Brisbane enters the Dream Zone with SIGGRAPH Asia
Asia’s largest computer graphics conference and exhibition has made its Australian debut in Brisbane.
Bringing together industry leaders and academics from around the world at the Brisbane Convention & Exhibition Centre from November 17-20 2019, SIGGRAPH Asia featured four days of cutting-edge tech demonstrations and illuminating panels and presentations, and put the local computer graphics industry on the world stage.
Creativity in conference
SIGGRAPH — which stands for ‘Special Interest Group on computer GRAPHics and interactive techniques’ — has held its conference in North America every year since 1974. A second yearly conference, SIGGRAPH Asia, has been held annually throughout Asia since 2008, but had never come to Australia until now.
Conference Chair Associate Professor Tomasz Bednarz said the event, themed ‘Dream Zone’, brought more than 800 speakers and over 90 exhibitors to Brisbane to demonstrate and discuss the future of digital imagery, visualisation and animation.
“Computer graphics can be used across many different fields, so SIGGRAPH attracts technical and creative people from all over the world,” he said.
“Artists, scientists, designers, engineers, educators — they all meet in one place at SIGGRAPH Asia to discover new techniques and learn how to create better graphics and visualisations. When you go to get a coffee at this conference, there could be somebody from Pixar, Google or Animal Logic in line behind you and a brilliant mathematician in front of you.”
A state-of-the-art showcase
Highlights of the conference included presentations by the wizards behind Avengers: Endgame, Frozen 2, The Lion King, It Chapter Two, Pixar’s Onward and Gemini Man, about how they brought some of the year’s biggest and most visually impressive films to life. The program also included a look back at 40 years of Star Wars magic with ILM executive Rob Bredow and a peek behind the scenes of the groundbreaking 360-degree interactive visuals of Childish Gambino’s Pharos festival.
The Computer Animation Festival component of the conference highlighted exciting work in computer-generated animation and visual effects, while the interactive gallery of Emerging Technologies showcased the latest AR (Augmented Reality), VR (Virtual Reality) and XR (Extended Reality) devices and interfaces.
On the Real-Time Live! Stage, attendees could see the future of computer graphics and interactive techniques demonstrated and deconstructed live on stage by the technology’s creators. This year’s conference also featured four programs making their SIGGRAPH Asia debut, including:
- The Business & Innovation Symposium, connecting academics, creatives and investors;
- The ACM SIGGRAPH Frontiers Workshops, exploring the perils and possibilities of deep fake technology and artificial intelligence;
- The ACM SIGGRAPH Asia Thesis Fast Forward program, offering young presenters a chance to share their ideas with a panel of experts;
- Demoscene, a ‘party’ area showcasing demos made by coders, artists and musicians on retro technology (including the classic Commodore C64 8-bit computer).
Tomasz Bednarz, the past chair of Brisbane’s local SIGGRAPH chapter and a team leader at CSIRO, led the bid to bring SIGGRAPH Asia to Brisbane with assistance from Brisbane Economic Development Agency, Tourism and Events Queensland and Brisbane Convention & Exhibition Centre (BCEC). “Brisbane is a wonderful city, and it’s our closest major capital city to Asia, which perfectly positioned it to host an event like SIGGRAPH Asia and become a centre of computer graphics in Australia,” Bednarz said.
“Brisbane EDA helped drive the bidding process from beginning to end and ensured it was a very smooth experience. We had a number of discussions about what was possible and how it could be done, which ultimately resulted in the business case that was submitted to SIGGRAPH.”
Juliet Alabaster, General Manager of Business & Major Events, said Brisbane’s outstanding conference facilities and accommodation infrastructure were key to securing the conference for the city. “Brisbane’s destination appeal was a key factor,” she said. “The infrastructure we have here in the city, including Australia’s most awarded Convention Centre, BCEC — which was recognised as The World’s Best Convention Centre from 2016 to 2018 — was crucial. We have seen significant growth in tourism infrastructure, with 20 new 4- and 5-star hotel developments in the city since 2014 and more to come with the $3.6bn Queen’s Wharf Brisbane integrated resort and casino now under construction. We have the spaces to host a great social program for delegates, including the addition of Howard Smith Wharves right under the Story Bridge on the waterfront.”
Leaving a legacy
Bednarz’s primary motivation for bringing SIGGRAPH Asia to Brisbane was to inspire and showcase local computer graphics creators and build a community in Brisbane. “After we won the bid, Brisbane EDA was very helpful at every single stage of organising the conference,” he said. “They helped me connect with the wider community and think about how we could leave a legacy and make a real impact with the conference.”
These discussions led to the introduction of the Business & Innovation Symposium to the program, designed to give locals a chance to build connections and learn how to upskill without needing to leave Brisbane.
“Brisbane is a city where collaboration is a part of who we are,” Juliet Alabaster said. “When we were working with SIGGRAPH Asia, we were really looking at who we could help them collaborate with. A key strategic objective for Tomasz and his team was to build interest among the youth in computer graphics, so we connected them with a local school program and a university to get their students to the conference. We also connected them with local businesses to help put their work in front of the world.”
Among those in attendance at SIGGRAPH Asia were the developers of two ambitious local projects for the ARC Centre of Excellence for Mathematical and Statistical Frontiers (ACEMS) at the Queensland University of Technology that showcased how computer graphics and interactive technology can make the world a better place. One of the projects used VR technology to highlight the plight of jaguars in the Peruvian jungle, while the other mapped the state of the Great Barrier Reef.
“We have the talent here to build a computer graphics community that can compete with the United States and Europe,” Dr Bednarz said. “We’re building a community, and this is only the beginning of this process and this adventure towards the future.”