SIGGRAPH 2014: Conference Recap

From a 3D perspective, last week at SIGGRAPH 2014 proved to be a very exciting time for software companies like The Foundry, Autodesk, MAXON, and many others. Software upgrades for VFX, 3D graphics, and game design were among the most notable announcements at the conference. Digital-Tutors traveled to Vancouver so that we could bring you the latest info and professional tips from industry leaders. We sought out software reps for exclusive interviews so that you can hear it from the source. With the conference now at an end, here's a recap of the week's top 3D/VFX stories that we covered. The SIGGRAPH recap is organized by subject rather than day, and a full article link is provided. Interviews are at the end of the article. 3D Rendering

Fractal Rendering

  • On Sunday, we heard a fascinating presentation from Alex Kim and Daniel Ferreira of Industrial Light and Magic about their innovative approach to fractal rendering on the movie Lucy. While not often used within VFX work due to its need for calculating power and memory space, fractal rendering was used on Lucy to generate space travel scenes and infinite zoom effects. To avoid these pitfalls, Kim and Ferreira used low video data banks in Houdini to determine their camera movement. Next, they generated a higher res VDB for simulation integration. Finally, they used 3ds Max and Krakatoa to transform the result into images like nebulous, outer space, figures and space travel. The unique approach vastly cut down on the rendering time, complexity and memory requirements for the film’s VFX work. Read the full article...

KeyShot and ZBrush

  • Thomas Teger, VP of Products and Strategy at Luxion talked to us Thursday about the company’s popular renderer, KeyShot. Among the announcements Luxion made at SIGGRAPH this week, the most important for KeyShot users was the ZBrush integration. According to Teger, KeyShot is now the official render engine for Pixologic’s digital sculpting program. The Luxion rep went on to taut the instant feedback and speed that will be available for ZBrush users with the integrated renderer. “You can truly have rendering as an integrated part of your concept development rather than having to push it off until the very end of your product development process.” Check out the full video interview


  • A SIGGRAPH session Sunday entitled “Got Crowds?” had its own as 3D artists and animators discussed a variety of topics on generating crowd dynamics. The presentations ranged from a famous fight sequence in 47 Ronin to new innovations in CG crowd control showcased in Edge of Tomorrow. In addition, there was a fascinating demonstration of motion capture technology that uses the Kinect.

The Tengu Monk Fight Sequence

  • The Framestore’s FX director, Andy Hayes, discussed the Tengu Monk fight sequence in the film 47 Ronin, which was one of the most visually complex sequences within the film. The sequence attempts to portray a battle in which Tengu Monks move so quickly that they leave a cloud-like trail of time. The sequence’s conception was inspired by Italian painter Umberto Boccioni whose style (a dynamism of form and deconstruction of solid masses) help inspire the artistic vision of the monks’ movements. Initially, Hayes and company took several photos of an actual monk jumping and blended them together. Out of this came a concept painting that rendered the artistic look the team was going for. Read full article

CrAM: Artist-Friendly Crowds on Edge of Tomorrow

  • John Hood of Sony Pictures introduced the company’s in-house Crowd Asset Manager (CrAM). The software was used by Sony for the first time in Hotel Transylvania. The software’s developers wanted animators to be able to design and re-use animations with minimal effort. CrAM requires no custom rigs nor is  its AI limited to any terrain. It is an in-Maya tool built by Sony and contains a “Sketch Plane Tool” that is similar to Maya’s paint geometry tool, allowing you to draw curves, spawn characters, and randomize rotation and timing offsets.

Kinect MoCap

  • Presenters from USC Institute for Creative Technologies, Miximo, Inc. and Vancouver Institute of Media Arts gave in-depth presentations for new technologies in motion capture that will reduce the cost and ultimately speed up the process for game developers. Through the use of in-home motion capture hardware like Microsoft’s Kinect they’re able to create 3D models that are automatically rigged and skinned as well as use the Kinect for markerless facial motion capture for high quality facial animation for video game productions. Read the full article

