29 June 2012

ACM SIGGRAPH Announces 2012 Award Honorees

ACM SIGGRAPH is excited to announce its 2012 award recipients: Greg Turk, Computer Graphics Achievement Award; Karen Liu, Significant New Researcher; Jean-Pierre Hébert, Lifetime Achievement in Digital Art; and David Kasik, Outstanding Service Award.

The awards will be presented during the SIGGRAPH Keynote session on Monday, August 6, at 11:00 am in Los Angeles. The awardees will give their individual talks on Monday, August 6, 2011 at 2:00 pm.

Listed below is more background on the recipients.

Greg Turk, Computer Graphics Achievement Award

Greg Turk is being recognized with the 2012 Computer Graphics Achievement Award for his contributions to physically-inspired mathematical application in graphics, particularly his work on texture synthesis, geometric modeling, and physical simulation involving thin structures.

Greg’s Ph.D. thesis work on textures generated by reaction-diffusion equations, a notion originally proposed by Alan Turing, showed how to generate realistic-looking patterns like leopard spots or zebra stripes. Furthermore, in studying these “in situ” rather than via a parameterization, he developed a physically-inspired sample-selection scheme for surfaces, in which adjacent samples repelled one another, leading to a sampling pattern with roughly equal inter-sample distances. This early work on reaction-diffusion evolved into other texture research throughout his career: texture synthesis by example, stitching textures using graph cuts, geometric textures, texture transfer from one shape to another, and even the formation of patterns of vegetation in wetlands.

He has also done extensive work on meshes, from image-guided simplification, in which the metric for simplifying a polyhedral object was view-dependent, to automatic remeshing techniques to improve mesh characteristics needed for faithful simulation and other computations, to “zippered meshes”, in which multiple geometric scans of an object are joined into a single continuous whole, most notably the “Stanford bunny,” a mesh that has served as a test-case in hundreds of SIGGRAPH papers.

Above and beyond his research, Greg has been an enormously effective advisor and mentor, not just to his own students, but to many others with whom he’s come in contact. He’s always willing to share advice and encouragement. His short essay on writing technical reviews, produced when he served as the SIGGRAPH 2008 papers chair, has served as a guideline for responsibility and civility in our field’s reviews ever since.

Greg is currently a Professor at the Georgia Institute of Technology, where he is a member of the School of Interactive Computing and the Graphics, Visualization and Usability Center.  He received a Ph.D. in computer science in 1992 from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Karen Liu, Significant New Researcher Award

ACM SIGGRAPH is delighted to present the 2012 Significant New Researcher award to Karen Liu, in recognition of her pioneering contributions in the field of computer animation, particularly her work in optimization and control of human motion. Liu’s seminal contributions lie in physics-based animation, character animation, and computational biomechanics. Her work can be broadly characterized as employing optimization and physical simulation to discover fundamental and natural patterns of human motion.

Karen has amassed an impressive body of work beginning with her first ACM SIGGRAPH paper in 2002, “Synthesis of Complex Dynamics Character Motion from Simple Animation”. Her work is marked by a principled and biomechanically sound approach to modeling the human form. This scientific grounding for her optimizations causes her results to naturally represent such characteristics of lifelike behavior as appropriate forces and energy efficient strategies. Her work is rife with compelling examples that span much of human behavior and include a small child pulling on the hand of a parent as they walk together (“Composition of Complex Optimal Multi-Character Motions”), human grasps that include the soft contacts of the figures (“Dextrous Manipulation from a Grasping Pose” and “Controlling Physics-Based Characters Using Soft Contacts”), and the elastic elements in shoes, tendons and ligaments that enable natural gait patterns on rough terrain (“Learning Physics-Based Motion Style with Nonlinear Inverse Optimization”). Her recent research has expanded on the theme of optimization to create motion and control for creatures swimming through water (“Articulated Swimming Creatures”).

Karen Liu joined Georgia Tech in August 2007 as an assistant professor in the School of Interactive Computing. Before moving to Atlanta, she was an assistant professor at the University of Southern California, after she received her Ph.D. and M.S. in 2005 and 2001 from the University of Washington. Karen has been honored by the Georgia Tech Sigma Xi Young Faculty Award (2011), a Sloan Research Fellowship (2010), the Young Innovators Under 35 (Technology Review, 2007), and a NSF Career Award

Jean-Pierre Hébert, Award for Lifetime Achievement in Digital Art

Jean-Pierre Hébert is being recognized with the Award for Lifetime Achievement in Digital Art for his pioneering achievements in creating art through computer programming and leading the way towards new forms of creative expression using algorithms and innovative techniques.

Hébert's work uses the computer algorithm at its heart, at least in a technical sense (as he points out below, it is the aesthetic and spiritual imperatives that come first). As one of the founders of the 'algorists' this is only natural, but, as with all digital artists, the particular algorithms he has turned to have a personal and unique enquiry behind them. Also remarkable in his work is the range of media to which Hébert has employed over the years. The image above shows just one example, while the use of sand as a medium is one of the most delightfully unexpected applications of the algorithm in art.

