by Geordie Swainbank
Peter Braccio is chair of the Guerilla Gallery at SIGGRAPH
and is also involved with Oceanographic studies at Monterey
Bay Aquarium Research Institute.
|What first drew you to computer
I came to CG through the back door. I got
an MS in physics while I was still in the Navy. As part of
my thesis I made extensive use of scientific visualization
to describe plasma distributions in the Earth's magnetosphere.
When I decided to get out of the service a couple of years
later, I decided to make a try to break into oceanography
thinking that I could do research and still go to sea.
It turns out that I was only half right.I got a job working
a couple of ocean modeling groups at the Naval Postgraduate
School. Part of my job was to visualize model output from
high resolution, global simulations of the Earth's oceans.
I found out that I had a knack for making these images and
|Do you have any favorite computer graphics
My masters advisor, Dr. Chris Olsen, and
one of my bosses at NPS, Dr. Bert Semtner, are the key ones
on the science side of the house. They taught me that a flashy
image means nothing if it doesn't impart information.
On the artistic side, that would be Helen
Golden and Lyn
Bishop who led me through their processes so that I could
find a path of my own.
|What was the first time you
contributed to SIGGRAPH?
I submitted a video to the CAF in '99 and
first submitted to the Art Gallery in 2001. I'm still waiting
for those acceptance letters. ;^) The first time I worked
at the show was '97.
| What year/city was your first
SIGGRAPH? Which was most intense? Why?
My first SIGGRAPH was '96 in New Orleans.
Most intense is a toss up between '96 and '98. '96 was just
a wild show in a wild town. I was on crutches for the whole
show due to a recent hip surgery and I fell in with a wild
bunch of artists (the denizens of the Guerilla Gallery) instead
of hanging with the scientists.
'98 was intense because I was running the networking for
the Guerilla Gallery for the first time on my own. I was
basically making it up as I went along and trying to get
all the equipment to play nice.
|What contributions to SIGGRAPH
are you most proud of?
||The ability to set up the Guerilla Gallery/Studio/Guerilla
Studio year after year.
|What's your favorite thing
at this year or last year's SIGGRAPH?
||Well, maybe not favorite thing, but I got
my most memorable "booth gift" in 2002; a pair of
New Zealand wool socks.
|What near/intermediate developments
in CG do you look forward to?
If I knew that, I'd be playing the stock
market. If I had to make a guess, I hope that someone comes
up with a way to leverage the Tablet PC so that it is something
more than a glorified stenographer's pad. Computer + stylus
input device should equal CG instead of a REALLY BIG palm
in the NAVY for a while... what drew you that direction as
opposed to say, the Air Force, or military service at all for
that matter? Have you always been a water person?
|| I grew up on Long Island Sound and had always
dreamed of going to sea. When I graduated college (at the ripe
age of 25), I knew that if I didn't join up and do it then,
I would regret it later in life. So, I signed on the dotted
line, much to the horror of my girlfriend. Since we've now
been married for over 16 years, I guess she forgave me.
How does a visualization specialist determine how to begin to represent
the data presented?
You have to have a good idea of what you
want to show. That determines the values of your min and
max scale values. The "standard" visualization
of data uses a color bar where blue represents low and red
high. If you want to show the fluctuations of salinity along
the coast of California you might want a very narrow range
for this scale. That would lead to very "washed out" areas
of the image that are pegged in the extreme max and min ranges.
This is an image that artists would hate, but it imparts
information, so it is exactly what should be shown.
I just found out that there is a talk on this at SIGGRAPH
this year. It is a special session called Truth Before Beauty:
Guiding Principles for Scientific and Medical Visualization.
science behind the visualizations, or the data collected, often
yours, or do you rely on others to relay the information to
I've always worked as a staff member for
a research group, so the data was never mine. I did most
of my work for the group at NPS, but I also did some work
for other groups and media organizations. For the media groups
I usually had to put more flash than info in the images.
| Where do
you feel the responsibility lies as to how the end product
||Obviously the responsibility for accurately
displaying information relies on the group making the presentations.
You have to make sure that everything is labeled correctly,
make sure the scale for the color scheme is easily understood,
and you should provide dates (or date ranges) for your illustration/movie.
