SIGGRAPH 2018 Report

View on Vancouver downtown from the north side of the lake. Here hotels were stil affordable (yachts not included :).

My annual trip to SIGGRAPH took me to Vancouver again. A place I’ve started to love a lot. A young and vibrant city, with a stunning skyline – and one main drawback: prices have doubled in the past 5 years. Airbnb and hotels alike – housing a crew for a week here would have costed a fortune. It’s one of the reasons we skipped a booth this year.

As usual it was a great visit – my 20th SIGGRAPH in a row even. It’s a place where you see old friends once a year. Aside of all the fun, here is a list of notes I made to sketch an impression for you.

Blender Birds of a Feather, Foundation-Community meeting by Ton Roosendaal

Birds of a Feather

Birds of a Feather events were not part of the main schedule booklet this year. Instead it had just one page in the back with a note “please check online for schedule and locations”. Our event was put in a hotel without any signage to the BoF rooms. It’s clearly being marginalized. I know SIGGRAPH is struggling with the BoF concept. For Open Source projects (about one third of the BoFs) it’s the only way to get an event scheduled there. But there’s also abuse (recruiters, commercial sowftware) and in a sense it became some kindof parallel conference-in-a-conference. I’m curious what the future for this will be.

It’s an old tradition to start the Blender BoF with giving everyone a short moment to introduce self, occupation and what they do with Blender (or want to know). Visitors came again from many different areas, including from Netflix, Amazon, NASA, Microsoft, Sidefx.

In my talk I used a lot of videos (copied from the great Code Quest collection), so can’t share it as slides easily… basically I had no real news, with one exception:  announcing the “Dev Fund 2.0” project. We are working on giving the Development Fund a major boost, especially by giving the members more recognition. Will go live mid September!

Ton Roosendaal presenting Birds of Feather

The 2nd BoF was the “Blender Spotlight” – organized by David Andrade. Members of the audience were invited to step forward and show what they do with Blender.
For the evening David had a nice surprise, invited me to join the Theory Studios boat-cruise-dinner!

Note to self: maybe record the BoF’s next time…

Meetings / sessions

  • Met with 3D Artist Magazine – they’re covering Blender very well for years. Made sure we’re well lined up for a Blender 2.8 themed issue.
  • Met with the CEO of Original Force studios China. They’ve been eying Blender already a while but didn’t make a step yet. I had two more meetings with him on the days after, also with his CTO. It’s very interesting to hear the point of view of bigger studios (1400 people) towards Blender. It would probably be best to send them a couple of good trainers or artists over. Conversations are ongoing.
  • Had a nice talk with fellow giant (2 meters) Jos Stam. He was granted the SIGGRAPH academy membership this year. And – he left Autodesk.
  • Nvidia’s keynote was actually a fun watch. CEO Jensen Huang managed to keep the audience involved for 90 minutes. Best trick he used: center everything around one message, “real-time ray-tracing”.
  • The day after the keynote I had an hour meeting with 9 (!) Nvidia product managers/engineers. Needless to say, just only about one topic: how do we get Optix and MDL in Blender. It was a productive meeting with a good outcome. Nvidia has  to internally sign this off still, so I can’t say more now. :)
  • Blender will become official member of the Academy Software Foundation! Met with a Linux Foundation representative who makes it happen for us now.
  • I was on a panel. Invited by Jon Peddie, on his famous annual Luncheon. Topic was “virtual studios”.

And then there was the tradeshow. Blender was prominently present at the AMD booth.

Mike Pan demoing Blender in the AMD booth theater.

Permanent Blender demo station at AMD booth, right at show entran

  •  Met with a representative of Oculus (someone I already knew a long time and who switched jobs :). We’re discussing to setup a project around VR authoring together.
  • Had several good meetings with our AMD friends. Aside of hardware seeds (threadripper 2 has a special thread balance issue we need to tackle) we also discussed renewing development support. More to follow.
  • Had two meetings with Intel. This was also to check on some details for the Blender Conference Sponsoring (Intel = Main Sponsor!) but I also wanted to warm them up for joining the Development Fund.
  • Had a really cool meeting with Wacom too. They always support Blender very well, whatever is needed we can ask them. Good tablet support is essential for Blender users, especially with the rise of Grease Pencil and 2D/3D animation tools in Blender. Wacom *loves* Grease Pencil, we will work with them on demo files they can share via their own channels (and demo themselves on shows).
  • Met with a guy who used Blender at Lucas Arts in London, for concept development of Jurassic World. Trying to get him to present it at the Blender Conference.
  • Had a long chat with Neil Trevett of Khronos. They’re actually funding Blender development now (glTF exporter). He also would look forward seeing us moving to Vulkan – we can make a project plan for it. And he knows that Apple Metal and Vulkan will get a good compatibility library as well. No worries for the Apple users then!

And then I had notes about Sketchfab (free 3D model importer addon), Lulzbot printers (much improved resolution), Adobe Dimension (heavily dominated by Blender artists), Nimble Collective (interested to help us out with animation/rigging tools), Epic Games (interested to support us), but I think it’s best to leave it with this!

Just one closing note. A couple of years ago I found out that Blender was finally being taken seriously in the industry. In this edition of SIGGRAPH it was the first time I noticed people want to do business with us. A new milestone.

Ton Roosendaal
Chairman Blender Foundation