SIGGRAPH Chapter Meeting
Special Interest Group on Computer Graphics -
I had really enjoyed the last couple of meetings of SIGRAPH, a good friend is the chairman of the chapter, and he is also a Computer Science Lead at Kennedy Space Center. He manages the dozens of high speed, high resolution cameras that capture shuttle launches from every angle and helps analyze visual data at the Cape.
So he has a special treat for visiting Graphics Professionals that keynote at our meetings. They all get a behind the scenes tour of the Space Center. And we get a special treat of hearing from some pretty big names in the motion picture industry. And the some of the meetings are held at a very nice location at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor's center.
Last year we heard from John Knoll, one of the original developers of Photoshop and currently at Lucas Films as a special effects director. He began his presentation with a video of an Apollo launch that was nothing short of phenomenal. Lots of detail, spectacular camera angles, nothing short of amazing...
Suddenly, I realized, according to the time frame of this historical event, this was all wrong. High definition video was not being shot... as the lunar landing module began it's descent to the moon's surface- THERE WERE NO CAMERAS shooting from all these strange angles!!!
Yep, the boy who was the son of an early space engineer, born beneath the shadow of rockets, had been duped!
Turns out that all of the footage was CGI (computer generated images). With a chapter straight out of the book When Geeks Play, Knoll explained that he was often frustrated with the lack of adherence to the laws of physics when creating films for Industrial Light and Magic. So his spare-time hobby was to use all accessible the historical telemetry, images, video, and other anecdotal information to create a high definition 3d rendered model of the remarkable event. From the mangrove trees surrounding the Merritt Island Wildlife refuge to the view of earth from space to the rocky terrain on the lunar landscape, it was all accurate to the available information and true to the history of the mission. Pretty amazing...
Another meeting last year gave us a chance to hear from Pixar's Rob Cook, Vice President of Research and Development. Cook's preso was quite interesting as well as it featured the creative process from idea conception to release using Finding Nemo as the example project. As a computer applications and video productions educator, this was a valuable example of developing an involved project.
Quite honestly, the most recent Focus on Technology was not quite as interesting as the previous ones I have attended. The first speaker was Florian Kainz, Computer Graphics Principal Engineer- Industrial Light & Magic who spoke about a wide spectrum graphics file format that he helped develop. This did provoke some consideration of the enormous amount of process that is done with captured images in the movie industry. Having as much raw information as possible to work with after the shoot was the key, but it did seem to go beyond most of the folks cared to know about the subject as he discussed the file format's details for over a forty minutes. The decision to make that file format open source was one of the memorable parts of the presentation.
Following Kainz, Kevin Tureski, Director of Engineering, Maya Alias Systems gave us a history of his company and the software development cycle of it's flagship product Maya (one of the premier 3d modeling programs used by the entertainment industry. Again this was quite interesting, but not quite as applicable to my career as an Educational Technologist.
In summary, I would certainly encourage my readers to look into the local chapter of user groups - they are great sources of inspiration and resources.