In high school, every jock, nerd, goth, emo, goth-emo-nerd hybrid, and loner kid that rides a unicycle to school while practicing yo-yo, all share one thing in common: 

The gossip. 

At SIGGRAPH 2023 – the tech conference that sets the tone for upcoming VFX tools and industry innovation – every jock, nerd, and emo of the tech and virtual production world (emphasis on the Nerds) is represented as they network, learn, and yes…


As SIGGRAPH carries through the week, we’ve listened for what’s heavily circulating among the hallway lockers aka SIGGRAPH 2023 conference exhibition floor. With dozens of exhibitors and presentations, here are a few of the topics that have made a cannonball splashdown at the 2023 SIGGRAPH Conference.


The standardization of Pixar’s OpenUSD technology

The powerhouses that have united to contribute to OpenUSD’s growth are like if all the racers from the original The Fast and the Furious got together in one garage to make a supercar. Of course, Dom (Pixar) provided the car engine and frame, and Ja Rule and everyone else joined in to build it. By Ja Rule, we of course mean, Apple, Adobe, NVIDIA, and Autodesk.

All of the companies above have partnered with the Joint Development Foundation (JDF) to create a coalition called the Alliance for OpenUSD (AOUSD). As reported by Apple in their August 1st press release, the mission goes like this: 

The alliance seeks to standardize the 3D ecosystem by advancing the capabilities of Open Universal Scene Description (OpenUSD). By promoting greater interoperability of 3D tools and data, the alliance will enable developers and content creators to describe, compose, and simulate large-scale 3D projects and build an ever-widening range of 3D-enabled products and services.

Created by Pixar Animation Studios, OpenUSD is a high-performance 3D scene description technology that offers robust interoperability across tools, data, and workflows. Already known for its ability to collaboratively capture artistic expression and streamline cinematic content production, OpenUSD’s power and flexibility make it an ideal content platform to embrace the needs of new industries and applications.

At SIGGRAPH 2023, the OpenUSD platform has gotten the support a dad gets from children after installing a 75-foot waterslide in the backyard. Creators are expressing the opportunity to move on from Alembic, and on a presentational level, OpenUSD is being explored with a “USD in Production” course. The course includes a panel of speakers from Weta Digital, Autodesk, Pixar, Animal Logic, SideFX, and Walt Disney Animation Studios (this event is livestreamed and recorded for virtual attendees). 

The exhibitor’s floor has also contributed to the conversation – companies involved in the AOUSD organization have more intimate breakdown sessions throughout the week devoted to OpenUSD. Autodesk had an exhibitor session for the entirety of Day 1 and NVIDIA has an exhibitor session called “NVIDIA OpenUSD Day” from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. PDT on Wednesday. The NVIDIA sessions take the form of half-hour sessions throughout the day where presenters discuss all facets of OpenUSD, from “Embracing OpenUSD Across Adobe’s Creative Applications” to “Intents: Building USD Workflows for Weta FX and Beyond.”


The NVIDIA Omniverse platform for OpenUSD

NVIDIA is a part of the broader OpenUSD discussion, but it’s also drawing plenty of attention with heavy promotion of its Omniverse platform. NVIDIA describes Omniverse as

NVIDIA Omniverse™ is a modular development platform for building 3D workflows, tools, applications, and services. Built on Pixar’s Universal Scene Description (OpenUSD), NVIDIA RTX™ and NVIDIA AI technologies, developers use Omniverse to build real-time 3D simulation solutions for industrial digitalization and perception AI applications. 

The platform enables building large-scale 3D worlds within a collaborative ecosystem, with a giant toolbox, where the creator has access to source code contributions from other developers and can grow their toolkit with custom AI-based worldbuilding tools. NVIDIA has posted tutorials that show creators how they animated lifelike fish fins or how users can create a realistic cloth fabric sweater.   

Demonstration of Omniverse’s new tools was integrated into the NVIDIA OpenUSD day sessions, with a “Next-Level Digital Humans” session for rendering techniques and an hour+ time block for Omniverse “Office Hours” at the end of Wednesday. The biggest spotlight was NVIDIA’s Tuesday morning keynote presentation with NVIDIA’s Founder and CEO, Jensen Huang. For interested viewers, the keynote speech below starts at 28:15. Huang’s speech garnered over 50,000 views in its first two hours on Youtube on a Tuesday morning.

Unity’s Wētā Tools releases this week

Unity Art tools demo

Okay, you get it – the theme of SIGGRAPH 2023 is 3D pipelines.

Unity has picked SIGGRAPH week to announce the unveiling of Wētā Tools, which will be a creative home base for 3D creation, rendering, and simulation. There was speculation – and even apprehension – that Unity’s Weta Digital acquisition could distort the creative trajectory of Weta’s effects and animation, but really, it’s simply placed these creative tools into a thriving biome of thousands of artists.   

Unity’s sophisticated toolset has already excited SIGGRAPH attendees the first couple of days, and this conversational fire may have been sparked by Unity’s opening afternoon keynote presentation with Unity’s Chief Architect Natalya Tatarchuk, Senior Vice President of Professional Artistry Allan Poore, and legendary VFX supervisor Joe Letteri.  

SIGGRAPH 2023: Your high school’s parking lot for VFX and animation artists

Remember that row of cars (or if you lived in rural Pennsylvania, pick-up trucks) that parked out at the edge of the high school parking lot or the Walmart parking lot and sat there literally all night? 

Your buddy’s 1988 Honda with lime green neon rims is replaced with an Autodesk exhibition floor table, and the 1991 beige station wagon that your mom loaned you is now SIGGRAPH’s VR Theater program. The parking lot is the Los Angeles Convention Center. No matter the analogy, it’s a shared concept: 

It’s fun to be with your peers and get excited about something. At this week’s SIGGRAPH, everyone’s talking, and the topics of gossip will carry the VFX industry right into the next year of CG innovation. 

Those who couldn’t get out to Los Angeles and still wish to participate in SIGGRAPH 2023 can purchase virtual access tickets, which will provide access to livestreamed recordings until September 9th.