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SIGGRAPH 2006 Report

Siggraph 2006 Exhibition

The Siggraph 2006 Exhibition was a noisy, crowded, busy bundle of activity that appealed to the senses of all attendees. I didn't have a chance to see all the booths, preview all the demos or speak with all the exhibitors, but what I saw only made me want to see more. Below are some of the highlights:


Pixar once again handed out designer wind-up teapots and movie posters for its latest work, Cars, which created lines that spanned the show floor. Cardboard tubes branded with the Pixar logo could be seen protruding from attendee's belongings for the rest of the week.

Movie Productions Galore

Many of the key animation production studios had booths featuring their latest production and collecting resumes for future productions. Throughout the hall, you could catch glimpses of many animated features that are currently released or scheduled for release including DNA Production's The Ant Bully, Disney's Meet the Robinsons, PDI's Everyone's Hero, Sony Pictures Imageworks' Monster House and Open Season.

Learning New Skills

Several exhibitors were offering opportunities to learn new skills via sit-down tutorial sessions. Digital-Tutors were present at the Softimage booth giving insights into Softimage XSI. An assortment of drawing tutorials were offered at the Sony booth and Adobe was training on its broad offering of products including After Effects, Photoshop and Illustrator.

3D Controllers

Sandio Technologies showed a 3D mouse with extra buttons that allowed additional movement not available with a traditional mouse. Called the 3DEasy, the unit is priced at $79.99 and offers users of 3D applications better usability and provides gamers an alternative to expensive 3D controllers. A free SDK is available for developers and the mouse ships with plug-in for 20+ popular games.

Image courtesy of Sandio Technology Corp.

For a more professional 3D controllers, 3DConnexion offers the Space Pilot, a robust controller with over 21 speed keys embedded next to the controller and an LCD screen that dynamically labels several generic keys. The Space Pilot includes plug-ins for over 100 different applications making it easy to integrate with your existing software.

Immersive Environment Camera

Immersive Media was showcasing an environmental spherical-shaped camera that included 11 camera lens. The entire camera weighs only 2.5 pounds and can easily be ported about. Useful for tourism and for gaming environments, the camera can capture multiple viewpoints that can be viewed, zoomed and panned. The camera can also be set to simultaneously capture GPS data.

New ZBrush Features

In the Pixelogic booth, several new ZBrush features were being displayed. The release of ZBrush 2.5 is still several months off because "we want to do it right," was the answer from Jamie Labelle, head of Marketing. Among the new features include better import and export options, and the ability to transfer geometry between objects.

Instant Character Creation

A company called Darwin Dimensions showed off an interesting product called Evolver. This software is loaded with human characters (additional characters can be purchased separately) and new characters can be created by combining the attributes of the loaded characters. The resulting character are unique, full-rigged and ready to be used without requiring that the model be built from scratch. 

Personal 3D Scanner

NextEngine Inc. was showing its compact Desktop 3D Scanner. Priced at $2,495, the NextEngine scanner is affordable enough to put a 3D scanner on every modeler's desk eliminating bottlenecks scheduling time on the expensive scanning system. The NextEngine scanner uses proprietary MultiStripe Laser Triangulation (MLT) technology and scans objects the size of a shoebox using marker technology, so the object can be repositioned to scan occluded areas.

Image courtesy of NextEngine Inc.

Plant and Tree Modeling Plug-Ins

If your game environments require outdoor scenes featuring plants, trees and vegetation, check out the natFX plug-in from Bionatics. Available as a plug-in for Maya or 3ds Max, this plug-in lets you select from a library of available models and each model can be displayed using low-res billboards or high-res geometry. You can also change the season, add wind effects or include normal maps.

Another method for growing plants is to use the XFrog plug-in created by Greenworks Organic Software. This plug-in which is available for Maya, 3ds Max and Cinema 4D builds leaves, flowers and seeds at a cellular level.

Markerless Motion Capture

Movo was showing off a system that allowed motion capture without markers. The Contour system works by applying phosphorescent makeup to the skin of the performer and to any cloth that you want to capture. The motion is then captured on a stage in front of an array of Kino Flo fluorescent lights that are flashed on and off at 90 to 120 frames per second. The system also includes two sets of cameras for capturing textures. The system has sub-millimeter precision and can capture wrinkles, dimples and skin creases. Since the system is markerless, no clean-up is necessary.

The Act

Although this wasn't E3, one local company called Cecropia was displaying a stand-alone game called The Act that featured fluid animation and a knob for controlling how bold the main character approached his current situation. Reminiscent of Dragon's Lair, the goal was to progress from scene to scene without scaring the girl away or upsetting your boss. You can find more information on the game/kiosk at www.cecropia.com.

3D Photo-Crystals

Another novelty item was a photo-kiosk that could digitize the occupants face and covert it to a 1 inch 3D cube keychain using lasers. Attendees lined up to pay $10 a pop to walk away with one of these gems.

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