Algorithms: Hébert has been drawn to algorithms with a mathematical basis, particularly those which seem to expose the underlying structures of the physical world. Hence we see traces of natural processes in the images, those of water, the forces that shape fabrics, the effect of winds on vapour and sand.

The Plotter: Although Hébert has experimented with a wide range of media, the majority of his pieces are executed with the plotter, enabling the use of high-quality inks and art papers. Plotters are generally being replaced in the industries that used them with laser or inkjet printers, so artists like Hébert are having to rely on machines that can no longer be replaced.

The Virtual Plotter: Hébert has written software that generates bitmap images from the plotter codes that his programs generate. This means that a 'virtual' plot can be generated and saved to disk for printing with high-quality light-fast printing processes now available. The Virtual Plotter acts a little like the 'rasterisation' routines that convert a PostScript or other vector information into a bitmap for printing or manipulation in a paint program. However, the Virtual Plotter needs to preserve the sequence of mark-making to capture the original plotted image. The actual marks that the pens make on paper, and the way that ink bleeds into the fibres, are harder to simulate however.

Sand as a Medium: Although Hébert prefers to keep the details of the mechanisms hidden, his sand pieces allow for his algorithmic explorations to drive a ball through sand in order to create relatively ephemeral artworks reminiscent of Zen gardens. A natural extension of the process has been the introduction of the time element: the movement of the ball through the sand is part of the piece, unlike in the creation of the plotted works.

Since 2003, he has been an artist in residence at the Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics (KITP) at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

David Kasik, Outstanding Service Award

For his leadership, dedication, and expertise, ACM SIGGRAPH recognizes David J. Kasik’s commitment to our community with the 2012 Outstanding Service Award.

Dave has been actively involved in SIGGRAPH for many years. He attended the very first SIGGRAPH conference in 1974 and is the only person to attend every SIGGRAPH conference!  He has contributed to the organization in almost every way possible: technically, logistically and organizationally. His main organizational contributions
have been in two areas: the conference exhibits program and the development of a mentoring program for high school students.

A major factor in the growth of SIGGRAPH, both the organization and the conference, throughout the late 70s and especially in the 80s and 90s, was the rapidly evolving use of graphics in 3D CAD. Nowhere was this excitement more evident than on the exhibits show floor at the annual conference. Income from exhibits helped SIGGRAPH explore new ideas for the conference and adapt and innovate to match the changing needs of the computer graphics community.

During the 80s the annual conference grew from a strong base developed by volunteers to a professionally managed conference with the same amazing qualities. Key to this was a close relationship between the professional management firms and the volunteers. The teams were responsible for ensuring an appropriate balance between a “business-like” approach and the grass-roots enthusiasm that propelled SIGGRAPH to the top rank of ACM conferences. Dave was a major driver of this transformation. He was volunteer Exhibits Chair for SIGGRAPH ‘80 in Seattle, the first year a professional exhibits management firm was employed, with all 25,000 square feet of the Seattle Coliseum selling out. This set a pattern that established exhibitors as equal partners with other stakeholders. Dave returned as volunteer Exhibits Chair in Orlando in 1994, selling out 104,000 square feet. He served as Exhibitor Advisory Committee Chair from 1981-92, providing continuity and an active voice for the exhibitor community.

Equally important is Dave’s contribution to SIGGRAPH’s future. As head of Computer Graphics Pioneers a decade ago, he established a mentoring program to attract high school students to computer graphics. He has had a leading role in this organization every year since then. His dedication and enthusiasm for bringing new people into our community is truly impressive. Over 100 students have participated to date, with perhaps half going on to careers in computer graphics or related areas.

Dave Kasik is Boeing’s Senior Technical Fellow in visualization and interactive techniques, exploring new ways to visualize huge amounts of geometric and complex nongeometric data. He earned a Bachelor’s at Johns Hopkins University (1970), and a Masters in Computer Science at the University of Colorado (1972).

28 June 2012

SIGGRAPH Computer Animation Festival 2012 Preview Video Is Now Live

The SIGGRAPH Computer Animation Festival is the annual festival for the world's most innovative, accomplished, and amazing digital film and video creators. An internationally recognized jury receives hundreds of submissions and presents the best work of the year in daily Festival Screenings and the Electronic Theater. Selections include outstanding achievements in time-based art, scientific visualization, visual effects, real-time graphics, and narrative shorts. Here is this year's preview video:

The Computer Animation Festival is recognized by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences as a qualifying festival. Since 1999, several works originally presented in the Computer Animation Festival have been nominated for or have received a "Best Animated Short" Academy Award. This year’s selections will be featured during the Computer Animation Festival through a series of daily Festival Screenings and the iconic Electronic Theater, allowing attendees to get a glimpse behind the making of computer-generated effects, visualizations, and animations.

