CyberEdge Journal

Thursday, August 12, 2004

SIGGRAPH 2004 - Day 4

SIGGRAPH, Wednesday, night four, Los Angeles – Today I completed my tour of the exhibit floor, and didn’t find much more that was really interesting. SIGGRAPH has continued to be a show of evolutionary progress. Yes, the graphics boards are blazingly fast. Yes, the trackers are better and less expensive. Yes, the computers are better and less expensive. But where in past years we would find amazing progress from year to year, now, and for the past few years, we see only incremental change. A good thing, yes, but not particularly exciting, and not much to write home about.

But don’t give up hope. I did see a very interesting program that adds AI to motion or keyframe data to make much more realistic motion than either type of data alone.

The program, from Natural Motion, is called endorphin. (Brief rant: Why do marketing directors think it is cool to use lower-case letter for product names? It sure makes it hard to write about them. Oh well.) Endorphin accepts mocap or keyframe information, and allow you to add smart behaviors to it on a timeline, something like video editing. For example, instead of a pushed figure just falling over, it may stagger, throw out its arms to break the fall, or curl up into a fetal position. Or it may do all three. And if the direction of the motive force changes, the behaviors change appropriately. The package also enables multiple characters to interact, demonstrated as a football tackle that was extremely believable. This system creates extremely natural-looking actions, and seems to be quite easy to use. I compared Endorphin to some other systems, and it seemed to deliver much better looking actions.

Finally, tonight I attended the Electronic Theater, where SIGGRAPH presents what it considers the very best animation of the previous year. This year’s program was the strongest in a long time, and included three good scientific examples, which I think are very important, and in recent years pretty much ignored.

I also enjoyed a short piece called Rock the World, which showed George W. Bush, Colin Powell, and other members of the current US administration playing rock music. It was very tongue in cheek, and very funny.

Finally, Chris Landreth showed his latest work, the much-anticipated Ryan. This piece tells the tragic story of Ryan Larkin, a pioneering animator who fell into the abyss of drug addiction, and now survives by panhandling on the streets of Montreal. Landreth interviewed Larkin at length, and made a sort of animated documentary about the guy. The animation has the classic Landreth magic, and this story is very moving. Frankly, I think this is one of the best films of any sort I have seen in a long time, and I’ll stick my neck out and predict it will garner an Academy Award. I think Landreth has fortified his position as one of the most inventive and evocative story tellers alive, in any medium. If you get a chance, see Ryan. And if you get a chance, go back and see The End and Bingo, two of Landreth’s earlier works that are the foundation for the incredible surrealistic style and methods he employs in Ryan. This is great work.

Tomorrow is the last day for SIGGRAPH, and I will report on it only if I see something new or exciting. I hope you have found these reports valuable. I welcome your comments and suggestions. Be well.


Post a Comment

<< Home