Attending SIGGRAPH 20221396 words • 7 minute read
As I’m sitting in Vancouver, just letting it sink in that everything really just happened, I feel an overwhelming mix of happiness and gratitude.
After months and months of setting my sight on the then unbelievably distant-seeming dream of attending SIGGRAPH in person in Vancouver, it feels surreal to already find myself thinking back on it as a memory of the past.
Every Story has a Beginning
Well, not this one. At least not in the sense of an easy-to-pinpoint beginning. Leading up to graduating high school, I had at least 5 diverging plans for my future. Some of the things I seriously considered were ranging from “running away with the circus” as a juggler/acrobat, through attending Arts School, to becoming an actor or a lawyer.1 I finally ended up pursuing Computer Science at the Budapest University of Technology and Economics. I could never let go of the artistic side of things, though. During my first years of university studies, I kept attending jazz guitar lessons, as well as writing and performing musicals with the theater group at my local music school, as well as another local theater group. I have some extremely fond memories of performing with them.
I was fascinated by animated storytelling from a very early age, even attending summer camps and after-school weekend activities on traditional, paper-based animation. And just like many other young folks, I shot and edited LEGO stop-motion movies simply for the fun of it. I couldn’t say that this was the only thing on my mind at any point, and I for sure didn’t stick with it long enough to render artistically pleasing results. Still, when it comes to computer graphics, I feel that same childlike wonder and excitement pulsing inside me, looking at the work of brilliant artists and researchers.
Applying to the Student Volunteer Program
Being home from Munich for the Christmas holidays, I remember telling during a family dinner, that I’ve been excited about SIGGRAPH, and that it’s taking place in Vancouver this Summer, and I’m seriously considering applying, "…however crazy and far-fetched this might sound – what’s the worse that can happen?".
In the following months, having reached out for two references, as well as writing an essay-like submission, I ended up turning in my submission on March 3rd.
I received the big news on May 18th: “Congratulations! It is with great pleasure that we are writing to offer you a position as an In-Person Student Volunteer within the SIGGRAPH 2022 Student Volunteer Program!”.
I felt speechless, and couldn’t believe it was actually happening.
After being excited about SIGGRAPH for a couple of years at this point, and actively pursuing being a Student Volunteer this year for some time now, I just made my first major progress towards actually attending the conference. It should be all smooth sailing from here…
Oh, Those Finicky Implementation Details …
At some points of the journey, I felt an almost impostor syndrome-like sensation. As if things couldn’t possibly just work out this fine. There were so many things to consider that might go wrong; so many travel, visa, registration, and accommodation details to get in order. (Sadly, people actually did end up dropping out left and right due to visa issues.)
There was a virtual welcome session for student volunteers on June 11, and throughout July, many special sessions were held just for us, SVs. Invited speakers ranged from a previous SV chair to people from all walks of the industry sharing their wisdom on things like game development, rigging, as well as reel and overall life tips. After one of the presentations, I hung around, and had the opportunity to chat with the SV Chair, Diana, and our Community Leader, Rogelio for the first time in “real-time”. I was blown away by how friendly, helpful, and awesome they were.
I must say, the Student Volunteer Subcommittee gave all their love, caring, and help one could possibly provide. (Something that carried all the way throughout the conference week.)
Well, to say that the airplane companies did not, would be an understatement of grandeur. Luckily, it’s water under the bridge at this point. In the end, everything turned out all right. On the bright side, little things like getting my connecting flights canceled, gave me an opportunity to visit family near Bonn. I can’t describe how thankful I am for my family’s support, waking up at 3:30 am with me, and driving me out to the train station to be able to catch my plane, departing from Frankfurt, Germany at 9:20 am, towards Vancouver, British Columbia.
One thing is for sure, SIGGRAPH 2022 was just as awesome as I imagined it would be. Connecting with all the fellow SVs over coffee, beer, breakfast, lunch, or dinner, and sharing stories and experiences was awesome. I was also extremely excited to meet2 so many researchers and professors I have been following the work of for quite some time now. Meeting so many like-minded people excited about the same (honestly, relatively niche) stuff was a fantastic experience.
Being an SV
Our job as Student Volunteers consisted of many things. We were each assigned shifts throughout the week doing various things. On Monday, I had one of my favorite shifts. Two of us were helping with merchandise pick-up – giving out t-shirts, sweatshirts, and mugs that were pre-purchased with the attendee’s tickets. As it was the first day of the conference, and we were staying just across from the entrance, we were amongst the first people many attendees came in contact with. This not only meant us giving directions towards registration repeatedly, but getting to experience the joy and excitement everyone was feeling towards attending SIGGRAPH in person after multiple years of virtual events.
Another favorite shift of mine was being stationed at the booth of CREW in the Immersive Pavilion. They are a group from Brussels and were exhibiting their immersive MoCap experience, integrating some of the latest and greatest in technology into an artistic rendition of travelers crossing through half-empty train halls of grandeur during times of lockdown. An actress was accompanying you through the experience, hopping into the same virtual space as you in real-time, fusing technology and artistic expression in a very literal and beautiful way.
Throughout the week, I was helping speakers prepare, keep track of time, and attend to exhibitors. And all over the place, SVs were helping out attendees in any way we could.
To top off the days that seemed to rush by in a heartbeat, some of the most awesome companies in the industry were throwing some networking parties. Even though in my estimation I was meeting rockstars all over the place, everyone was so friendly, down-to-earth, and happy to have a chat about the most interesting of topics. It was also really interesting to hear what people connected to Hungary. Most mentioned Digic Pictures, but Károly Zsolnai-Fehér’s name (the researcher behind Two Minute Papers) also came up.
It’s a wrap!
Overwhelmed by a mix of various emotions, I’m still trying to let it sink in, that all of this really just happened, and I got to experience this all.
I feel like we all carry our unique, and one-of-a-kind experiences in life. This was mine, leading up to, and into SIGGRAPH 2022.
You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backward. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever.
— Steve Jobs' 2005 Stanford Commencement Address
If you are passionate about something, you should pursue it. Don’t settle. Echoing what I already wrote about in an earlier blog post , you should trust your feelings that what you’re doing makes sense.
It’s very rare that one gets reassurance from Life, that this is indeed the case. This was one of those experiences. Trust that the pieces in your life are all leading you where you are supposed to be.
To be fair, during my final year of high school, the real decision was between law and computer science. ↩︎
Or, in some cases be excited just to recognize across the hall… At one point, someone even joked that I wouldn’t be this excited to meet this-and-this superstar. I said “yeah, that’s true” with a huge smile. ↩︎