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SigGraph Postmortem
Richard S. Wright Jr.'s Blog

In short, SigGraph is the world’s biggest yearly computer graphics conference. The venue changes (but is usually Los Angeles), but his year it was in San Diego. I don’t go every year, but having just had the fourth edition of my OpenGL book released, I was duty bound to make the trip this year. There are lots of cool and exciting things going on in the OpenGL world, but that’s a little outside this audiences interest.

An interesting aspect of SigGraph is that it is the largest conference of any kind that I ever attend. It’s five full days long with at least 100 different courses, paper presentations, sketches, poster sessions, tutorials, and vendor presentations. There is also a pretty big expo showcasing the latest and greatest tools for professional graphics applications, games, and movie special effects. An emerging technologies showcase shows off some pretty impressive up and coming technologies not quite ready for prime time, and more than a few that are obviously the result of excessive time and funding on someone’s hands. It’s like attending a science fair, where all the kids are millionaires.

Despite the wealth of things to see and do, I usually have more dead time at SigGraph than any other conference. When you’ve been programming for over 20 years, the word “advanced” doesn’t have quite the same meaning. I’ll start a daylong class in one room, only to find it’s only a summary, and not in depth. I’ll then move to another to find it’s really an introduction, and finally end up in a room with a lecture that I’d wish I had been in all day! At other times, I find I have a few hours to just do some reading or catch up on e-mail waiting for a good session to start. The paper presentations are usually the best, and I can usually glean what I need from the daylong courses by just reading the course notes (which they give us on a DVD-ROM). Sometimes, lectures just seem to me to be the most dreadfully slow way to learn new material (this does of course depend on the speaker, but 90% of the time, this is true). Plus, I’m a tad claustrophobic, and sitting pinned between 500 people in a crowded hot room, tends to dullen my enthusiasm further.

Steve Bisque came out for a day and joined me, and I give him the fifty-cent tour of the expo, and we watched some of the top scientific animations that had been submitted this year. My favorite featured a trip to the center of the Milky Way. If nothing else, a one-day tour is a great way to get caught up on the latest and greatest technologies in computer graphics today. Afterwards, we had probably the finest Sushi in the San Diego area at a place called Roppongi. A great way to end any day!

Of more pertinent value, I randomly met a guy from JPL who does astro-visualization at an educators “quick-take”, and picked up some valuable intel‘ on dome rendering and planetarium content creation. Now, this is amazing… at SigGraph there were some dome people. I’ve only been to one planetarium conference (so far), so my view may be slightly skewed. It seems two groups of people with similar goals would have a lot more in common, but the cultural differences between my two experiences are quite dramatic. And it’s not just that one group has money and the other doesn’t.

Anyway on the topic of dome rendering, Seeker-Dome is late alpha stage now and will be going to three (carefully selected) beta sites in only another week or two. I’m still shooting for Fall availability, but there is some dependency on TheSkyX (which is also going to have a dome spin-off). TheSkyX and Seeker running in the dome is going to be a great and sorely needed solution for a lot of small planetaria (or so we hope!). It is also the time of the “grand re-unification” when the major Dome push is over and Seeker as a whole (both pro and consumer versions) start moving forward together again. I actually have a decent inventory of new moons and models ready to roll, so you can look forward to a pretty decent point release before years end. Not to mention all the refactoring that is happening in the base code due to the dome related features. There are some significant performance enhancements coming that will give everyone smoother frame rates, etc. Steve and I are tentatively planning to attend another planetarium conference this fall, and show off our babies… I’ll have more to announce about this as the time gets closer and things firm up.

Posted 08-14-2007 12:03 AM by Richard Wright


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