How do you make an unscripted, casual panel discussion between two people one of the most memorable events of siggraph? First you make it between Ed Catmull (Pixar) and Richard Chuang (Dreamworks). Now you center the conversation around a college course on “computer graphics” given in 1979. Now make one of the students taking the class Richard Chuang… and guess who’s teaching the class 30 years ago? Catmull.
What’s even better is that someone was recording the class on some old grainy black and white film.
So we all watch an excerpt of a young Catmull (at the time he was working at Lucas) saying stuff like “wouldn’t it be great to dedicate a whole processor just to sort out these complex graphics calculations… And wouldn’t it be great if it were actually programmable!”. And when the laughter in the room stops, they talk about how this very class actually changed the course of computer graphics forever and inspired the creation of two of the largest and most successful cg production houses.
Another one of my favorite moments is when Catmull discloses the cost of the frame buffer that he used to create one of the first computer generated animations. A 512x512x 8 bit memory buffer was $80k. Yikes!
The old footage shows a very excited professor with passion and vision unlike any other. Truly breaking ground – and still inspiring to this day!