3d animation

DreamWorks’ Premo 3D Software

  • At SIGGRAPH 2014’s “Capture and Display” Session yesterday, Fredrik Nilsson, Workflow Director for Animation and Crowds, and Matt Gong, Tech Lead on “Premo”, showcased DreamWorks’ new in-house animation software. Premo was the result of decades of development that began in the 80’s. In Premo animators and artists spend less time in the curve view. This is because they can directly manipulate multiple characters on screen without rendering, previewing, and waiting. Animation adjustments don’t require movement, wait, adjustment, and wait some more. Instead, Premo makes the process resemble traditional animation. Read the full article

Maya Extensions

  • At Autodesk’s Press Breakfast , the company announced two extensions for their major software 3ds Max and Maya. The Maya extension is focused on productivity and include a performance profiler that allows you to run graphs to provide information for debugging and trouble shooting where Maya encounters problems. Another big announcement is that Maya now has a new color management system that is consistent across the pipeline from compositing to 3D. For 3ds Max, there have been some expansions into creative workflows and visual FX tools that include open subdiv surfaces, Alembic, and an enhanced shader FX. All of these extensions are free for current subscribers to Maya or 3ds Max.

New CINEMA 4D Features

  • Illustrator and Animator Patrick Goski gave us a glimpse into the new features users can expect in CINEMA 4D R16. Here are some of the features he showcased.
  • With the bevel deformer you get a bevel on each edge of your polygon object.  You can also select just the edges that you want to bevel, and it creates the bevel without actually being destructive to the geometry by maintaining editability even after the bevel has been applied.
  • There have been huge improvements to the COGwheel Spline tool. Previous, the tool allowed you to create basic gear shapes quickly; however, with these updates the COGwheel has gotten many more preset parameters with different tooth shapes and types, as well as new inlay and center hole parameters. With these new tools you’re able to create just about any gear you can think of, as well as any other fancy mesh shape in a matter of minutes.
  • The UV Peeler is a brand new tool in CINEMA 4D R16 that allows you to quickly peel apart the UVs on a cylindrical object. You can simply select an edge that you want as the seam and enable the UV Peeler. The UV coordinates will then be created based on the mesh flow. You can also store the resulting UVs on a single or multiple UV tiles.
  • The Polygon Pen tool replaces the Create Polygon Tool in previous versions. The Polygon Pen’s purpose is for retopologizing a model. You can quickly drop in strips of geometry that will snap directly to the surface of the model that you want to retopologize. Read the full article or check out our exclusive interview with Paul Babb discussing the new CINEMA 4D features.

ProductionShotgun’s New iPhone Review App

  • Shotgun, specialists in pipeline management software announced that it now has a mobile app available for iPhone only. Shotgun has also introduced Shotgun Desktop, a native application framework that sits on the artists’ desktop and provides quick access to key pipeline tools directly from the menu bar. Also, Shotgun can now be directly integrated with MARI. Also check out our exclusive interview with Shotgun rep, Matt Welker


Game DesignGaming Hair Design By Bungie

  • Bungie artists and representatives explained their approach to the studio’s much anticipated game, Destiny. Among the various 3D artists was Natalie Burk, character technical artist, who discussed how character hair was designed and developed for the game. One important thing Burk considered when conceptualizing Destiny’s hair design was its longevity. The game was designed to last through 10 years of upgrades and console changes. So it was important that the design be advanced enough that it could exist for both 360/PS3, next gen consoles, and  beyond. Read the full article

CINEMA 4D and the Dreadnought Trailer

  • Presenter, Manuel Casasola Merkle from Aixsponza lead an in-depth look into the studio’s workflow for creating the Dreadnought trailer and how they leveraged CINEMA 4D and its new features to create a finished product for the upcoming space combat game Dreadnought. Read the full article

Gamifying Architectural Design

  • One of the more interesting Autodesk exhibitor sessions was entitled, “Gamifying Design Data.” Joel Pennigton and Eddie Perlberg examined how the future of architectural design will likely incorporate the interactivity that gaming currently provides. Both acknowledged  that computers allow us to move around our designs, whether its moving inside a proposed coffee cup design or flying around a 100 floor skyscraper. However, these computer model presentations are in a sense just as “static” as their predecessors because they don’t allow the types of viewer interactions that video games provide. What is needed is the gamification of design. Read the full article