Interesting statistics from this year's amazing content:

  • Total Juried Submissions – 601
  • Student Entries – 289
  • Jury Selections – 81  
  • Total Computer Animation Festival Selected Entries – 370+
  • Number of Countries Represented – 43 
The Festival is open to the public and a one day pass is available for $50 [includes access to Birds of a Feather, Computer Animation Festival, Exhibitor Tech Talks, Keynote Speaker, Job Fair, Real-Time Live!, SIGGRAPH Dailies!, Technical Papers Fast Forward, and the Exhibition (Tues-Thurs)].

SIGGRAPH 2012 takes place 5-9 August in Los Angles, California. Visit the SIGGRAPH 2012 website to learn more.

25 June 2012

SIGGRAPH 2012 Releases Packed Schedule of Production Sessions

SIGGRAPH 2012, 5-9 August at the Los Angeles Convention Center, just released an all-star line-up of production sessions that will be featured as part of its annual Computer Animation Festival, which is open to the public.

“Nowhere else in the world can you get this level of access to elite and talented Hollywood computer graphic experts and creative talent,” said Jerome Solomon, SIGGRAPH 2012 Production Sessions Chair from The Art Institute of California - Sunnyvale. “Having such cooperation from so many major studios could only happen at SIGGRAPH and we are ecstatic to be able to bring our community such incredible content.”

The Computer Animation Festival, chaired this year by Joshua Grow from the Creative-Cartel, is recognized by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences as a qualifying festival. Since 1999, several works originally presented in the Computer Animation Festival have been nominated for or have received a "Best Animated Short" Academy Award. This year’s selections will be featured during the Computer Animation Festival through a series of daily Festival Screenings and the iconic Electronic Theater, allowing attendees to get a glimpse behind the making of computer generated effects, visualizations, and animations

Following are the details of the 2012 Production Sessions:

Pixomondo Presents “Hugo”: A Cinematic Convergence of 3D and Visual Effects
Panelists: Ben Grossman, Visual Effects Supervisor, Alex Henning, Digital Effects Supervisor, Adam Watkins, CG Supervisor from Pixomondo, and Matthew Gratzner, Visual Effects Supervisor from New Deal Studios
In “Hugo”, Martin Scorsese’s love letter to classic cinema and cinema history, the director was passionate about pushing the capabilities of stereoscopic filmmaking to new heights. Pixomondo developed custom workflows to handle complex challenges in VFX and capture all of the live-action production data required to accommodate the rigorous effects and post-production demands of the project. This Pixomondo panel discusses the creative and technical challenges they overcame to achieve Scorsese’s vision for early filmmaking in stereo 3D. Also joining them will be New Deal Studios visual effects supervisor, Matthew Gratzner, who was responsible for creating the train crash sequence in the film.

Building Disney•Pixar’s “Brave”: Pencils to Pixels
Panelists: Colin Thompson, Character Shading Supervisor, Tia Kratter, Shading Art Director, Claudia Chung, Simulation Supervisor, and Danielle Feinberg, Director of Photography, Lighting
From bouncing red curls to gusty dark forests, this panel summarizes how Disney•Pixar created their summer 2012 film: “Brave”. The artists lead a guided tour through “Brave’s” production pipeline, illustrating the kind of exploration and problem-solving required to move an asset from initial design through characters and sets, animation, and lighting, and into a final rendered frame.

Sony Pictures Animation: Checking in at “Hotel Transylvania”
Welcome to “Hotel Transylvania”, Dracula’s lavish five-stake resort, where monsters and their families can live it up, free to be the monsters they are without human interference. For one special weekend, Dracula invites some of his best friends – Frankenstein and his bride, the Mummy, the Invisible Man, the Werewolf family, and more – to celebrate his beloved daughter Mavis’s 118th birthday. In this session, first-time feature director Genndy Tartakovsky (“Dexter’s Laboratory”, “Samurai Jack”, “Clone Wars”) and the creative team behind “Hotel Transylvania” explore the art, unique animation style, and technical achievements of Sony Pictures Animation’s new animated feature.

Digital Domain Presents “Making the Steel Real: Moving VFX Into Production”
Moderator: Michael Fink, Academy-Award-Winning Visual Effects Supervisor
Panelists: Ron Ames, Associate Producer, Erik Nash, Digital Domain, John Rosengrant, Legacy Effects, Swen Gillberg, Digital Domain and Dan Taylor, Animation Supervisors
Nominated for a visual effects Academy Award, DreamWorks’ “Real Steel” was recognized not only for its rollicking boxing matches between CG robots, but also for the seamless way the film moves between practical robots and their CG counterparts. In this panel, some of the “Real Steel” filmmakers walk through robot design, explain key techniques and shots, and share the groundbreaking virtual-production process that they packed up and moved to Detroit, which compressed the shooting schedule to 71 days with no second unit.

Sony Pictures Imageworks: Travel Behind the Scenes of “Men in Black 3”
Sony Pictures Imageworks’ visual effects for “Men in Black 3” included diverse and richly detailed characters and environments, all created with a heightened sense of realism. With a mix of humor and style, the Men in Black return to 1969 with a digital re-creation of New York’s Shea Stadium and the Apollo 11 rocket launch, and an action-packed monocycle chase through the streets of Brooklyn. This panel explores the challenges and achievements of producing the visual effects for “Men in Black 3”.

