INTERVIEWS

Alan Chalmers 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 graphics? 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 mentors?

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 the Past", had two 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 activities 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 in Real-Time". 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 in modern lighting, because 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. You can't take a real torch into because these sites are very sensitive, but computer graphics will allow you to get a feeling for the original design of these finds.

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 was looking for 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 was nominated and next year I came back as vice president. The three years as Vice President were my most exciting . Being behind the scenes makes things more exciting because you learn 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 technical papers. The quality is equivalent, but there's no mix, no emerging technologies, and SIGGRAPH brings all these things together. SIGGRAPH has approximately 50% female participation, which is very important, very different from the European graphics community.

There's a great exchange of ideas at the European workshop series, which are smaller and more intimate; they do a great job of filling in what SIGGRAPH 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 to SIGGRAPH. That's the secret , we're here to be passionate about the subject and to share that passion with others.

Do you have words of advice for people getting into the field of computer graphics? 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 benefit your career and your reputation, but as a volunteer, you're here because you're really interested in the field, in the people and the community. 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 what it is to feel cut off from 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 a tremendous amount to help us learn what is happening in the region, and to provide our knowledge, experience, and resources to the communities in those regions. It's an important step in helping those graphics communities come into their own.

 

multidisciplinary

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 ceasme oil

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.

http://www.cs.bris.ac.uk/~alan/SIGGRAPH_visits.html

 

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