Dave Shreiner on SIGGRAPH 2014

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Dave Shreiner was this year’s SIGGRAPH 2014 Conference Chair. In this conversation Dave and Steve Waskul explore some of the event’s memorable moments and what it’s like heading up the volunteers who work so hard to create this amazing event.

The interview begins with Dave and Steve talking briefly about StudioXperience and the impact it had at SIGGRAPH 2014. This year StudioXperience was located in the main lobby area so it had significant attention as industry experts and luminaries took to the stage for one-on-one interviews that were streamed live on Waskul.TV.

As an all-volunteer effort, one might imagine that it takes a lot of dedication for people to step up and take on the responsibility to bring together such a large event. During the interview Dave clearly demonstrates his enthusiasm for the work performed by his team and the results which were greatly appreciated by attendees.

During the interview, Dave notes that it was roughly a three year process from the time he was selected to be the Conference Chair until the show itself. That’s quite an investment of time and creativity which is not lost on Steve as he compares how massive the undertaking is to all the complexities companies deal with just bringing their presence to an event like this which is normally a single booth on the exhibit hall floor. Dave says that for him it was a tremendous learning experience in leadership. He had to take a team of volunteers, interview them, select those he thought would work best for key chair positions and then bring them together as a team to begin the work that resulted in SIGGRAPH 2014. It’s clear from the interview that Dave is proud of his team’s efforts and the end result.

SIGGRAPH 2014 had a focus on the “human element” and as the interview progresses Dave points out several very heart-warming stories from the show. The first is the Keynote presentation delivered by Elliott Kotek, the co-founder of Not Impossible Labs. During his presentation, Elliott told the audience about Daniel, a 14 year old refuge in South Sudan who had both arms amputated in a bombing. Elliott’s team was able to use a 3D printer to create a prosthetic arm for the boy. This is just part of the story though. Building upon Daniel’s success, Elliott’s team taught locals how to use the 3D printer so that they could use it to help other amputees. (Daniel is only one of 50,000 amputees). Dave relates how this heart-warming story had people moved to tears throughout the hall.

Another example that warmed Dave’s heart was the story of 47 year old Paulo Machado. Paulo is a polio survivor who is paralyzed and has lived in a hospital in São Paulo Brazil nearly his entire life. Dave explains that in his spare time Paulo became an animator and says “If you’re an animator, SIGGRAPH is your community”. With this idea driving them the team was able to get a telepresence robot donated that Paulo was able to control from his hospital room 8,000 miles away. With this setup Paulo was able to attend sessions and even interact with some of the attendees. Also, Dave explains that one of the SIGGRAPH chapter chairs is a Maya instructor and that she also is Brazilian. She has exchanged e-mails with Paulo and has offered to help him out when he has trouble with the application which he uses for his animations.

Steve relates that how a year ago Dave told him that he wanted to put a human touch to SIGGRAPH 2014. Both the examples above clearly demonstrate that the team succeeded. Certainly as Dave says such an effort is a labor of love and it shows in the results.

Moving forward the men talk about many of the benefits of attending SIGGRAPH. They both encourage folks to attend in 2015 and agree that there is nothing like the human interaction you get being face to face with other attendees at a show like SIGGRAPH.