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Immersed in Movies: Previewing Art and Science at SIGGRAPH, with Muren, Letteri, Trumbull, Landau, Deakins

Photo of Bill Desowitz By Bill Desowitz | Thompson on Hollywood July 26, 2012 at 12:27PM

The prestigious computer graphics conference SIGGRAPH has always been about the convergence of art and science. It's a place to showcase the latest and greatest advancements driving the industry's blockbuster work in VFX and animation. This year, the 39th edition returns to the LA Convention Center (Aug. 5-9).
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Paperman
Paperman

The prestigious computer graphics conference SIGGRAPH has always been about the convergence of art and science. It's a place to showcase the latest and greatest advancements driving the industry's blockbuster work in VFX and animation. This year, the 39th edition returns to the LA Convention Center (Aug. 5-9), proudly proclaiming: "I AM ART" and "I AM SCIENCE."

Indeed, you can learn how Pixomondo assembled the VFX for last year's Oscar winner, "Hugo," as well as how ILM and Weta created "The Avengers," how ILM handled "Battleship," how Sony Pictures Imageworks tackled "The Amazing Spider-Man" and "Men in Black 3," and how Double Negative conjured "Snow White and the Huntsman."

Plus, you can get an inside glimpse inside Pixar's "Brave," Laika's stop-motion "ParaNorman," Sony's "Hotel Transylvania," and Disney's groundbreaking hybrid short, "Paperman." In addition, Weta's four-time Oscar winner Joe Letteri divulges the art and science that goes into its wide ranging virtual production; ILM's Dennis Muren, Doug Trumbull, and Lightstorm's Jon Landau explore the hot topic of high frame rates that's impacting art and technology; and DreamWorks Animation delves into the role of the VFX supervisor on the upcoming "Rise of the Guardians" and "The Croods."

You can also enjoy a Q&A with cinematographer Roger Deakins ("Skyfall") about his storytelling philosophy for both live action and animation and his preference for shooting digitally; a discussion by DreamWorks Animation and Blue Sky Studios about cloud simulation in "Puss in Boots" and "Ice Age: Continental Drift."

Rebecca Strzelec

This year's closer emphasis on art and science reflects the influence of conference chair Rebecca Strzelec, an associate professor of visual arts from Penn State Altoona:

"The theme of this year's SIGGRAPH is a mirror reflecting back on the people that make SIGGRAPH the vibrant thriving community that it is," she explains in the site's blog. "I really wanted to have art as part of the theme somehow, but SIGGRAPH is so many things it really isn't right to choose one."

Between the groundbreaking art and art papers and the creative Studio venue, showcasing new tools and processes, SIGGRAPH remains relevant to the world of art. Meanwhile, on the scientific side (chaired by Hanspeter Pfister of Harvard), the conference will tout the latest in 3D fabrication and light field displays along with rendering, surface modeling, fluid simulation and character animation.

A couple of new wrinkles this year include the introduction of advancements in mobile graphics and the return of the popular Business Symposium, which offers successful business models at Pixar, Digital Domain, Rhythm & Hues (which celebrates 25 years with an anniversary showcase), Method Studios, Look Effects, Microsoft Studios, New Deal Studios.

Another popular SIGGRAPH showcase is the Computer Animation Festival, which will screen nearly 100 films. Last year's Best in Show winner, "The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore," wound up taking the Oscar for best animated short. This year's winner is "Réflexion," an inventive look at how women stress over their looks, directed by Yoshimichi Tamura from France's PlanKtoon.

But I have a hunch that John Kahrs' "Paperman" will be the talk of SIGGRAPH 2012, with its gentle black-and-white tale of love at first sight and new technique for reintroducing hand-drawn animation.

SIGGRAPH 2012: Computer Animation Trailer:

This article is related to: Immersed In Movies, Guest Blogger, Animation, VFX, Interviews, Features


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Thompson on Hollywood

Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.