could be useful for us house-hunters. Mark houses
	for rent in orange and for sale in blue...
	The 3D show was a clip from the Disney rides [needs better/finer texture 
	mapping IMHO] and a most impressive 3D tour of an art gallery.
	Jim Blinn (now at Microsoft). Note to self: the keynote starts 45 minutes
	after it's scheduled time - do NOT get up to see a 8:15am (eastern time!)
	talk that starts at 9:00am.
	Jim Blinn gave a personal history of the 25 SIGGRAPHS, each of which he 
	seems to have attended. Interesting but hardly inspiring. 
	One of the funniest moments was when he showed a graph that showed the
	length of SIGGRAPH badges over the years. As I remember it, they peaked
	in 1994 with a average badge length of 10 or so ribbons.
	He also noted that papers are very different from what they used to be:
	* Paper presentations are now advertisements for the paper
	* Paper presentations now require a movie, slides, a www address,...
	Jim Blinn's Predictions about the Future
	1. Synthetic actors indistinguishable from real actors
	2. Advancements in display screen technology (flat screens, ..)
	3. Sprite based displays (i.e. display list processing done in hardware)
	4. Videos in layered format
	5. Holographic projections
	6. Replace Hollywood (with virtual scenes)
	7. A purely virtual SIGGRAPH (2003)
	8. If it is not on the WWW it will be forgotten
	A couple of comments by Mr. Blinn leads me to believe that a number
	of folks in the graphics community (many now at MS) are mathematical
	purists: accuracy [in representing physical reality] at all costs. This
	is in opposition to the game programmers who are sensation purists:
	good look and feel at all costs. Now why does this remind me of the
	old days of the mainframe programmers vrs. micro-computer programmers...
	This should all be on Jim Blinn's web site at Microsoft which should be 
	linked to from the SIGGRAPH web site... but we all know that too
	many 'should's cancel each other out...
Electronic Theatre:
	The electronic theatre has become somehow disappointing, without the
	flash and cutting edge feel to it that it once had. There were clips
	from 5 movies (Titanic, Starship Troopers, Flubber, Antz, Small 
	Soldiers), 5+ commercials, 9 nightmares, and 7 demonstrations of 
	commercial technologies (facial expressions, underwater sunbeams
	[good!], natural light, motion capture, virtual landscapes, digital 
	tablet desktops) out of a total of 46. 
	Maybe the nature of the electronic theatre needs to change, completely
	leaving behind the 'cutting edge rendering technique skits' forever.
	After all, the skits demonstrating fog, or water, or fire just a very
	few years ago are now rendered in real-time in Doom's descendants and
	a common tool in shrink-wrapped $100 animation tools. So my vote
	would be to omit the movie clips, the advertisements for commercial
	technologies, the adolescent-male nightmares and focus on entertainment
	(skits or commercials) and education/visualizations (skits or 
	demonstrations of working tools).
	* The best skit by far was "Geri's Game" done by Pixar Animation Studios.
	The characterization, the humor (overt and wry), the expressions of
	Geri, were all world class. Also worthy of special mention are:
	* A Perrier commercial: people in the many pictures on the walls of a
	1950's diner come alive.
	* Homage to Hilbert: a very good, very graphical exploration of the 3D(!)
	hilbert curve.
	* Visual Bill Highlights: The president at his funniest.
	* The Optiverse: Turning spheres inside out.
	* Dolly a la Plage: Very realistic synthetic girl playing on the beach.
	* The Making of Sid and the Penguins: Very funny and cool penguins dancing
	to the beat.
	* Bug: A very strong political statement about the treatment of people as
	if they were bugs (targeted at China).
	Los Angeles -
	New Orleans