SIGGRAPH 2017 Computer Animation Festival

PixarLou
“LOU” by Pixar Animation Studios

A highlight for many SIGGRAPH attendees is the computer animation festival. I was very happy to discover tickets for the show is a separate purchase from the very expensive conference ticket, which I can’t justify buying. As far as movie tickets go, $40 is pretty darn pricey. But it is SIGGRAPH, it is special, so out comes the credit card.

One disappointment of the festival is the VR theater. All advertising for the computer animation festival talked about the VR theater. Virtual reality is a new media and many filmmakers are exploring ways to tell a visual story with it. With all the promotion of the VR theater – including a pitch by a speaker at the screen event itself – it was a rude surprise to discover the VR theater was only open to conference attendees. My animation festival ticket did not permit entry.

This felt like bait-and-switch and left quite the bitter taste in my mouth.

But back to happier things, the non-VR animation shorts that made an impression on me. About half of them are short films that tell their own little story. There were several visual effect break-down reels of recent films, showing how the various effect shots were made. I enjoyed seeing the before/after footage cutting in between.

The Jury’s Choice short, Buster the Boxer, is unique by presenting both: the short film (which is also an advertisement) followed by a VFX breakdown of what we just watched. I loved seeing both back to back.

A few clips were just compilations of completed shots – effectively bits of the film with no breakdown information. I found those uninformative and just disappointing.

I was fond of the short Scrambled for two reasons: (1) non photo-realistic shading resembling hand drawn animation, and (2) animation for the Rubik’s Cube character. The animators managed to convey emotion and personality purely by arranging the 26 little cubes that make up a Rubik’s Cube.

Analogue Loaders offered an unexpected perspective: it re-imagines many various “please wait” animations we see on computers. Turning them into physical world (“analogue”) representations, and of course it is itself a computer animation done in the digital world. A little bit of animation Inception.

The Best in Show short, Song of a Toad, has been filed away in the “I don’t get it” section.

The festival, which can trace its roots to the Luxo Jr. short by an infant Pixar, wrapped up with the latest Pixar short: LOU. It lived up to the legacy and expectations of a Pixar production, and was a very entertaining way to wrap up the evening.

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