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OPINION AUGUST 20, 2001
Talkin' Smack: More Fun in the 3D World

The Creative Mac SIGGRAPH roundup

by David Nagel
Executive Producer
[email protected]

Before we get to the topic of this week's column—to wit, the SIGGRAPH convention—I'd like to revisit the topic of last week's—to wit, my birthday. You might recall that I had demanded of you, my beloved readers, some presents this year. Of course, not a single one of you sent me anything of any monetary value. I chalk this failure up to two factors—the lousy economy and the fact that I forgot to supply you with a shipping address.

Fine.

However, I did receive an unexpectedly warm response to the self-indulgent column, and it filled me with all kinds of oogly emotions. So I guess I can forgive the lack of pawnable goods this time around. Plus my wife got me a new home theater system, which, combined with my 13-foot movie screen, would have made anything you got me seem paltry by comparison.

And so I enter my 34th year full of the warmth of your kind regards and the knowledge that my Starship Troopers viewing experience will be pretty much unrivaled.

And now to the topic at hand.

The topic at hand
So I headed out to the SIGGRAPH convention for a couple of days last week. Before I get to the topic of the show itself, I'd like to offer all convention organizers a little advice.

Stop holding conventions at the L.A. Convention Center. It's disgusting. Los Angeles is a major dump rivaled only by San Francisco and certain portions of hell. It's depressing and costly; it takes forever to get there from anywhere; parking is awful; and nothing is convenient.

If you're going to have an event in Southern California, move it to San Diego, Orange County or Long Beach. Just put it somewhere that isn't fenced in by barbed wire.

Second, keep the press lounge well stocked. We didn't become journalists just to write. We became journalists for the free food. Remember, a well fed journalist is a positive journalist. And a positive journalist doesn't talk about the lack of food in the press room. Also on the topic of food, look for alternatives to the poo water that gets churned out of the Starbucks sewer plant. If we want Starbucks, we can get it at the local strip mall. Serve Diedrich's.

Return of the topic at hand
But enough about me. Let's talk about the show.

Another SIGGRAPH has come and gone. This year's show was smaller than last year's, with several exhibitors dropping out and with attendance seemingly down. (Actual attendance figures haven't been published yet.) What does this say about the animation industry in general? Of course, the industry has hit some hard times, and so some exhibitors opted to save a little money by not showing up or by taking on a diminished presence this year. But for those who were there, the enthusiasm for the business has not diminished one bit. I, for one, was left with a sense that we're about to experience a turnaround, from both a user and technology perspective.

I'm not making any predictions about the animation industry. But I am saying that vendors and animators alike seemed shockingly optimistic about the immediate future of the business. Of course, it's hard not to be enthusiastic about animation. It is, after all, one of the very few forms of commercially viable visual art, and this, in itself, is reason enough to get together once a year and party. Not that I did any partying, seeing as I had an exhausting drive ahead of me each day. But who needs me to make a party complete? I just write about this stuff. It's the people who create the art who should be partying.

Me, I just headed home each night to my fancy new home theater, cigars, beer and friends. But I'm getting off topic again.

Revenge of the topic at hand
For us folk who just write about the industry, the big news came in the form of product announcements. You've got to give it up for the software developers this summer. We have NewTek's LightWave [7], a major update to that product. We have a forthcoming release of Electric Image's Universe 4.0 less than a year after the release of 3.0, which, itself, was a major update from EIAS 2.x. We have a new physics system and several new plugins for Maxon's Cinema 4D XL 7. And we have a forthcoming Shockwave 3D exporter for the forthcoming release of Maya for OS X. (In case you didn't read the story last week, I also put in my vote for Mental Ray integration for Maya for OS X.)

If you work in compositing, there's no doubt that Discreet's Combustion 2 got you a little hot and bothered, especially since it will likely be the first compositing suite to make its way over to Mac OS X. Also in the area of compositing was the free upgrade to Boris RED, with new features and several performance enhancements.

But if I had to pick one thing everybody at the show was talking about, it would have to be a tossup between Maya and Macromedia's Shockwave 3D. But I think the edge goes to Shockwave 3D, since even the Maya folk couldn't help but talk it up. Now, this is not to imply that the makers of other Web 3D technologies were silent. Not by any means. Viewpoint, Cycore and Pulse were all out there in force as well. But Macromedia got all the attention this time around.

There were lots more announcements at the show. I'm not going to recount them all here. If you weren't paying attention to the news last week, too bad. You can catch yourself back up at our news archives here.

The topic at hand IV: the conclusionation
I really have nothing else to add. I just kind of wanted to put in this last subhead because I thought it was kind of cute. Plus, I just want to kind of end this because I'm trying to type as my machine renders, and you know how that can be. Also, ever since I installed my home theater, my electricity has been going out intermittently. So I better just sign off before it.... (Actually, the electricity did just go out, but I started up my machine again to add the ellipses. How's that for a coincidence?
Stupid Thomas Edison.)

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Dave Nagel is the producer of Creative Mac and Digital Media Designer; host of several World Wide User Groups, including Synthetik Studio Artist, Adobe Photoshop, Adobe InDesign, Adobe LiveMotion, Creative Mac and Digital Media Designer; and executive producer of the Digital Media Net family of publications.

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