Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Siggraph 08 Tuesday

Today was interesting. The first thing I attended was a papers session on animation. The first paper was on Motion Graphs. The idea behind motions graphs is that you give a character a set of animations and then give him a goal to achieve (ie - reach a specific location). Then the character figures out how to reach that goal with the animation set that he has. This paper presented a way to figure out how likely it would be that the character would be able to achieve that goal based on the characteristics of the environment. The second paper was on transitions between motions. The presenter made it clear that the length of a blend from one motion to the next was very important and showed several case studies that proved that better results could be achieved in motion blending if you figure out the best blend length for each transition instead of using a fixed blend length for everything. The next paper presented methods for processing free form motion - that is, motion on an object or character that's done without a skeleton. The author developed a method that would allow him to manipulate and blend free form animation while preserving volume. The most useful case study that he showed was that a cloth simulation could be adjusted and corrected easily after running the simulation and without needing to re-run the simulation. The last paper in this set was on dual quaternion skinning. It's a better method for moving verts around with bones than standard skinning or spherical skinning. The results were good and so was the performance. I'd like to look into this idea some more. Lots of information is available here:

Next I hit the show floor. It was fun to run into some people that I know - Chris Evans from Crytek, Kevin Bjorke from Nvidia, and Bobo from Frantic Films - all great guys and fun to talk with. I was disappointed to find that Natural Motion didn't have a booth as I was hoping to get some more information on their upcoming version of Morpheme.

In the afternoon I attended another papers session on Characters. The first paper presented was on creating crowds. The goal was to see how many character clones you could get away with and not have the viewer notice that two characters were identical. They changed things like clothing color, and animation to see what the most important factors were in hiding the fact that you have a limited set of characters. Next, Chris Hecker from Maxis presented his work on the character animation system of Spore. The presentation was short on details, but Chris had a fun time showing off a lot of the creatures that have been generated by the community. The third paper was by Michael Kass from Pixar. His talk was on Wiggly Splines. He presented a method for quantizing soft body dynamics in characters and giving artists control over the amount of secondary motion that a character has. The final paper also showed a method for soft body simulation - but it was focused on real-time performance. The results were very nice. This is also something I'd like to look into more.

I finished up the day by heading over to the Nokia Theater for the Computer Animation Festival. I also stayed for Studio Night. John Lasseter from Pixar showed "The Man Who Planted Trees" and invited the animator - Frederic Back - who is now 84 years old - to come and talk about his film. It was very touching to hear him talk about how important the earth is and that we should take care of it. John Lasseter said that there were lots of elements in Pixar's films that were inspired by Back's work. After this brief interview, Lasseter screen a documentary on Pixar animation studios. It started way back when John went to school at CalArts and covered the history of the developement of the studio all the way up through the Disney purchase. It was very cool to see and really inspired me to want to do my very best work in the projects I'm involved in.


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