5 things that rocked at SIGGRAPH Asia Tokyo

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SIGGRAPH Asia Tokyo 2018 has just wrapped up, and it was a fantastic week. The attendance was up near 10,000 and you could feel the buzz at the conference centre. Here’s my run-down of 5 of the coolest things I was able to see there.

1. Behind the scenes of Pixar’s Bao

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Bao director Domee Shi.

If you haven’t seen this Pixar short film yet, make sure you do. What was magical about this presentation at SIGGRAPH Asia Tokyo, led by director Domee Shi and several of her crew, was that it revealed a lot about the inspiration and the artistry and technology behind the short. It can just be so hard to capture the amount of work that goes into any animated project, and this presentation had everything – story points, design, cinematography, lighting, effects. The room was jam-packed, too.

2. Mixed reality Pac-man

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The mixed reality view for Pac-in-Time.

There’s always something a little bit whacky at SIGGRAPH Asia. Bandai Namco Studios fitted participants out with mixed reality Hololenses and sat them on Honda Uni-Cubs to produce a real-life version of Pac-Man (it was called Pac-in-town, I think). And lots of fun.

3. From Gollum to Thanos – Weta Digital’s CG characters

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Weta Digital visual effects supervisor Matt Aitken.

Over the years I’ve been able to cover so much of the work of Weta Digital in its crafting of digital characters. VFX supe Matt Aitken distilled all this work down into a fun history of the studio’s achievements in this area, all the way from The Frighteners, through Gollum in Lord of the Rings, Kong, the Apes films, Furious 7 and most recently with Thanos. It was a fantastic talk and one that made you think about how important these characters are in film history.

4. Robots and love

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Kaname Hayashi during our Q&A.

One the last day of the conference, I helped emcee keynote speaker Kaname Hayashi’s talk about his imminent GROOVE X robot, Lovot. While he couldn’t show any pics of the robot, it was particularly interesting to hear about the idea of companionship and emotion that might be able to come from a machine. Audience questions were also fascinating – there was so much comparison to pets (seems obvious now, but I hadn’t thought of it that way).

5. Real-time Live!

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VTubers during their Real-Time Live! presentation.

It’s brilliant that Real-Time Live! is now part of SIGGRAPH Asia. The truth is, there was something a little chaotic about this year’s presentations, but they were all still very watchable. I enjoyed, in particular, Pinscreen’s app, BanaCAST’s anime-like mocap character, and the VTubers and Mimic Productions virtual humans (both of these made use of IKINEMA’s tech for helping to realise CG characters live on screen).

I’m excited to say I’m part of the committee for SIGGRAPH Asia 2019 in Brisbane, Australia, and I would obviously encourage any reader to come down to Oz for the event!