Siggraph 2019 in Los Angeles was outstanding. I met with computer graphics companies like Maxon, Autodesk and Epic Games. I attended panels and demonstrations and visited many booths in the Exhibition Hall. And while I enjoy all of these activities, the real pleasure comes in the people you meet and the conversations you have.
Towards the end of this year’s Siggraph, another journalist asked me, “How was your Siggraph experience?”. I told her that every Siggraph is great because where else can you spend several days with thousands of people who have the same interests as you? Siggraph inspires because you meet so many inspiring and passionate people. Sure there is all kinds of fascinating computer graphics tech on display, but it’s the people who invented the tech or who are sharing it with you that really make the difference.
My thanks to all of those who shared their knowledge and enthusiasm with me at the conference.
Major Siggraph News and Announcements
Siggraph 2019 was unique in that there were more updates and news than usual. While I can’t cover them all (we’ll be posting a lot of the news over the next week in more detail) I want to share a few of the highlights that I think are most important.
At the Autodesk Press dinner, they announced Bifrost for Maya. Bifrost is a new visual programming environment where you can create your own effects like dust storms, fire, snow, and sand. The power of Bifrost was obvious in the demo I saw. Autodesk also announced a new Indie license for Maya and 3DS Max for $250 although there are some caveats. Be sure to follow the link above for more specific info.
The final alpha version of Blender 2.8 was released at Siggraph and the reaction was very positive. Blender is slowly turning itself into a more professional application with GUI redesigns and a modern 3D viewport. There are new tools and gizmos along with 2D animation suite (Grease Pencil). Moreover, Blender is becoming a tool in many professional graphics studios because of its freely available code and support. Visit Blender.org for all of the news.
Maxon and Cinema 4D R21
Probably the biggest announcement at Siggraph 2019 was from Maxon. New CEO Dave McGavrin announced huge changes to the way that Cinema 4D will be purchased, sold and distributed. First, Cinema 4D will move to a subscription service (perpetual license still available). They will also distribute only one version of Cinema 4D instead of multiple versions. Maxon will also set up a world-wide online purchase section at their website. Dave also announced several updates to Cinema 4D R21 of which the “field force and dynamics” is a favorite. I really like their new motto, too: “3D for the Whole World”.
Reallusion and Unreal
Reallusion is a company I’ve been following for over a decade. Their growth in the last several years has been phenomenal. At Siggraph 2019, they announced Headshot AI, Unreal Live Link, and a new Digital Human Shader. I demoed all three of these new technologies and they are amazing. Headshot AI is an algorithm that can match a photo of a face to the head of a 3D model. Unreal Live Link is a fusion of Reallusion’s iClone with the Unreal game engine. No fbx export, iClone format is native to Unreal now. You can create and control lights, cameras, and characters. And finally, the Digital Human Shader is optimized with SSS and Micro Normal (skin, teeth, eyes hair), and is automatically applied and assigned in Unreal. The results are spectacular. Full details here: https://bit.ly/2KeI7Mj
I truly enjoyed my visit to the AMD booth. They really know how to treat their press people. I not only had a great dialogue with staff but had several demos with people who you could see truly cared about what they were doing. AMD decided to emphasize the software side of their company this year. I learned a great deal about AMD’s free physically-based Pro Render system which uses open standards. Anyone can download the SDK and get started. I was delighted to see that AMD announced Pro Render plug-ins for Blender, Modo and Cinema 4D. The Pro Render system also has a nice connection to Unreal when using VR and AR. Go to this link to find out more: https://bit.ly/2ODBCH7
The three main trends I saw at Siggraph 2019 were, one; an increasing effort to refine ray-traced rendering, two; virtual reality pre-production for Hollywood film, and, three; the spectacular growth of the two-game engines Unity and Unreal and their impact on VR and mixed-reality. I’d also like to mention the that Open Source movement is finally getting mainstream acceptance because big studios are realizing that they have to work together in the digital world.
These are only a few of what I consider to be the highlights of Siggraph 2019. I haven’t even gone into the fantastic NVIDIA booth or Chaos Group’s release of V-ray for Houdini and updates to Substance Designer announced at their user group meeting. And I thoroughly enjoyed meeting the CEO of Renderosity, Tim Choate, who graciously invited me to participate in a Poser development discussion. Thank you for that, Tim.
Next year’s Siggraph 2020 will be at Washington D.C. Given it will be election season, the event promises to be quite spectacular.