Sony Pictures Imageworks: The Untold Story of “The Amazing Spider-Man”
Sony Pictures Imageworks oversaw the visual effects for the untold story of Spider-Man, set in a gritty, edgy urban world. The VFX team established a visual style that naturally blends cutting-edge live-action stunt work, extensive digital environments, and CG character animation. This panel provides a revealing inside look at VFX production for an “amazing” film.

Rhythm & Hues Studios: 25 Years of Art, Technology and People
"Snow White and the Huntsman" ©/ TM Universal Pictures.  Image:  Rhythm & Hues
In this panel and presentation, an array of artists and executives associated with the past and present of Rhythm & Hues Studios explore the many factors that have led to the studio’s longevity and success. Highlights include a retrospective of the company’s early days, from its origins at the pioneering CGI company Robert Abel and Associates in the 1970s and 80s and the founding of Rhythm & Hues in 1987, to its groundbreaking animation work in the 90s and its recent work “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe”, VFX Oscar winner “The Golden Compass”, “The Incredible Hulk”, the “Alvin The Chipmunks” franchise, and more.

Industrial Light & Magic Presents: The Visual Effects of “Battleship”
Panelists: Grady Cofer, Visual Effects Supervisor, Glen McIntosh, Animation Supervisor, Willi Geiger, CG Supervisor, Doug Smythe, Digital Production Supervisor from Industrial Light & Magic
A behind-the-scenes look at Peter Berg’s blockbuster sci-fi epic “Battleship”. The ILM production team reviews the film’s various challenges and describes why it was necessary to revamp the studio’s award-winning fluid-simulation system. Also, advances in CG destruction and simulation technology required to accurately depict everything from a resurrected World War II battleship to a fleet of modern-day naval ships, not to mention aliens and their formidable fleet of spacecraft.

Balancing Act: Life as a Visual Effects Supervisor at DreamWorks Animation
Panelists: Ken Bielenberg, “Puss in Boots”, Mahesh Ramasubramanian, “Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted”, David Prescott, “Rise of the Guardians” (November 2012) and Markus Manninen “The Croods” (March 2013) from DreamWorks Animation

In this panel, the Visual Effects Supervisors for the last two and next two DreamWorks Animation films discuss how they approached each production. In the studio environment, there are opportunities to share development with other shows, but differing visual requirements also mean each show has unique needs. How do the visual-effects teams balance the safety of using tried-and true-techniques with the requirements to create ever more visually sophisticated and complex work? How do they manage the benefits of sharing across shows with the specific needs of their show? Each panelist shares some successes (and failures!) from their most recent projects.

Weta Digital Presents Virtual Production: Combining Animation, Visual Effects, and Live-Action Filmmaking
Four-time Oscar-winning Senior Visual Effects Supervisor, Joe Letteri, presents Weta Digital’s pioneering virtual-production work on “The Adventures of Tintin” and “Avatar”. His talk also addresses workflow development at Weta going all the way back to “The Lord of the Rings” and suggests some areas of future development. Weta sees virtual production as a connected, holistic approach to filmmaking that melds the best of animation and live-action techniques in pre-production, onset, and post. This presentation demonstrates how virtual production brings all of the components of filmmaking together to provide a way of working that has attracted directors like Peter Jackson, James
Cameron, and Steven Spielberg.

The Art and Science Behind Walt Disney Animation Studios’ “Paperman”
Moderator: Darrin Butters, Animator
Panelists: John Kahrs, Director, Patrick Osborne, Animation Supervisor, Amol Sathe, Lighting and Compositing Supervisor, Jeff Turley, Art Director, and Brian Whited, Final Line Software
Applying a technique that seamlessly merges computer-generated and hand-drawn animation techniques, first-time director, John Kahrs takes the art of animation in a bold new direction with “Paperman”. Using a minimalist black-and-white style, the short film follows the story of a lonely young man in mid-century New York City, whose destiny takes an unexpected turn after a chance meeting with a beautiful woman on his morning commute. In this panel, members of the small, innovative group at Walt Disney Animation Studios that created “Paperman” share their insights about the art, design, and technology of this innovative project.

High Frame Rate Cinema, Impacts on Art and Technology With Douglas Trumbull and Dennis Muren
Panelists: Paul Salvini, Christie Digital Systems USA, Inc.; Douglas Trumbull, Filmmaker; Dennis Muren, Industrial Light & Magic; Phil Oatley, Park Road Post Production; Lincoln Wallen, DreamWorks Animation; Jim Beshears, DreamWorks Animation SKG; Darin Grant, Digital Domain; Matthew Cowan, RealD Inc.; Luke Moore, Side Effects Software Inc.; John Helliker, Screen Industries Research and Training Centre
Some of the biggest movies on the horizon – “Avatar’s” sequels and “Lord of the Rings” prequels – will be presented in stereoscopic 3D high-frame-rate cinema. Peter Jackson and James Cameron are betting on their expectation that audiences will love the more immersive and detailed worlds that these 3D productions can offer. But what IS high-frame-rate cinema, and what will it mean to producers of content and to the audience experience? This panel of experts explains high-frame-rate cinema and discusses the implications of producing and experiencing cinematic content in the new medium.

