The first talk I went to today was about render farm management at academic institutions. I thought this showed off one of huge strengths of this conference. That's a pretty specific, narrow interest topic, but there was a bout two dozen people there, and I have a lot of ideas that will help the program I teach in.
I left that talk a bit early to check out the Nuke 9 presentation. I was really happy with what I saw, which was improvements to tools that I use on a regular basis. I've been using planar tracking more and more now that the studio I work at has Mocha. I've found Nuke's previous implementation seriously lacking, often struggling with grainy and unfocused footage. If the improvements are as good as they say they are, then that will make my life easier. As always, we won't know until we start using it ourselves, but the test footage looked challenging and the results were good.
They also revamped their vector generator which improves Kronos and their Motion Blur took. That's another tool that I'll try using, hoping it will work, but then usually give up because of the artifacts that will pop up. They've also made huge I/O speed improvements and have implemented mip mapping in the Scanline Render node which should speed that node up greatly.
To me, the best Nuke releases are the ones that improve tools that I use every day. This release looks really solid in that area. There were a lot of other announcements like V-Ray being released for Modo, Nuke and Katana and more Nuke Studio updates, but I really only cared about the NukeX update since that's what I use every day.
After that I headed over to the Sidefx booth and took in some presentations. They were short overview talks on destruction, Mantra rendering and the version of Arnold being released for Houdini. It was cool seeing how they integrated it, it seems very much a 1st class citizen of Houdini and not just hacked in there.
After a quick lunch I checked out a talk by the studio that makes the Killzone games. I've been more and more interested in gaming/realtime graphics, as I can imagine that we're just one or two more generations (or less) away from the day when that will be good enough for a lot of productions. They spoke about their lighting pipeline (transitioned to a physically-based pipeline) and their particle and destruction pipeline. Very informative for me, since I know very little about how they do destruction in games.
Then I attended Daniel Lay (VFX Soldier) and Scott Ross' question and answer session about their plan to eliminate subsidies for VFX production. Their argument is that subsidies create a unstable industry. If you look at what happened with Sony in New Mexico and how almost every studio has relocated from California to Vancouver, I don't think too many people could argue that our industry is as unstable as it's ever been. I'll write more about this later when I'm not typing on an iPad, probably next week, but it was a very informative session.
Once that was done I headed over to the Dailies session. That's where artists present a shot, project or a technical challenge that they completed. They explain what they learned, and break it down for the audience. This was very fast paced which made the presentation fly by. I was impressed by the Image Engine's robot destruction from Elysium and a music video done by a Syrian VFX studio.
At this point I'm bloody exhausted, but in a good way.