06 June 2011

Interview with the SIGGRAPH 2011 Courses Chair

Following below is a brief conversation with Ann McNamara, SIGGRAPH 2011 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.

What are some of the advantages for attending Courses for both SIGGRAPH newbies and veterans?
Courses are all about learning from the experts and gaining inside knowledge - knowledge that is applicable for everyone. The committee is also careful to include a broad spectrum of courses ranging from introductory courses for those new to the field, to advanced instruction on the most current techniques.

How many submissions did we receive this year?
We had a bumper year for submissions with 54 submissions in total! Not only were there lots of submissions, but also the quality of the submissions was extremely high. This made selection very difficult, but it's a good complaint - the quality of courses this year is outstanding!

Is there international participation in this year's content?
Yes, we have course presenters from all over the globe including the United States, Canada, Spain, Japan, Austria, the UK, and many more.

Did you see any trends in this year's content?
Lots of rendering!

In serving as this year's Courses chair, what was your vision and did the content urn out as you had hoped?
The original vision for Courses in SIGGRAPH 2011 was as always to select the highest quality content for our attendees to experience. Overall I am extremely happy with the content; things really did turn out as well as, if not better than I had hoped. Of course I was just part of a larger team that helped to bring this all together in addition to the entire S2011 committee - I was lucky to have lots of help from the wonderful jurors on the general jury, Pete Braccio (Conference Chair), Mark Elendt (General Submissions Chair), Dan Wexler (Late Breaking Chair) and Naty Hoffman (Game Development Community Director).

Also, what turned out well is that we have some new courses on topics that haven't traditionally been part of the Courses repertoire. For example Advances in New Interfaces for Musical Expression will look at case studies from NIME, and Compiler Techniques for Rendering
will focus on cutting-edge projects that apply compiler technology to improve the performance and functionality of renderers and shading systems. These are just two of the many courses this year that have exceptionally well-qualified presenters that will provide the top-notch instruction for attendees.

In a two-part course, would it still be beneficial to attend the second part of the course if you aren't able to attend the first?
Absolutely! We have three stellar two- part courses this year on Production Volume Rendering, Advances in Real Time Rendering in Games, and Beyond Programmable Shading. While they might be more worthwhile as a complete set, I wouldn't hesitate to attend just one part if that was all my schedule would allow.

Which courses are you anticipating being the most popular?
Wow! That is a tough question because we have so many great courses - personally I am excited to see all of them! But in the popularity stakes I can try to predict a few - the two-part courses that I just referenced will be very popular I am sure! Here are a few more:

There is an amazing collection of people involved in Filtering Approaches for Real-Time Anti-Aliasing.

Bruce Block author of "The Visual Story" will give a course on Cinematography that should strike a cord with everyone.

Storytelling with Color will be very popular. Course organizers Kathy Altieri and Dave Walvoord both experts from Dreamworks have done extensive work on recent Dreamworks blockbusters (HTTYD and KFP2) and are amazing presenters!

What is your advice to someone interested in submitting a course for a future SIGGRAPH
Think about your own expertise and the knowledge you have to share and reach out to other experts with similar experience and knowledge so you can build a strong team of presenters. Also, attend as many courses as possible. There are different presentation styles and delivery methods; some courses are hand-on and interactive - think about how you could encourage knowledge transfer through your own course! Also don't get discouraged, the quality of submissions is very high, and the jury will provide valuable feedback so if you are not successful the first time around you can always resubmit that next year.

You seem to have a pretty busy schedule between teaching, publishing, and research. What are some of your current favorite projects?
At the moment I have some interesting projects in the pipeline so calling favorites is another tough question. We are doing some exciting work (with my collaborators Drs. Reynold Bailey at RIT and Cindy Grimm at WASH-U) on a new technique we developed called Subtle Gaze Direction, where we try to guide a viewers gaze around a scene (without them being aware of this fact and without disrupting the image) - we have published two papers so far on this work - we presented our TOG [Transactions on Graphics] paper on this at SIGGRAPH 2010, which was very cool.

While I thoroughly enjoy all my projects, I find Subtle Gaze Direction particularly fascinating because there are so many applications and avenues for future research … we truly have only begun to explore the possibilities.

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