It's time for SIGGRAPH 2021, the world's largest conference on computer graphics and animation.
I'm attending the conference for most of next week, so it's unlikely I'll have time or energy for anything else...
I've been fortunate to attend SIGGRAPH a few times over the years thanks to my employer. I feel privileged and thankful for this, because it isn't cheap to fly across the Atlantic and stay at a hotel for a week in North America, in addition to the usual registration fees. While I find airports and the physical traveling quite stressful, overall it's always been a super interesting and fun trip, in no small part thanks to my colleagues who have also been attending.
SIGGRAPH is special due its many ties to the film and videogame industries. There are people from film studios discussing their latest VFX techniques. The Star Wars and MCU magic gives the conference that extra bit of excitement. Also, rendering engine experts from companies like Unity, Epic, and NVIDIA are there to talk about the latest advancements. Hearing about the technology and rendering tricks from the gurus themselves is invaluable.
The conference has certainly helped me explore and learn many new things about graphics. I've even managed to network a little with people, despite being abysmally bad at it, and also really disliking the entire concept of networking. Which is of course in conflict with the notion of attending a conference, where people gather in the thousands to share and discuss their research, ideas and art, see cool prototypes, and celebrate achievements. For me it's less about discussions and more about just taking in the state-of-the-art research and all the cool presentations.
This year the conference is being held virtually, and in some ways it makes things easier: there's more on-demand content so one has to do less time zone gymnastics and suffer from jetlag. The conference is less tightly bound to a single calendar week, giving even more flexibility to go through the materials. But there is a certain charm to being physically at a large conference center with thousands of other people, enjoying the show. Hearing the official soundtrack pumped through large speakers in the yard outside. Gathering for lunch in the food court, and usually ending up eating yummy trash like fries and chicken fingers. Just walking around the vast halls filled with company booths exhibiting their products, wearing the SIGGRAPH badge, maybe stopping to ask some quick questions if something looks interesting. Having that comforting feeling of belonging to a group of like-minded peers who share a passion.
This time it'll be lots of sitting alone in a small room at home, which is frankly not at all different from how things have generally been going since COVID-19 started. It will be interesting to see how much of the conference experience can be replicated online.
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