Siggraph 2012 Retrospective Part 2
 August 29, 2012

Siggraph 2012 Retrospective Part 2

Iki Ikram, Visual Effects Artist, and Doug Holder, Visual Effects Artist, share their experiences at Siggraph 2012 and Real-Time Live.

My take on Siggraph - Iki Ikram (@Iki_Ikram) - (Photos by Iki)

Have our minds blown by some of the world’s brightest in the field of technologyDoug and I walked into Siggraph on the Wednesday, prepared to have our minds blown by some of the world’s brightest in the field of technology. Siggraph in the past has been a very large and impressive show, held in large convention centres. This year it was at the LA Convention Centre, but it felt smaller and a bit less impressive than previous years. We also had another reason for being at Siggraph on this day; we were presenting a talk as part of the Real-TimeLive show. Real-Time Live is a platform for ten different companies or individuals to showcase their work for eight minutes. That’s right, you only have eight minutes to get across whatever you need to say. We were showcasing our work on the fire effects in Uncharted 3: Drakes Deception. We had rehearsed it over and over again at Naughty Dog studios, so we pretty much had it down.

Siggraph is split into 4 themes (these are my own classifications and are somewhat simplified):






This is more like a show and tell, where individuals, studios, and companies will show off their latest products and techniques. This is arguably the main focus of Siggraph and many important papers have been released here, some of which have gone on to become the basis of ideas and techniques used in the various fields. This is a podium for an individual, studio, or company to show what they have to an audience who is well educated, learned and interested.

We attended a couple of these talks, of which, one was really interesting and delivered brilliantly. The talk was by John Edwards from ThatGameCompany and it was about how they created the sand landscape in their game Journey. It was informative, interesting, funny, and it felt honest and open.

It was informative, interesting, funny, and it felt honest and open.Since Doug and I had our own talk to present, we saw things from multiple perspectives.

There is a lot that goes into doing a presentation at Siggraph. It’s not a case of bring your laptop, plug it in, and off you go. There is an entire day of setting up and doing dry runs to make sure that the sound and visuals work and whether your presentation is within the time allocated. A few of the presentations went over the time limit by about double the time on rehearsal day and also on the day of their presentation. There didn’t seem to be any kind of penalty which made us feel like we should’ve gone over the time too! Like true professionals though, Doug and I completed our talk in only eight minutes!

On the day we are fitted with a wireless mic and sat in line to take to the stage. As we waited, the hall filled up with around 2,000 people, eager and ready to see what we all have to show. Our time arrived and we took to the stage. As rehearsed, our talk went swimmingly. It’s a very daunting task to stand in front of so many people and talk eloquently about what you have worked on and why they should care about it. In the end, we figured, we’d just go up there give our talk and hope that people are entertained and educated about what we do. I think we did ok!


Doug's Take (@dougvfx):

This was my first Siggraph and I honestly didn't really know what to expect. It's only fitting that I would jump into the deep end and agree to present with Iki in the Real-Time Live presentation. I say it's only fitting because I tend to agree to do things without really knowing the full scale of what I've gotten myself into until I'm face to face with the task itself. Iki and I prepared for a couple of weeks on something that was only approximately eight minutes long. When we arrived on the Saturday before the venue opened to test our hardware and audio, I was intimidated by the sheer number of chairs in the audience. I think it was close to something like 2,000. We met some very cool people whom were presenting with us. One in particular, Martin Mittring fromPrepared for a couple of weeks on something that was only approximately eight minutes longEpic Games, who was presenting the elemental hero demo for Unreal 4, was very kind and seemed very relaxed. He spoke with us about random tech and fielded some questions from us regarding their particle lighting, butI won’t bore you with the details.

Once the day came for us to present, I remember not being able to sleep very well and imagining all of the horrible things that could go wrong in just eight minutes. Sometimes, in my mind, I would just lose the ability to speak altogether at which point I would probably have to be taken off the stage with some type of crane. Thing are always blown out of proportion in my imagination land. Right before we went on stage my hands got really clammy, but I felt pretty good about what we were presenting. Iki seemed a lot calmer than I did, or at least he was hiding it really well. Overall, it went well without any big issues. I did make a mistake when wrapping up the presentation. I was trying to say “We are very lucky to have such a talented team of artists at Naughty Dog...” But instead I began to say “We are very lucky to be so talented...” I caught myself and corrected it mid-sentence but my ears got really hot. I don’t even think I'm capable of such hubris. I only had time to see a couple of talks but I really enjoyed the experience.



This area of Siggraph is dedicated to showcasing new technologies and art. Here you will get to see 3D tvs without the need for glasses, projection mapping systems used in fun ways, art created using some form of technology etc. It is usually an interesting area of Siggraph but this year it lacked the usual pizazz. I had seen a lot of the stuff on display at previous Siggraph conferences, so it was a little disappointing!


There is an entire hall dedicated to companies and studios selling products. Be it 3D printers, Graphic Cards, Displays, Software or Employment. Yes you can find it all here and the big pull is the Job Fair. Here you can apply for a job at Lucasfilm or Naughty Dog and get immediate feedback on it!


It was a bizarre tale of a woman visiting the butcherThe theatre showcases short films and company showreels. There is a panel of judges that votes on the films on display and awards are handed out at the end for best in showamong other categories. These films are handpicked by Siggraph and they range from excellent to bizarre! Just to give you an idea, this year they showcased the excellent Paperman from Disney, a romantic short about an office worker who attempts to get the attention of a woman by making handmade paper planes. Weird but great nonetheless!

Then there was Rosette by some French students. It was a bizarre tale of a woman visiting the butcher and having a nightmare about being the meat for the butcher in some kind of strange kinky dream! We were left a little shocked and confused after this little gem!