LAIKA's "ParaNorman": The Fusion of Stop Motion and CG  in a Zombie-Ridden World
Panelists: Brian Van't Hul, VFX Supervisor, Steve Emerson, Compositing Supervisor, and Andrew Nawrot, CG and Look Development Supervisor
Get a first-hand, 3D look at LAIKA's interdependent combination of stop-motion and CG in an environment where hand-crafted movement is seamlessly integrated with computer technology, from initial concept to final frame. Academy Award-winner Brian Van't Hul is joined by Steve Emerson and Andrew Nawrot to discuss the collaborative relationship of the technologies in the upcoming feature "ParaNorman" (in theaters August 17).

Assembling the VFX for Marvel’s “The Avengers”
Panelists: Victoria Alonso, Executive Producer and Executive Vice President of Visual Effects & Post Production, Marvel; Jeff White, Visual Effects Supervisor, ILM, Guy Williams, Visual Effects Supervisor, Weta Digital; Marc Chu, Animation Supervisor , ILM; Aaron Gilman Animation Supervisor, Weta Digital

Marvel's “The Avengers” still photo courtesy of Marvel Studios. TM & © 2012 Marvel & Subs. www.marvel.com
Leaders of the visual effects teams from Industrial Light & Magic and Weta Digital will discuss the unique effects challenges that this blockbuster film presented and how the studios broke new ground with their respective approaches to creating the seamless effects work. From the epic Mountain Battle between Iron Man and Thor and the climatic alien invasion of Manhattan to bringing the Hulk to life, the supervisors will detail what worked, what didn’t and the complexities involved in bringing "The Avengers" to the big screen.

19 June 2012

SIGGRAPH 2012 Announces Computer Animation Festival Winners

SIGGRAPH 2012, 5-9 August at the Los Angeles Convention Center, announces the Computer Animation Festival's Best in Show, Jury Award, Best Student Project, and Well Told Fable Prize recipients. A total of 94 films will be shown during the Computer Animation Festival. Nominees were chosen by an expert panel of jury members from 601 submissions representing 43 countries.

The Computer Animation Festival is recognized by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences as a qualifying festival. Since 1999, several works originally presented in the Computer Animation Festival have been nominated for or have received a "Best Animated Short" Academy Award.

This year’s selections will be featured during the Computer Animation Festival through a series of daily Festival Screenings and the iconic Electronic Theater, allowing attendees to get a glimpse behind the making of computer-generated effects, visualizations, and animations.

Directed by Yoshimichi Tamura, PlanKtoon; France

In a boutique in Paris, Louise looks at her reflection in the surrounding mirrors. Tonight, she has a rendezvous with Jules, her fiancé. Suddenly she notices that she's late, and goes off in great haste to her flat to get ready. Réflexion is a description of women's concerns about the way they look.

How To Eat Your Apple
Directed by Erick Oh, Independent; USA

Here is a delicious apple. How would you eat it?

Directed by Jeff Call, Brigham Young University; USA

Estefan, the world's greatest hairdresser, must design a hairstyle for Clara, a woman with no hair, in order to preserve his reputation.

Directed by Sascha Geddert, Filmakademie Baden-Wuerttemberg; Germany
In the vastness of space, a small speck of rock is inhabited by the most peculiar lifeforms: Dark little dots that start to replicate fast and begin to show signs of intelligence. "Globosome“ tells the story of the rise and fall of these little creatures.

Herr Hoppe und der Atommüll 
Directed by Jan Lachauer and Thorsten Löffler, Filmakademie Baden-Wuerttemberg; Germany
A barrel of nuclear waste drops into the living room of Herr Hoppe, an average suburban German. He has to get rid of it and does it in his own wacky way.

Directed by: Romain Borrel, Gaël Falzowski, Benjamin Rabaste, and Vincent Tonelli, Supinfocom Arles; France

In a cured meats deli, a customer starts fantasizing about the butcher. She takes us into a clichéd vision of couple-hood, transcribed, for better or for worse, within a universe of pork products.

SIGGRAPH 2012 images are available to authorized news media representatives. To request access, please contact the SIGGRAPH 2012 Media Office.

15 June 2012

SIGGRAPH 2012 Advance Program is Now Live

SIGGRAPH 2012 has just released the best planning resource for a week of learning, exploring, and amazing interaction with tomorrow's technologies.  The downloadable PDF details everything from the Technical Papers program to the Computer Animation Festival.

Click here to download a copy.