Even with all this, people sometimes misunderstand what
you're showing them. The first time I showed a animation
of model output at a conference, people thought it was actual
collected data. Other times people zoom in on something other
bit of info that you didn't notice and try to drive the conversation
that way. Such is life.
|On the artistic
side of things, how was your time spent with two respected
digital artists in their own right - Lyn Bishop and Helen Golden?
It was more that they deconstructed their
work so I could see how they got to the end piece. This gave
me a better understanding of the tools they used (and that
certain tools were even available). They also led me away from
the mindset that colors=numbers. This led to a greater sense
of freedom in the creation of my own pieces. Now, all I need
is some time to work on this exploration. :^)
I feel that we are fairly good friends. We work together every
year at SIGGRAPH in the (Guerilla) Studio and keep in touch
throughout the rest of the year.
your final products, does work you finish have to pass review
from anyone? If so, what are the guidelines to creating a 'good' visualization?
| I guess we're talking about SciVis here.
Visualizations are a group effort. I pushed the pixels, but
it has to pass
muster with the rest of
the research group before it is presented.
|You mentioned you fell in with the artists at the 1996
SIGGRAPH in New Orleans - had you been involved with the Gallery before that?
|Nope. That was my first SIGGRAPH and my first contact with
the GG. Pat Johnson (the driving force behind the GG) was working
the door when I hobbled up on crutches. She read my badge (which
stated that I was an oceanographer), cried out that the GG
needed a scientist, dragged me inside, and the rest is history.
|What was the zaniest thing you wittnessed in New Orleans?
mentioned you were on crutches that year, did you go out at all - stay up
late - that sort of thing...?"
|Well there were a couple of things that I remember. The crutches
actually made it easier for me to get around. I started up
a running conversation with the shuttle bus driver who was
on my hotel run. He would suggest restaurants for me to try
and even swung off his route to drop me off right at the door
of a couple of these.
The GG itself was just nuts. It was a whirlwind of creativity.
I learned more about color theory, paper weight, and printing
in those couple of days than I had learnt in the previous
couple of years combined.
Patricia Johnson had been with the Guerilla Gallery basically
from inception up until 1998 and then left, the same year
you setup their network for the first time solo... was the
network that bad?
|Pat was ready to take some time off (organizing this venue
is a HUGE time sink) after the '98 show. She has been helping
out in various capacities for every show since then. This year
she's running some workshops on Adobe Atmosphere in this year's
|Are you primarily 'the tech guy' behind
what goes on with the Guerilla Gallery, and if so, how has
the interaction been between the artists and yourself?
Ever had any problems technical or otherwise that ended up working better
than expected? Ever had a situation turn catastrophic?
||Yep, I'm the tech guy. The interactions between me and the
artists have been generally very good. There have been a few
pain in the asses and I'm sure that I few have thought I was
a pain in the ass as well. That said, i have always had fun
while on site. You can almost smell the creativity in the air.
I wouldn't call them problems. Disasters maybe, but not
1997 - We kept loosing the Print Server on the network
1998 - We only received one large format printer instead of the four we
were expecting. Pat Johnson managed to get us three more after we got
1999 - Was the year of the Wins server broadcast storm. Every Windows box
(we had 90 that year) suddenly started to broadcast that it was the Wins
Master Browser. We had to shut them all down and restart them a couple
at a time to clear this.
2000 - Could not gain access to our shared server with the CAL. I talked
a RAID vendor on the show floor out of a storage device so that we could
get up and running.
2001 - 20 monitors and a bunch of disk drives and CD burners didn't show
up. The company that we were getting them from had a reorganization the
week before the show.
2002 - Finished the image push to our Windows boxes 15 minutes before we
opened and had our license server reformatted by accident half way through
the show. This stopped Maya, Softimage, and FormZ dead in their tracks.
I'm usually pleasantly surprised when we pull this off
year after year.
|What has been your most memorable experience
as far as being involved with GG is concerned... has it been
tangible, stress-related, introspective?
||I've met a bunch of really good people over the years. Some
of them have drifted away and I've lost contact with them.
I wonder how they are and hope they are doing well.
|You mentioned that your most memorable SIGGRAPH 'booth gift'
was a pair of woolen socks from New Zealand... what did you
have to do to get those? Were they clean?
||I've been dealing with a representative of a New Zealand
based company for years via email and phone, but never met
her. I Stopped by their booth last year and finally introduced
myself. Before I left, she gave me the (clean) socks and a
box of candy. Not a bad mix of practical and nice gifts I think.