Animation and Innovation Conference in Boston, Massachusetts
Report by Mike Hogue
Last week, I had the pleasure of attending the annual
Siggraph conference. I was a representative of the
small team on Michel Gagne’s “Insanely
Twisted Shadow Puppets”. These 12 Flash Animated
interstitials were accepted by the Siggraph jury,
out of over 800 submissions, to be a part of the “Electronic
Theater” event screening. I was the Animator
on 9 of the 12 short films, which were to be the
only flash animation examples in the festival.
Siggraph Head Organizers, Terrence Masson and Dana
Boadway originally contacted
me at the beginning
of the year. They first watched the “shadow puppets” on
Michel Gagne’s website, and asked that we submit
them for review by the jury. A month or so later I
was contacted with the great news that all 12 original “shadow
puppets” had been chosen. I was also told that
the 2 hour 20 minute screening would start with our “Call
of the Wild” short, and the rest would be added
throughout the screening as intermissions between the
longer studio clips.
jury had also accepted the exceptional footage from “Pirates of the Caribbean 2” by ILM, “The
Chronicles of Narnia” by Rhythm and Hues, “Open
Season” by Sony Imageworks, Footage from Peter
Jackson’s “King Kong”, as well as
the latest animated short “One Man Band” by
Pixar. They also chose some fantastic TV commercials,
video game cinematics, and computer animated shorts
by professional studios, and talented film students.
A fantastic short film called “One Rat Short” was
chosen as the “Best of Show” piece by the
jury. It was very flattering to have our “shadow
puppet” clips in such good company.
Siggraph event took place from July 29th to August
3rd, 2006. Boston was a
lively town to have the conference.
Unfortunately there was a lot of traffic due to construction
on the main tunnel. It made it tricky to get around
on the shuttle busses, but the cabs were more than
happy to take the business. Often taking the “scenic
route” for short distances. I really liked the
architecture of Boston and the ‘olde town’ feel
to this busy city. I had a busy schedule, but I made
sure to stop by the “Cheers” bar for a
pint, walk through the Boston Commons Park, and I really
enjoyed the Boston Museum of Fine Art.
The convention centre was a huge building. It was
the size of a city block and four levels high. There
were large presentations in rooms that felt like airplane
hangars with ceilings hundreds of feet high, and making
use of giant movie screens. There were also many classes
throughout the conference in smaller rooms. Each day
they had many different seminars presented by studio
professionals. You could choose what appealed to your
area of expertise.
Siggraph is a way for the top minds and creators in
the Computer Graphics, Animation and Effects industry
getting together to share ideas and learn from one
another. The result is better visual content in the
years that follow. It is a big chance for students
to learn from the people who drive the business forward,
and submit their resumes and demo reels. For many,
it is also a way to make new contacts and brainstorm
also has other attractions like the “Teapot
Gallery” and Interactive Electronic Art Gallery.
The “teapot” was the first complicated
computer generated model. Decades later it is still
recognized by Siggraph and has become an icon for the
event. The teapot gallery showcased many computer-generated
images incorporating teapots into the design, and even
a large origami teapot. The electronic Art Gallery
showcased many interactive exhibits. Everything from
very real looking holograms, to artificial intelligence,
to liquid metal (Magnetic Feral Liquid) that could
create a solid shape, and instantly liquefy over and
over again. There were so many exhibits to mention,
but each used technology in a unique way.
people come to siggraph for the “Expo” Exhibition
room. Like many conventions, it is full of booths and
demonstrations. Every main Animation and Effects Studio
had a large booth showing off their best-known films
and current promotions. Some of the nicer booths were
by Pixar, Disney, Lucasfilm, Blue Sky, Sony Imageworks,
and Adobe. There were also many Computer Animation
and Design Colleges to interest the younger students
at the event. As you might imagine, you come out of
the Exhibition room with a lot of free stuff. I had
sore shoulders from carrying all the free magazines,
software and other free “Swag” around the
the Monday night of the event was the first screening
of the “Electronic Theater”. Right outside
the event was a professional looking movie poster displaying
many scenes from the screening. Our “Mad Gremlin” character
was a part of the poster, shown about 6 inches tall.