13 June 2012

SIGGRAPH 2012 Selects Jane McGonigal as Keynote Speaker

SIGGRAPH announces the selection of Jane McGonigal, director of game research and development at the Institute for the Future (IFTF), as keynote speaker at SIGGRAPH 2012, the 39th International Conference and Exhibition on Computer Graphics and Interactive Techniques, 5-9 August 2012 at the Los Angeles Convention Center. McGonigal’s research at IFTF focuses on how games are transforming the way we lead our real lives, and how they can be used to increase our resilience and well-being.

“Jane McGonigal is an ideal keynote for SIGGRAPH 2012 as the perfect illustration of this year’s conference theme,” said Rebecca Strzelec, SIGGRAPH 2012 Conference Chair from Penn State Altoona. “Her vision, vocation, and world-renowned accomplishments truly embody the collision, juxtaposition, and interaction of art and science.”

McGonigal is a visionary game designer and futurist, using alternate reality games to conduct research, build communities, connect with markets, and solve real-world problems from curing disease to addressing issues of poverty, hunger, and a world without petroleum. She has created and deployed award-winning games in more than 30 countries on six continents and directed the world’s first massively multiplayer forecasting game, Superstruct, which brought together more than 7,000 future forecasters from 90 countries. She currently serves as the Chief Creative Officer for SuperBetter Labs.

McGonigal’s New York Times bestselling book, Reality Is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World, explores the power and future of gaming and reveals how its collaborative aspects are being used to solve some of the most difficult challenges facing humanity. Her personal goal is to see a game designer nominated for the Nobel Prize by 2023.

The New York Times featured McGonigal as one of 10 scientists with the best vision for what’s coming next; she earned Harvard Business Review honors for one of the Top 20 Breakthrough Ideas of 2008; BusinessWeek called her one of the Top 10 Innovators to Watch; and Fast Company named her one of the 100 Most Creative People in business.

Check out her appearance on The Colbert Report by clicking here.

07 June 2012

SIGGRAPH Unveils 2012 Art Gallery: In Search of the Miraculous

SIGGRAPH 2012 Art Gallery: In Search of the Miraculous presents exceptional digital and technologically mediated artworks that explore the existence of wonderment, mystery, and awe in today’s world of mediating technologies and abundant data. Of the nearly 400 submissions, 12 were hand-picked by a jury to be exhibited at SIGGRAPH 2012, 5-9 August at the Los Angeles Convention Center. The jury included a wide range of artists, designers, technologists, and critics hailing from academia, industry, and the independent art world.

Osman Khan, SIGGRAPH 2012 Art Gallery Chair
“The Art Gallery call for submissions was purposefully ambiguous, based not on any particular thematic premise but rather on sentiment—simply an open call for works that both inspire or are inspired by moments of awe, surprise, mystery, and wonder,” said Osman Khan, SIGGRAPH 2012 Juried Art Chair from the University of Michigan.

“Interestingly, in an ubiquitously digital world, many of this year’s submissions move toward the physical and analog, not in a turn toward ludditery [many projects are quite technically complex], but perhaps as a reflection of a pervasive ennui of the digital.”

Works exhibited in the Art Gallery are published in a special issue of Leonardo, the Journal of the International Society for the Arts, Sciences and Technology. Peer-reviewed SIGGRAPH 2012 Art Papers will also be published in this special issue, which coincides with SIGGRAPH 2012 in August.

SIGGRAPH 2012 Art Gallery highlights include:

A Planetary Order (Terrestrial Cloud Globe)
Martin John Callanan, Slade Centre for Electronic Media & Fine Art, University College London

A Planetary Order is a terrestrial globe depicting clouds from a single moment in time. The globe itself is a physical visualization of real-time scientific data.  To create the work, Callanan took one second of readings from all six cloud-monitoring satellites currently overseen by NASA and the European Space Agency and transformed the information physically into outlines and profiles of the clouds that were emerging at that moment across the surface of the Earth.  The shimmering white cloud globe freeze-frames the entire operation of the global atmospheric regime and highlights the fragility of the environmental (and informational) systems that operate across the world.

Art Gallery Chair feedback on this piece: "In what at first may look to be a common Earth globe, Callanan’s A Planetary Order makes a poetic statement by shifting our attention from the usual geographic information by voiding the usual terrestrial markings, and instead presents an immortalized ephemeral instant, eternalizing a fleeting moment shared by the global whole, giving us pause to reconsider what really matters in this world."

Julian Abraham, Independent Artist
Kapitän Biopunk: Fermentation Madness is an artistic research project manifested via a series of workshops and an acoustic and performative installation. The project developed in response to the high number of poisonings and deaths of alcohol consumers after an increased excise tax was placed on alcoholic products in Indonesia. The project, using do-it-yourself and open-source technologies, strives to educate individuals on fermentation processes to produce safe and affordable alcoholic products, and a means to democratize the laboratory and liberate knowledge for a wider society.

Art Gallery Chair feedback on this piece:  Abraham’s Kapitän Biopunk combines the aesthetics of a mad chemist’s lab with Dionysian song and (literal) spirit. Though the work uses a simple mediation (Putting microphones on the fermenting jars), the resulting cacophony of bubbling sounds, a by-product of the fermentation process, is both amazing and amusing to hear.

