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Siggraph 2001

Agenda Includes Previews of Monsters Inc., Stuart Little 2, Spider-Man By Carolyn Giardina
This year, attendees of the Siggraph convention (Aug. 12-17 in Los Angeles) will be treated to previews of some of the most anticipated films - including Monsters Inc., Harry Potter, Spider-Man and Stuart Little 2.

In fact, with a host of effects films debuting this year, the Siggraph Electronic Theater will have more than the usual number of features in its prestigious compilation reel.

Attendees will be catching some of the highlights of Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within (Square USA), Shrek (PDI/Dreamworks), and Pearl Harbor, A.I. and The Mummy Returns (all Industrial Light + Magic). There will be sneak peaks at Pixar Animation Studios next CG feature, Monsters Inc., due for release later this year, as well as Ice Age, the first feature-length CG film from Blue Sky Studios (creator of Academy Award-winning short Bunny).

Clips will include hits such as Dr. Suess How the Grinch Stole Christmas (Digital Domain), Red Planet (Cinesite) and Cast Away (Sony Pictures Imageworks). Imageworks is also part of a Special Session titled -Virtual Stars,- which will offer a preview of Stuart Little 2, Spider-Man and Harry Potter.

From Stuart Little to Final Fantasy, expect an emphasis on digital actors this year. Sande Scoredos, computer animation festival chair and executive director of terchnical training and artist development at Sony Pictures Imageworks, said that while the capabilities have advanced, the application goes unchanged - "Its another tool."

This year, there were 679 submissions for the Electronic Theater and Computer Animation Festival. There were 118 selected for the computer animation festival, and 44 made the Electronic Theater reel. Demonstrating the global reach of the event, 11 countries are represented on the two reels; 38 percent is international work.

In addition to the motion picture work, expect the usual mix of student work, experimental projects, commercials, games and TV series. ?But things are quite upbeat, Scoredos noted as a key difference for the past few years. ?What I dont see this year is a lot of angst and violence. Theres a move away from the mean spirited-ness.

This year Van Phams Values earned best animated short and F8, from Jason Wen won a jury prize in the Electronic Theater.

Technology Exhibits Since the majority of large software firms released the latest versions of their properties at the NAB convention in April, the number of bright new unveilings at this years Siggraph will be rather slim. Some companies, such as Discreet, didnt have pre-show news, but claim to have announcements that they are saving for the show.

Montreal-based Toon Boom Technologies will show its now shipping Toon Boom Studio software designed for end-to-end 2-D animation production for distribution on the web. Priced at $500, the software is designed to handle a complete range of tasks including audio editing, lipsync, ink & paint, compositing and more. The reasoning behind the systems development, explained Francois Gariepy, Toon Booms VP of Internet strategy is that, ?Usually you need multiple programs [to create web content]. He added that with segmented workflow, ?a little bit of the magic of storytelling is lost if there too much technology.

Why launch a web product at this time? ?We believe there will be a new generation of [higher-quality] content, he said. And Toon Boom Studio was created ?to make it easy and cheaper to produce higher-quality content.

Toon Boom Studio reached roughly 50 beta sites in recent months; users already include such companies as Fablevision, Watertown, Mass. and Funny Garbage, New York.

At Siggraph, Toon Boom will also show version 5.3 of its professional animation program, USAnimation, which began shipping in early June. New features include Toon Shader, which allows users to import 3-D models into a 2-D scene.

Alias|Wavefront announced that it had entered into an agreement with Mental Images to supply a translation path between Maya 4 and the Mental Ray renderer. Said Alias|Wavefront senior product manager Chris Ford, ?Weve had three top customer requests over the past year, and the top of that list is for integration with Mental Ray. This does not mean that Alias|Wavefront is giving up on its on own rendering R&D.

?Its just a new option for talking to Maya, added Ford.

Second on Fords most-wanted list has been interoperability with Linux. As of mid-July, current Maya 4 users have early access to a Linux interface though the companys web site.

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Related Keywords:siggraph, effects, 3d, animation, CG, CGI

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