As a contributor to the screening, I was given advance
entrance to get a seat. It was a good thing too, as
half an hour later, 2500 people flooded in when they
opened the doors. All the seats were filled in a couple
Before the screening, they had interactive games for
the audience to play. Everyone who attended was given
a foam-core wand that had a red reflector on one side,
and green on the other side. This wand reflected the
colour into an invisible laser scanner that was over
the heads of the audience. It sent a signal to a computer
of what colour was facing forward, in each seat of
The operators projected every seat on the large theatre
screen. Then, they super-imposed animated beach balls
bouncing around the audience. If the ball landed near
your area, you had to flip your wand to the opposing
colour that it was before. If enough people did it
at the same time, the ball bounced to the other side
of the room. Something so simple really had the audience
Terrence and Dana stood at the front of the audience,
and split the sides down the middle to make two teams.
Using the same wands, one half would control the left
/ right, and the other the up / down controls to move
a character through a maze.
we were challenged against the world’s
largest Etch-A-Sketch, which was actually licensed
by the Ohio Art Company. It was projected on the
screen, and this time, our wands controlled the
left and right
knobs. The challenge was to trace around simple shapes
as a team. First was a square, a circle and then,
of course, a teapot. We pretty much failed at every
but it was a lot of fun. After each drawing, we all
shook our wands to erase the giant Etch-A-Sketch.
last game was my favourite. The two sides of the
audience competed in a game
of “Doggie Pong”.
Our wands controlled the up and down movement of our
Pong paddles while an animated dog ran back and forth
between them. If the dog made it past your paddle,
he attacked one of your four cats. It was hilarious
to watch, and the audience kept franticly shouting: “Green… Red….
RED!!!”… and so on… as the dog ran
faster and faster between.
Terrence had the audience count down, 3, 2, 1… the screening began. Dana Boadway animated
the opening credits in Flash, in a nice retro 60’s
film intro style to lively jazz music. As soon as the
credits ended, the first “Insanely Twisted Shadow
Puppet” clip began. “Call of the Wild” looked
incredible. I couldn’t get over the sound and
image quality. These were originally designed for small
televisions and computer screens, and here they were
now over 20 feet high and very, very loud. Dana had
told me in advance that the sound was unbelievable,
but it still didn’t prepare me. When the 2nd
dinosaur character leaps into the scene and growls,
I could feel the sound shaking my ribs. The audience
laughed and cheered.
this incredible showcase of inspiring imagery, the
12 “shadow puppet“ clips would appear
as nice transitions. Terrence had planned the order
of the screening so each of the clips would work with
the footage before and after. After a comedy segment,
he put our “Strange Couple” and “Juggler” laughing.
He placed “The Other Kind” clip before
another short film about the Devil trying to find the
perfect woman. After the footage of Davy Jones from
Pirates of the Caribbean with his many tentacles, Terrance
put our “Poor Dog” clip where the dog is
picked up by Alien tentacles. It worked nicely, and
the “Shadow Puppets” were very well received
by the audience.
During the daily events and parties of Siggraph, I
had many people come up to me to say how much they
loved the Shadow Puppets. Some said that they were
looking forward to each one at the screening, as they
were the only Two-Dimensional animation in the whole
a contributor to the event, I was invited to several
VIP parties, where I was
quickly introduced to everyone.
It was a lot of fun to hang out with everyone else
who contributed to this screening. I met people who
had been a part of computer animation since it’s
earliest beginnings, top animators, effects artists
and directors, and even an Academy Award Winner.
On the last night of the event, I had the pleasure
of sitting in on a seminar about voice acting in the
animation business. I had been looking forward to this
ever since I heard that it would be moderated by one
of the original Jim Henson Muppeteers, David Goelz.
David is best known as the puppeteer of Gonzo, Dr.
Bunsen Honeydew, Boober Fraggle, Uncle Travelling Matt,
as well as many movie characters. I have long been
a fan of his work. I made sure to introduce myself
after the seminar and get a picture taken with him.
Right after this seminar, I was invited to a catered
party at the trade center on the Boston waterfront.
They had everything from Chinese food, to Italian dishes,
Popcorn Machines, Chowder, Pretzels and Hamburgers.
It was a great way to meet up with people one last
time, share some laughs over a drink, and look at the
city of Boston lit up at night.
the last day, I went back to the conference before
it was time to fly back.
I made sure to say goodbye
to each of the people who had made this all possible.
I owe a big thanks to Terrence Masson, Dana Boadway,
Ryan Kuba and Laurie Schall for all of their help preparing
the Shadow Puppets footage and printed material over
the months leading up to Siggraph. I want to attend
Siggraph 2007 in San Diego next year. I’m sure
I’ll have as much fun as I did this time.
August 11th, 2006
complete list of footage in the Siggraph 2006 “Electronic