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siggraph 2017

Disclaimer: This is my personal account of the conference. Siggraph did not sponsor me to write this post.

I had the opportunity to attend the Siggraph conference this year as a student volunteer.


The entire experience was wonderful and I am very grateful to have the opportunity to have attended the conference.

I initially found out about the conference from reading a blog about it. Then, I researched more into the conference and found out that they accepted student volunteers. I applied immediately in February of this year and was notified of my acceptance in April.

Shoutout to Howard for writing my recommendation letter.

Experience Hall

The Experience Hall was the place where one could see exhibits and booths from different companies, research groups, and more. The three main parts of the Experience Hall were Emerging Technologies, The Studio, and VR Village.

I will say that I noticed that the conference focused a lot on haptic sensations this year. VR is definitely trying to add more stimulation of other senses to add to VR environments.

Emerging Technologies

If I had to choose my favorite part of the Experience Hall, I would choose Emerging Technologies. This part of the conference had booths that allowed different research groups to display their projects.

Some of the most notable ones included Metalimbs, where people could control robotic limbs with their feet, essentially giving them four hands. Another one connected muscles from one person to another using electric shocks. This would be used to allow doctors to help control the muscles in someone who is undergoing physical therapy. Another one used sound waves to simulate touch.

The Studio

This was the station that I volunteered at for the majority of the conference. It was a place that allowed conference attendees to create something. This included printing their own designs drawn on a Wacom tablet onto a T-shirt, making extensions out of crafting products for the Siggraph mascot Pixel, and using heat printing to print out a bionic pattern onto a sleeve.

Other parts of The Studio included using magnets to cut patterns into other magnets, 3D printing, rapid prototyping by bending plastic, and more.

VR Village

VR Village was the place where people could show off their applications of VR environments with headset. This included a VR dance party, where participants could wear VR headsets and see others that wore them and dance together. Strata was a biometric experience that measured heart rate and other body indicators to help a participant meditate. Another group let you use a phone to view a 3D modeled image on a postcard.

Production Sessions and Talks

Production Sessions

Due to my busy schedule of volunteering, I didn’t get to sit in on Production Sessions, which are sessions where producers of movies talk about their process of creation. The main ones featured this year were Moana, Rogue One, Beauty and the Beast, and Cars 3.


I was luckily able to sit in on some talks.

I sat in on the Moana Talk, a big hit at Siggraph this year. The talk I sat in on was the one describing the new method to model the waves in Moana, which had never been done before. They talked about the method Affine Particle in Cell and the use of distributed computing to render waves in the movie. They also compared this new method to previous methods to show how it gives a much more realistic wave.

The researchers and engineers involved in this talk also talked about the character wave in the movie and the need to stick to physical restraints of water while also breaking them to give the wave its own character. I thought that this was really interesting to see their thought process in what physical rules they should follow and which ones to break.

I also sat in on a Disney talk about career paths in the computer graphics industry. It was interesting to see the career paths of engineers in this industry.

Most software engineers in the computer graphics industry choose between being a technical director or a software engineer. The technical directors work on “putting out fires” as most people have said. They work to build specific tools for artists and assist them in emergencies. Software engineers in this field world on long term projects, such as building pipelines that can be applied to all productions of films and are much more efficient.

Computer Animation Festival

Easily my favorite part of the conference. It was a festival of showing short films from around the world. Pixar also debuted their short “Lou” during this time.

It was wonderful to see creativity from around the world and from different fields. There were films that used computer graphics as an aid and films that only used computer graphics. It was great to see both artists and engineers come together to create such technical and emotional films.


Volunteering was exhausting. I volunteered around 25 hours within 5 days. Most days consisted of getting to the convention center at 9 a.m. and leaving around 10 p.m. either due to shifts or going to events.

Although it was exhausting, it was really great to go to the conference and be able to be exposed to this field.

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