Siggraph kicks off with an enormous and creative schedule

Who wouldn’t love happy hour in an alien watering hole?

Kathleen Maher
See how it’s done: Siggraph’s Realtime Live will feature a behind the scenes look at the popular Smugglers Run ride at Walt Disney World Resort.  


Siggraph kicks off this week with a full slate of activities and as far as we know, none of them are going to be in Washington, DC, the original site for the 2020 version of the most popular and also the geekiest of conferences built around computer graphics. The show was originally planned for July 19-23 but when it became evident that they would have to go digital they moved the show to August. Looking at the schedule, it doesn’t look like they scaled back much. There is a ton of content and all the checkboxes are ticked: technical papers, demos, birds-of-a-feather meetings, emerging technologies, realtime-live, art, and the electronic theater.

The content will be presented as on-demand sessions recorded for later views but also made available in live formats so attendees can ask questions. Also, most of the content will remain available until October 27, 2020. Check out the full schedule.

Siggraph is using Hubb, for the event a cloud-based company founded in 2012 and headquartered in Vancouver, Washington. The company has a flexible cloud-based platform for events that allows a variety of formats.

The Electronic Theater, which will take place starting August 24 will have a live presentation using the virtual film festival platform Eventive.  There will also be a VR theater, which will feature the best 9 shows out of 72 submissions. 

The show’s organizers have promised happy hours that will be hosted in an Alien Watering Hole and a fantasy escape room. One of the important aspects of this completely new Siggraph is the commitment the organizers have to creating opportunities for people to connect with each other. It’s hugely ambitious and imaginative. It will be interesting to see how it all actually works out in practice.

Kristy Pron from Disney Imagineering is the lucky woman who became the conference chair this year. She was appointed two years ago in 2018 in a different place and in a different time. The program they put together is remarkable for the short amount of time they had to go to a completely digital program. They started to see the writing on the wall in March.

Pron works in Orlando, Florida, and creates immersive pre-visualization to enable Disney’s teams to understand how new attractions and buildings will work and will be experienced by park guests. She might have had a hand in the development ride aboard the Millenium Falcon Smugglers’ Run. The ride will be a featured demo at the Realtime Live portion of the Siggraph show. For a sneak preview the ACM blog talked to Disney Imagineer Eric Smolikowski about the development of the ride.

The realtime content is some of the more challenging for Siggraph this year because it includes immersive content as well as realtime production techniques and strategies. There will be 360 demos and visitors with their own headsets may be able to experience some of the VR content. They have made an effort to make as much accessible as they could and otherwise to try and communicate the experience.

The digital art show will be accompanied by video presentations giving artists a chance to talk about their work. And, the exhibit will have some permanence for some works through its alliance with the Leonardo journal. 

In all, there are over 80 exhibitors in the exhibition hall where visitors can not only see demos but ask questions.

The full Siggraph Committee is listed here, they are heroes.

And, if all that isn’t fun. We can do it all again for Siggraph Asia 2020, which will take place online in December.

What do we think?

We have no idea how all this will work out. We’re just getting a look at the schedule and making plans. We’ve had our first press event, which went off like clockwork. That’s where all this information came from.

There is a chance this may actually be one of the most important Siggraphs ever. We will have the chance to watch an industry based on making illusion seem real reinvent itself as the real world events force creative people to build a new way to present content.

Emily Pron observed that this will be the first year she gets so see a lot of the talks because they’ll be available through October. That’s going to be true for a lot of us and it’s a strong argument for doing conferences and exhibitions differently from now on.