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Roundup: Siggraph 2004

Attendance up as Apple's Motion steals the show By Dave Nagel
Whenever I return from a Siggraph convention, I always have the sense that there was too much going on to be able to summarize the show with just a few memorable events. Even at last week's event in Los Angeles, when the show just felt smaller--not just in terms of the size of the exhibition hall, but also in terms of the significance of the news coming out of the convention--there was still enough going on to keep me and other attendees bouncing off the walls.

The conference: attendance up, exhibits down
In fact, attendance--though you wouldn't be able to tell with a quick glance at the exhibition hall--was actually up by about 3,500 attendees to 27,825 compared with last year. It was also up dramatically from Siggraph's nadir of 17,274 in 2002, though still down from the apex of 48,700 in 1997. The exhibition hall, on the other hand, was decidedly down, pointing to uncertainty on the part of vendors. The actual number of exhibitors was at 229, compared with 240 last year and 359 in the oft remembered peak year of 1997.

So what does all of this mean?

Well, if you talked to Siggraph veterans--the real old timers--they'd tell you that the industry just isn't what it used to be; that the show seems to get smaller every year (though it doesn't); and that they can see the handwriting on the walls. Talk to anyone but analysts and (some) vendors, and you get a completely different story. Siggraph is, after all, an annual reunion of a long-distance community--if not precisely a family--of creative individuals, and so you hear a lot of enthusiasm from these professionals as they gather together to hone the skills of their craft and learn about new tools that will expand their creative potential.

And Siggraph's conference organizers, it should be noted, have done a fantastic job of maintaining this community spirit through some difficult times for the industry. Unlike some other convention organizers, Siggraph did not succumb to knee-jerk defensive tactics in the economically sour early 2000s or switch focus to capitalize on the fleetingly monied Internet concerns, as happened with, say, the Seybold convention, which synergized and re-paradigmed itself into oblivion. Art, graphics, motion graphics and animation are thriving fields whose participants are enthusiastic and eager to observe and lay their hands on the latest innovations in their markets. As long as shows like Siggraph remain focused on their needs, these shows will remain viable and valuable parts of the creative process, even if doing so means a few lean years every now and again.

So, if Siggraph's traditional vendor base has shrunk dramatically through consolidation and economic famine, leading to fewer booths in the exhibit hall, the user base remains sound.

That said, I don't want to give the impression that there aren't any vendors left in the graphics/motion graphics space or that there weren't any innovations coming from the vendor side at this year's show. It's just that the makeup of that vendor base is changing.

This change was most clearly exemplified by the decline of the old powerhouses and the rise of some fresh blood. At any given trade show, it's not difficult to spot the dominant players. The scale and location of a booth on the exhibition floor are, of course, two of the more obvious tells. The enthusiastic chatter of attendees is another. And then there's the contents of the attendees' goodie bags, which, beneath the T-shirts and sundry tchotchke picked up from vendors' booths, will invariably contain the latest and greatest software said attendees suddenly can't live without.

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Related Keywords:siggraph 2004, apple motion, luxology, alias maya, maxon cinema 4d


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