Aug 11

WebGL on heavy rotation

Surprisingly there’s quite a lot of stuff going on related to the Web here at Siggraph. And even more suprising, those are the session that are really fully packed with people! I don’t know, either they’ve been given the smallest rooms or they didn’t expect so many people interested in the latest efforts behind the words Web3D, X3D, WebGL etc.

Full WebGL session

...last row, but at least sitting.

So, after I could not make it to the Web3D BoF on Tuesday (room was bursting!) I made it this morning to the BoF of Khronos Group, one of the key influencers behind OpenGL or WebGL in particular. Almost 15 speakers in 2 hours (!) showed their stuff and here a some of my favourites:

The Jellyfish simulation by Alexander Rodic makes a beautiful, but useless proof of 3D artwork (his own words…). Alexander is no developer at all, but comes from an artists perspective settling from Maya to WebGL directly (without having any experience in any more “basic” GL programming). With that perspective he claims that JavaScript is very fast – well, compared to C++ it still is NOT ;-) check it out, you can play around with it get behind the secrets for yourself.

Just a short note in between made by an employee of nVidia: they are working on WebGL mobile implementation for the Android browser. His non-public demo showed a small 3D aquarium with about 100 texturized fishes running at 6 fps (on a Motorola Xoom device) …ok that’s almost nothing, but interesting though the initiative of nVidia and their support for WebGL. will finally make my dream come true! Mark Danks of Kodoma Studios presented the robot design studio of their upcoming e-com site where you can design and – yes, they can – 3D print your own robot. Although they would not need too many polygones (the robot must not exceed some limits for the printing precision), the demo was pretty neat. You can even add a lot of textures that would map correctly onto the meshes in realtime, which is straight forward in other technologies but not as easy with the given WebGL standards and JS programming. Anyway, I am looking forward to my own nation ;-)

You should definitely start playing around with PhiloGL from SenchaLabs. It’s a very straight forward framework to start your work on WebGL projects and understand how the parts work together. The site is fully-loaded with examples and the project available on Github. I liked most the realtime color 3D histogram analysis – great work of state-of-the-art web tech!

There’s been another very interesting presentation by Opera Labs. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find anything about it later on the web. Anyway, by trying to develop a modern 3D gaming experience with the abilities of HTML5 they’ve revealed some interesting measurements on performance. For instance, rendering with WebGL comes up to 60 fps while simple 2D drawing on the canvas will result in almost 15 fps (with less quality). Of course, no new fact at all, but it proves how important the knowledge of “real hardcore graphic programming” will be in the future of exceptional experiences in web development.

As all of this stuff is not included on the conference DVD, the guys promised to upload their presentations to the Web GL Blog. Hopefully they’ll hold the promise, so far the site looks a little empty…

Aug 11

Catching the light

Accidentally I happen to run into a session called “Show me the pixels” of once again MIT Media Lab’s Camera Culture Group. Amazing stuff. Shooting almost a trillion frames per second they even catch the light (sent out by a laser) and produce somewhat the slowest slow-motion sequence ever recorded. It’s used to gather the outlines of objects that may reside around a corner and in the future it’ll be even more than just the outlined object…

Fortunately they’ve put one of their first presentations online, enjoy!

Aug 11

Pixar always makes a nice queue

Have a look at this picture:

Wow, it's Pixar!!

That is the end of a queue and the entrance to a production session…and here:

What's going on here? Pixar?

That is the start of that same queue on the OTHER side of the convention center. Though there were many voices telling “oh the people are queueing for just another pixar-something-session” I made my way into the room (of course in the end while waiting till everybody was inside).

It was worth it. Enrico Casarosa, an italo-american animator and storyteller working at Pixar on movies like “Cars” or “Up”, showcased his animation short “La Luna”. It was previously released on several short film festival, starting with Annecy in June. Enrico held a fantastic presentation. Most likely for an animator he presented a bunch of his slides as small illustrations he made by himself.

Have a look at the trailer:

Not only that it’s a very nice (and sentimental) piece, looking behind the scenes reveals how much work you have to put in those 4 or 5 minute animation shorts. Enrico talked about almost every step – starting with convincing animation titan John Lasseter with some sketches up to storyboarding, animating, lighting, sound production and overall delivery.