Alejandro Borsani, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
Alejandro Borsani’s 90° South provides a contemplative point of view that allows the viewer to witness and be immersed in the constant evolution of a growing landscape. The work utilizes an irrigation system in conjunction with a highly absorbent material (sodium polyacrylate) to produce a slowly emerging landscape. A thin layer of the white material is placed on top of a round surface. When water reaches the surface, the sodium polyacrylate expands 300 times, producing subtle undulations. The profiles of these miniature mountains are projected onto the walls of the gallery using a flashlight attached to a rotating mechanism.

Art Gallery Chair feedback on this piece:  Like Calvino’s fictional cities, Borsani’s 90° South presents an imagined landscape, replacing Calvino’s urban constructs of the Antarctic. As real as any dream and as much a fiction as any photograph, 90° South rekindles—especially in this heavy mediated and imaged world—the wonderment and magic found in the idea of imaginary places.

Kärt Ojavee, Eesti Kunstiakadeemia; Eszter Ozsvald, New York University
SymbiosisS is part of a collection of textile interfaces, SymbiosisO (“O” for objects), which behave as organic displays and react to definable impulses by showing pre-defined patterns that animate slowly over the surface. It welcomes viewers to sit and rest on soft-folded material that displays an active, slowly shifting pattern. When excited, the pattern starts forming, in a playful, curious way, around the place where the textile was touched. Once the disturbance is abated, the pattern continues its peaceful expansion. This vivacious interaction of a vibrant pattern is a demonstration of the potential for tangible textile interfaces. Ubiquitous computation—an active, programmable secondary skin to surround everyday objects—is an ambient, “noiseless,” and thus vigorous way to visualize information and form space.

Art Gallery Chair feedback on this piece:  In letting users leave traces of their hands and bodies via heat sensitive thermochromatic dyes, SymbiosisS mediates and amplifies the conditions of its own use.  Echoing our impulse to leave our mark, the handprints found at the Lascaux caves comes to mind, and in its network of conducting thread, a nod to social networking, interacting with SymbiosisS subtly aestheticizes unique temporal moments of individual and social interactions.

Julie Legault, V2_ Institute for the Unstable Media, Royal College of Art
Stretching or shrinking hours at the beat of your heart, The HeartBeats Watch is a timepiece in which the duration of time is paced not by seconds but according to the wearer's heartbeat.  Through a heightened awareness of self, The HeartsBeats Watch brings together art and science to reveal emotional complexity of time and the human body. A poetic investigation of the physiology of emotions, health, immortality, and control, the watch bridges the gap between society and medical science, invoking a broader cultural perception of life.

Art Gallery Chair feedback on this piece:  The work was inspired by love; in LeGault’s words “time slows when I’m with you, and time flies, and time stops with every heartbeat.” By relating our ticking mortality with the eternal mechanisms of time, LeGault allows for a profound reflection on our understanding of and connection to time.

Scott Hessels, City University of Hong Kong
The wind-powered Sustainable Cinema No. 4: Shadow Play is a kinetic public sculpture that harnesses sustainable energy to generate a moving image. By using natural power to re-create an early art form that led to the beginnings of cinema, the sculpture references the histories of both motion pictures and industrialization. It explores a possible future of environmentally responsible media; looking forward by looking back.

Art Gallery Chair feedback on this piece: Hessel’s Shadow Play, wrapped in a pre-cinematic nostalgia, ideas of sustainability and especially in context of the digital heavy SIGGRAPH conference, presents an alternative retro-futuristic version of the moving image. Go Windpunk!

Click here for the complete SIGGRAPH 2012 Art Gallery list of artists and works.

05 June 2012

Q&A with Ann McNamara, SIGGRAPH 2012 Courses Chair from Texas A&M University

Following below is a brief conversation with Ann McNamara, SIGGRAPH 2012 Courses Chair and assistant professor in the Department of Visualization at Texas A&M University.

Her research is in computer graphics and she is currently particularly focused on the application of visual perception to accelerate and improve computer graphics and visualization.

SIGGRAPH Courses are short (1.5 hours) or half-day (3.25 hours) structured sessions that often include elements of interactive demonstration, performance, or other imaginative approaches to teaching. Attendees hear directly from industry experts and gain knowledge critical to career advancement and job satisfaction.

In general, who typically is interested in Courses?

Courses are diverse, in terms of topic and attendee level, so it makes sense that a broad range of people—from beginners to veterans, students to professors, hobbyists to professionals—can all find something to pique their interest.

How is the content different from 2011?

Courses may have the same name, and even some of the same speakers, but quality control is enforced to ensure that courses are kept up to date.  Attendees want cutting edge content and every year the Courses deliver!

Did you notice any trends in this year’s content?

The biggest trend was the number of quality submissions - the jury and selection committee had a tough job, and that’s a good problem to have and a trend we hope continues. 

