Animated Lobsters and the Pinch-Running Bird

The annual gathering of computer graphics aficionados known as SIGGRAPH came to a smashing conclusion in Boston yesterday, and thankfully not many were injured (although my colleague Steve W-Z had his rental car smashed beyond recognition by the hotel valet, way to go WESTIN BOSTON WATERFRONT !!!). If you’ve not been to a SIGGRAPH conference before, it’s pretty amazing once you get past the ubiquitous motion capture suit demos (I mean, is it really that interesting to watch some actor jump around in a ridiculous looking spandex suit just to animate a 3D lobster on a screen above your head? Did all these mocap companies miss that episode of the Simpsons a few year back?). What’s really cool at SIGGRAPH (other than the After Effects and Production Studio classes I taught – heh-heh) are the new technology exhibits and the “Electronic Theater” which I completely missed this year because I was preoccupied with searching for the perfect lobster roll.

Far and away the most interesting thing for me at SIGGRAPH is talking to our customers. There’s a huge focus on visual effects and animation at this conference, and it’s one of the only ones where I never have to ask an audience “how many of you are Photoshop users?” After Effects would be a close second to Photoshop’s ubiquity with this crowd, and I had some great conversations with people working on everything from feature films to animations for medical training (I don’t think I’ve ever been asked how to animate digested food moving through the lower intestinal tract before).

Another rewarding event (quite literally) was visual effects powerhouse ZOIC purchasing 60 seats of Production Studio. Blake Robertson, one of the VFX whizzes at their shop in Culver City, was kind enough to come show some of the great effects work he does on the CBS series CSI:Crime Scene Investigation at our NAB exhibit this past April.

So, despite the fact that it was 100 degrees in Boston the entire week, I managed to get to a Red Sox game with Mark Christiansen (author of the book After Effects Studio Techniques) and despite the fact that they cut off beer sales half way through the game to keep people from becoming dehydrated we managed to have a great time. I tell you, the Boston fans are something else. By the 8th inning the game had become a snoozer, and a blackbird that had been hopping around the field the entire game was standing on second base. As he started hopping towards third, the entire stadium began chanting “bird, bird, bird . . .” and as he got closer the chants and cheers grew louder. By the 9th, nobody in the stadium was paying any attention whatsoever to the game anymore.

Apparently, even the scoreboard operator got bored with the game.

No beer? Lousy game? Fagettabattit! Now let’s get out of the pahk beefawe the game’s ovah so we can get us a loabstah roll.

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