As always filmmakers show how important a precise and well-established production cycle is, especially for highly creative and even emotional experiences! It makes perfect sense to…

  • not only think but talk, present and discuss your story, idea, product, project to others right from the start (we tend to often think for ourselves until there is the “right point” to reveal our thoughts)
  • produce sketches, workout prototypes and dummies, even with the risk to FAIL at some point (Enrico had the great idea to take his crew out to a moonshine ride with a small boat to discover the feelings of the fishermen….they learned absolutely nothing, but were freezing to death ;-) )
  • hold your schedule and follow the steps you’ve learned to produce an highly professional outcome (though it takes time and you might think of “oh I did that a thousand times, I would not need that skeleton working scheme stuff…”)

I don’t think the above would prove wrong – in any industry, especially the so-called creative programming.

Aug 11

Insights on Google Body Project

You may heard of the Google Body Project, which allows you to browse and search all parts of your precious anatomic details. It features of course the heavy usage of WebGL. So far they’ve reached a peak of about 1.4 M vertices in realtime, within Chrome for sure. I didn’t try it with Firefox but it works very well in the Google universe. Nice fact: the coding team stated they’ve developed everything in their (legendary) 20% research time they’ve been given from their employer.

But the interesting thing is not that it works or that it even exists. The people at Google really tried to work out things with the existing tools that are out there, which is, to be honest, not quite a lot (compared to all the heavy “real” GL stuff around here at Siggraph). Web3D, WebGL et al. are still waiting to break through, but projects like these show some preview of what can be achieved (in fact, if you feel the need to do so without using other tools such as Flash ;-) ) in the first place.

Anyway, I bet some of my colleagues would be very interested about the way they managed to transport all the data via HTTP. They took a nice approach to use UTF-8 encoding for somewhat “compressing” the big bunch of data one needs to display a complex mesh like the human body and respectively all of its parts. I’ll hand over the details soon!

Aug 11

First impressions from Siggraph 2011

My very first impression was: huge. That really IS a conference. Almost 10.000 attendees, speakers and student volunteers! And Vancouver perfectly suits to that kind of crowd, especially while being the second most loved city by west coast animation film-makers. All kinds of artists, creatives, nerds, sysadmins (yes, they even have their own BOF sessions here!), managers and production executives seem to inhabit Downtown Vancouver these days. Though they may be very different, they all have at least one thing in common: the “nVidia-Green” badge by the main sponsor ;-)

What a nice location!

What a nice location!

A word on keynote sessions at conferences like Siggraph. They always have the power to either let you fall asleep or bring out the very most enthusiasm about yourself and what your everyday’s work is. Neither of those happened this year, because the speaker – the author Cory Doctorow – spoke about a very important topic in the creative industries: copyright laws.
Though I already knew some of his thoughts (and of course they are not new at all), he managed to let the crowd feel, what they’re problem really is. Companies like Apple (he didn’t want to pinpoint everything on Apple but almost did so anyhow…) follow a DRM policy that in the end he claimed as “you give them your property, they put a lock on it, but do not give you the key”. I think no one who ever tried to listen to a song which was purchased legally on iTunes NOT on iTunes but another distribution system will disagree. The artist however has no chance of giving you the right to do so – only Apple does. Of course not only Apple wants to earn money, but the artist, developer or writer too and they need distribution ways like iTunes.

Inside the conference center

Inside the conference center

I pretty much liked the way he was giving the speech and – he did not talk about “good” and “evil”, he moreover tried to convince the people to think of new models for DRM. In the end he had no solution to the problem at all, but gave some nice thoughts to go out and “ask the right questions” (american way of talking). And this is what keynote sessions are all about, right?

Oh, of course there’s always something bad you recognize right from the start. This time it’s the air conditioning system. It’s way too cold! If I want to warm out, I’d rather go outside – and this is Canada!

Aug 11

Siggraph 2011

Started on sunday, Siggraph 2011 is in full swing. Hopefully we’ll get some direct coverage. Meanwhile you can have a look at a great collection of papers and presentations, Ke-Se-Huang maintains a very comprehensive page.

Extract of Rubika ( Le laboratoire – Canal + ) from Ludovic HABAS on Vimeo.

Mr. Choco in Love.