interviewed 29 July 2003 by Li Yusheng and Wendy Ju
Alan Chalmers was
the SIGGRAPH vice president 1999-2002, and is a
professor at the University of Bristol in the U.K.
|What first drew you to computer
||I was doing research in Parallel Processing
and was looking around for a complex application which could
benefit from being implemented
in parallel. High fidelity computer graphics is certainly an
appropriate application and many years later we are still working
on parallel rendering.
|Do you have any favorite computer graphics
Judy Brown and Steve
Cunningham, both former
Presidents of ACM SIGGRAPH have forever instilled in me a
real sense of the importance of the worldwide computer graphics
community. In my research, graphics pioneers such as Kadi
Bouatouch of INRIA, France and Werner Purgathofer of the Technical University of Vienna have been inspirational.
|What was the first time you
contributed to SIGGRAPH?
1998. One of my former PhD students, Katerina
Mania (now S2003 Sketches Chair), had funding from HP to
attend S1997. She came
back totally enthusing about SIGGRAPH, so another former PhD
student, Erik Reinhard and I submitted a course on "Parallel & distributed
photo-realistic rendering" to S1998 which was accepted,
so off to Orlando we went. Katerina was right - SIGGRAPH is
a life changing experience!
| What year/city was your first
SIGGRAPH? Which was most intense? Why?
S1998 was my first SIGGRAPH, S2000
in New Orleans was the most intense. By then I was Vice
President of ACM SIGGRAPH (I was elected in 1999), I organised
and chaired a panel, "Understanding
courses, one Electronic Theatre contribution and with my students
two sketches. Fortunately it was Berkeley's turn to host the
(infamous) Bristol-Berkeley cocktail-fest! As Vice President
of the ACM SIGGRAPH organisation I was responsible for many
at the conference including external liaison with other sister
organisations. This involved many meetings - one of the most
memorable was signing the Affiliation
Agreement with Eurographics. And with all the parties there
was hardly time to breathe... but then that is SIGGRAPH!
|What contributions to SIGGRAPH
are you most proud of?
||Any contribution to SIGGRAPH is something
to be very proud of! I must say it was a very special feeling
to see a piece of mine in
the Electronic Theatre.
|What's your favorite thing
at this year or last year's SIGGRAPH?
||I really liked the location of S2002, San
Antonio. I know S2002 was smaller than usual, but it was great
to be able to step out
of the convention centre straight into an area with plenty
of choice for food and beers.
|What near/intermediate developments
in CG do you look forward to?
The goal of my group's research is "Realism
When we can finally achieve high fidelity (that is physically
accurate) images in real time then we will unleash the real
potential of computer graphics for all manner of applications,
and in particular my own interest, archaeology.
I am very interested in multidisciplinary applications for
computer graphics, and think that working with real problems
helps us discover new domains to conquer. In working with
one archaeologist in particular, for example, we were asked
a very simple questions which has really driven much of my
research. We were creating graphic simulations of archaeological
finds in their contemporary contexts, to help achaeologists
better understand their artifacts, when one guy asked us,
"How do I know it's real?" Well, of course it's not, but
how much is it off by? Is it just a pretty picture or are
there real insights to be gleaned in these reproductions?
This has challenged us to find measures for the degree of
realism presented by computer graphics.
For example, everything burns with different colors, so
what people burn has an effect on how they see things. The
Egyptians, for example, burned seasme oil, which affects
the way hyroglyphics would look. The Romans, however, burned
olive oils, which have a profoundly different color. If
you look in the Pompei frescos under flame
lighting, you'll see that they are colored with reds and
yellows, but no blues. This is likely due to the fact that
under their lighting, b/c blue doesn't
show up, they would be invisible. You can''t look
at these artifacts
that' s not what they were designed for. These applications
really depend on those working on simulations to create something
that is truly meaningful.
Flamelight is also very dynamic. What is film, film is
a static light with moving images, right? But it, could
be static image with a moving light. If you look at some
archaelogical carvings, it's possible that the historical
people carved things in less detail to create the semblence
of motion under candle light.
because these sites are very sensitive, but computer graphics
will allow you to get a feeling for the original design of
|How did you
become so involved in SIGGRAPH in such a short time?
||I've been involved with Eurographics for 10-15
years. I never came to SIGGRAPH becase it was perceived to
be very US-centeric. However, after one of my students went
and came back raving, I did a course on parallel rendering
and I was really blown away. It just so happened that ACM SIGGRAPH
a non-US academic to help bridge SIGGRAPH with the international
community. Nan Scheller from RIT, who was
then treasurer, suggested me, and so I
I came back
as vice president. The three years as Vice President were my
most exciting . Being behind the scenes makes things more exciting
how things work, what it really takes to make things happen.
There are lots of opportunities to be involved all year around.
|How is the
European graphics community different from that of SIGGRAPH?
The conferences in Europe are very technical.
There's no art show, they don't have an exhibition, just
papers. The quality is equivalent, but there's no mix, no
emerging technologies, and SIGGRAPH brings all these things
SIGGRAPH has approximately 50% female participation, which
is very important, very different from the European graphics
ideas at the European workshop series, which are smaller
and more intimate; they do a great job of filling in what
doesn't cover, which is why SISGRAPH cosponsors these high-quality
events. After all, we're promoting computer graphics in
general, not this conference in specific. We've set up similar
conferences in New Zealand, in Singapore and in Africa, because
not everyone can
afford to come
SIGGRAPH. That's the secret , we're here to be passionate
and to share that passion with others.
|Do you have
words of advice for people getting into the field of computer
||There are two different ways of contributing
to the community, there's publication and volunteering. Both
of these have their value, but they are very differnt. You
benefit as a person far more being involved as a person, than
as a presenter. As a presenter, your contributions will
and your reputation, but as a volunteer, you're here because
you're really interested in the field, in the people and
I think it's a important difference. It's also a really great
way to link up and interact with people.
|What do you
think are the imporant challenges that SIGGRAPH should tackle?`
I'd like to emphasize that SIGGRAPH the
organization and SIGGRAPHthe conference are different. One
of my goals as VP was
to make SIGGRAPH really international, to really make the
whold world to feel like part of the SIGGRAPH community.
As a native from South Africa, I am very sensitive to
the fact that people simply can't come to SIGGRAPH., I know
is to feel
the world community.
We can't bring all those people here to the conference, but
we can take SIGGRAPH to all these communities, which is the
idea behind the ACM SIGGRAPH Delegations. I think those did
to help us learn what is happening in the region, and to provide
our knowledge, experience, and resources to the communities
regions. It's an important step in helping those graphics
communities come into their own.
how do I know it's real? => realism challenges from a cg point
of view. so it lead us on a
everything burns differnt colorsEgyuption hyrogphics. buring
roman.olive oil different colors. If you look in the pompei
frescos, if you look at it under flame lighting, reds and yellows,
no blues, b/c under their lighting, blue doesn't show up. You
cna't look at them in modern lighting, because that' snot what
they were designed for. It realy depedns on us to give tme some
thing that is true and meaning full. flamelight compared to modern
light. flamelight is dyamic. what is film, staric light, moving
image. but it allso could be static image moving light. If you
look at these carving, carve things in less detail perhaps to
create animation to get semblence of motion. you can't take a
reaol torch in because these sites are very sensitive.