The First Conference I Have Ever Attended – Experience at SIGGRAPH (Part 1)

HPC Support Member Jack Chen reviews his first conference, the SIGGRAPH, and offers an insight into large-scale projects.


Last week I attended the first conference in my life – SIGGRAPH (Special Interest Group on Computer Graphics and Interactive Techniques). It is THE conference for computer graphics (CG), a broad academic topic that includes special effects, 2D/3D animation, VR, computer vision, etc. I have always been interested in the field, and I also want to find a specific path of interest to start a research project. Luckily, it took place in Los Angeles again this year, so I took the Metrolink to Downtown and attended the conference!


It was such a great experience and exceeded my expectations for a conference. I like SIGGRAPH mostly for its richness in content. When I first took a glance at the schedule, I was overwhelmed by how many activities there were. For 5 days in a row, there were often 3 to 5 things happening at the same time. Below are two screenshots of the Sunday schedule. You can see they all took place starting at 9:00 am. Of course, I was only able to be at one place at a time, so I had to choose carefully which ones to attend.










I was totally blown away when I entered the LA convention center, and I was really impressed by this academic conference. They played super exciting music at the entrance, and it made me feel as if the center of the world was inside the convention center.






So what kinds of programs are included in the conference? In what ways is SIGGRAPH different from other academic events? Below is a picture of all the types of its activities. You can see some familiar ones like courses, a keynote, talks, technical papers, etc. But there are also some peculiar ones.


Real-Time Live was my favorite event throughout SIGGRAPH. Instead of presenting their research with slides, they showcased their technology in real time and on stage. The projects they chose were the most graphical and mind-blowing of all. For instance, a team developed a software called Gaugan that could transform the 6-year-old doodle to real-life image.

A huge area of the exhibition hall was devoted to VR. Each project was separated in a zone, and visitors would line up to give it a try. It was a bit surprising that they were using the same brand of VR headset as found at the In the Know Lab in Pomona, except some projects required the wireless ones.

VR Theater was a huge circular area enclosed by red curtains. There was a big circular screen on the wall, showing surreal star lights accompanied by music. Viewers wore a VR headset, sat in a circle, and engaged with five art pieces in a row.

Though I have tried a few VR short movies and games before, the projects at the VR Theater still expanded my understanding of storytelling in a visual format. However, I really wished there would have been some interaction between viewers. It seems that we still have a lot to explore in VR arts.



While at the conference, there were two projects which caught my attention:

For example, this cool project is an AR zombie-shooting game, developed by a Japanese team. You would wear an AR lens to see the zombies, and your back would shake a bit each time you fire or get hit. 


SIGGRAPH also offered hands-on workshops in its exhibition hall. They circled an area for around 30 computers. The sessions were mostly for companies to sell their software, by showing how easily you can do a cool-looking project with them.I partly followed a UE4 camera movement project, and a professor’s lecture about trouble shooting 3D printing. They were informative, for sure, but usually too long. I had too many activities to sit there for 2 hours.

All tickets came with an access to the computer animation festival. It took place in Microsoft Theater, which had 7,100 seats. On that day, the theater was full. This year, the festival had nominated works from both companies and students. They also had a huge diversity in styles, and were equally well-made. In the end, the audience were asked to vote their favorite on the mobile SIGGRAPH app. I was glad to find that the Chinese music video won the first place.

After the great show, the crowd was led to Xbox Plaza, and was fed some nice food and drink. I walked around and talked to people. Unfortunately, I was not bold enough to approach elderly-looking tech workers in the companies, so I confined my discussion with student volunteers and college researchers. It was a great view of the plaza, when it was filled with brilliant minds.

Not only was the artistic side of SIGGRAPH fantastic, but the academic side was also exciting as well. I will share my insight of the latter in the next blog.


By Jack Chen