Annual computer graphics conference encourages use of open source

It’s been a few years since I last attended the annual SIGGRAPH Conference. If you’re not familiar with SIGGRAPH, it’s a special interest group within the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) that focuses on computer graphics. It holds a North American conference every year, usually on the western side of the continent. This year it was in Vancouver, Canada.

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It’s been a few years since I last attended the annual SIGGRAPH Conference. If you’re not familiar with SIGGRAPH, it’s a special interest group within the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) that focuses on computer graphics. It holds a North American conference every year, usually on the western side of the continent. This year it was in Vancouver, Canada.

I like to describe the conference as the largest gathering of artists, researchers, and technicians (and some marketers, of course) with a focus on computer graphics. They come from all over the world to share what they know, learn from their peers, and show off their new toys. It’s one of my favorite conferences to attend.

In previous years, open source always seemed far from the forefront, marginalized to the fringes of the conference. This year, though, something seemed different. Sure, most of the discussions about open source software were still relegated to informal “birds of a feather” meetings, but those meetings served almost as a mini-conference unto themselves. It didn’t matter if the meeting was about software libraries like OpenEXR, OpenVDB, or OpenColorIO; specific applications like the 3D production suite Blender or a new open source photogrammetry framework called AliceVision; or various uses for Python in a production environment. Every meeting was packed with people.

That, I kind of expected. Though on the fringes, appreciation for open source has grown among attendees over the years. What I didn’t expect was to see open source heralded in very public ways. First, it was Nvidia’s announcement that they were open sourcing the SDK for their Material Definition Language (MDL). But there was more. Have a look at the keynote talk from the head of Industrial Light & Magic, Rob Bredow. The whole hour-long talk is worth watching, but pay particular attention starting around the 50-minute mark.

That’s right—not only is the keynote speaker at SIGGRAPH advocating the use and value of open source, but he used that opportunity to announce the newly formed Academy Software Foundation, an organization with an explicit mission to foster and develop open source software in the motion picture industry.

That’s pretty cool, if you ask me. I can’t wait to see what happens at next year’s conference. Maybe I’ll see you there.

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