How many submissions were there and how many acceptances?

Overall, we had 51 submissions and accepted 23.

What are some highlights of this year’s Courses content?

We have a great slate of courses this year and I encourage everyone to check the website  for more information.  In addition to updated versions of established courses such as Advances in Real Time Rendering for Games and Character Rigging and Creature Wrangling in Game, Feature Animation,and Visual Effects Production, we have new exciting courses in store, including an interdisciplinary course called Principles of Animation Physics by Dr. Alejandro Garcia, a professor in physics and astronomy from San Jose State University.

This course was developed with support from the National Science Foundation by Professor Garcia, who was on leave at the Department of Artistic Development at DreamWorks Animation SKG,where he presented more than 30 classes and special lectures on physics as it applies to animation. The course covers essential topics from physical mechanics to basic bio-mechanics that apply specifically to character animation. 

For anyone who has to provide or receive creative feedback (whether you are a student, professor, artist, or industry professional) Evan Hirsch’s course (Delivering Creative Feedback: A Workshop on Critique) addresses how delivering useful, honest, and effective feedback to creatives is one of the biggest daily challenges producers, supervisors, teachers, and more face. When critiques “feel” subjective, feedback loops can have negative effects on morale and production overall, regardless of the validity of the criticism offered.  This was presented at the SIGGRAPH 2011 Business Think Tank and is invaluable information for anyone seeking to give or receive more effective feedback.

I am also really excited to attend a new course entitled  The Invisible Art: The History of Matte Painting Through the Digital Age. Matte paintings, a mainstay in the filmmaker's repertoire, are used to create realistic illusions while working within strict budgets. This course focuses on matte painting in film, ranging from traditional matte paintings to modern techniques including 3D projections and software-generated matte backgrounds.  The organizer Craig Barron has worked on many notable shots in feature films, and is the recipient of Academy and BAFTA Awards for achievement in visual effects for the work his company Matte World Digital did on The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.

I am also excited to see what some of our new courses have in store for us including Computational Plenoptic Imaging, Computational Aesthetic Evaluation: Steps Toward Machine Creativity, and State-of-the-Art Stereoscopic Visual Effects: Stereoscopy and Conversion are “More than Meets the Eye”.

In general, what are you looking forward to at SIGGRAPH 2012?

You mean apart from the great courses?  So many wonderful programs - including Real-Time Live!, Studio, Posters, Talks, SIGGRAPH Mobile, and the Computer Animation Festival. Of course I always look forward to reconnecting with friends over pancakes in the pantry (The Original Pantry Café in downtown L.A.) – good thing that place is open 24 hours!

What is the best advice you can give someone interested in submitting a course for consideration in 2013?

The absolute best advice would be to communicate with your SIGGRAPH 2013 Courses Chair, Paul Strauss.  While every course proposal goes through the rigorous jury process, the Courses Chair may have a specific vision and hope to actively encourage submissions in a certain area.  A conversation with Paul would help determine if your idea is in that domain.

My other advice is to carefully read the submission requirements – there are several key pieces of information you will need to provide, and accidentally leaving something out of your proposal can count against you in the review process.  Looking at successful proposals can help too. Think about who your audience is, what you want to teach them, and who are the best people in the world that can help you to deliver your great course. Don't be afraid to reach out to them and tell them you would love to include them in the course you are proposing!

Oh another good piece of advice - go to courses, and if you can't attend SIGGRAPH you can still become an ACM SIGGRAPH  member and gain access to recordings of courses from previous years in SIGGRAPH Encore.

On a personal level, what projects are you currently working on and what makes them interesting to you?

This spring I was lucky that my department (Visualization at Texas A&M) enabled me spend a semester at Yale University in New Haven, Conn. While there I worked with the graphics group and in particular Su Xue, Holly Rushmeier, and Julie Dorsey on a new project that looks at the perception of memory colors.  Memory colors refer to those colors recalled in association with familiar objects, like sky, grass, and skin.  It turns out that we all have an internal representation of these so-called memory colors that are not necessarily the same as the actual color.

For example, we think of the sky as being bluer than it really is.  We are looking at ways to apply this perceptual knowledge in the realm of computer graphic and image processing.  This is really early work and the beginning of what I hope will be a long and fruitful collaboration. I am excited to see where it goes—we are giving a SIGGRAPH 2012 Talk about it [Crowd Sourcing Memory Colors For Image

While on the subject of color, I should mention we have three really cool courses on color this year:
1. Cinematic Color: From Your Monitor to the Big Screen
2. Color Transfer
3. Applying Color Theory to Digital Media and Visualization

What does SIGGRAPH mean to you on a personal and a professional level?

Being an assistant professor it is often difficult to separate professional and personal “levels.”  On a professional level SIGGRAPH means an opportunity to stay current with the most recent research trends in both academic and industry.  On a personal level, while the people I work with at SIGGRAPH are like a second family to me - I am also amazed at how many new people I meet each year and how easily lasting friendships can be born at such a big conference.