Interview: Samuel Lord Black
An interview with Samuel Lord Black
Samuel Lord Black has been in the software business for about 20 years, primarily in the graphics field in one form or another. His educational background includes Bachelor's Degrees in Electrical Engineering and Computer Engineering from the University of Michigan, and a Masters Degree in Computer Science from the University of North Carolina. He worked for several years in the workstation and desktop computing industry for Apollo, Stellar, and Masscomp as a pioneer in the X Window System, with an emphasis on its applications in real-time computing. Then, ten years ago, he went to work in the video game industry (Papyrus Design Group) and worked on several projects, with game credits including NASCAR Racing, IndyCar Racing, and Road Rash. Black spent the last eight years working on rendering software for Pixar Animation Studios. He is currently the Chair for the SIGGRAPH 2005 Computer Animation Festival. On the side, he holds Commercial Pilot and Flight Instructor certificates, makes furniture, scuba dives, and dabbles in animation voice-over with credits including George Sanderson in "Monsters, Inc." and DynaGuy in "The Incredibles NSA".
How have advances in technology affected how the show will be presented this year?
We've eliminated the old DigiBeta and 35mm film projectors and will be projecting the entire show in HD. About half the show will be projected using a Christie Digital Cinema projector (24 fps progressive scan) and the other half will be projected at 30 fps interlaced using a Barco.
Were you successful in your push to get more scientific visualization submissions? If so, what exciting new visualizations and/or simulations can we look forward to seeing this year?
Yes, we received about three times the number of scientific visualization, medical imaging, and technical pieces as we received last year. We'll see pieces ranging from thunderstorm visualization to global warming to surgical planning.
Were there any trends that you noticed among the submissions this year that may reflect new trends in the industry?
There were few new techniques entered this year. Much of what we saw were refinements and improvements on current techniques, and quite frankly, they're getting frighteningly good.
I noticed that this year you had a flying logo submission category. How many flying logo submissions did you receive? Were you pleased with the results?
My intention here was to get independent artists and students who didn't have the resources to make longer pieces. While I am pleased with the pieces we got, I was really hoping for more entries. We only received five submissions, all of which we accepted and will be shown in the Electronic Theater.
What first drew you to computer graphics?
To be honest, as a programmer, I liked the concept of being able to see my mistakes. I've always been a very visual person, and graphics was just an extension of that.
Do you have any favorite CG mentors?
The people who most influenced me early on were Dick Phillips, my graphics professor from the University of Michigan, Leo Hourvitz, a classmate who introduced me to SIGGRAPH, and Fred Brooks, my graduate school advisor at the University of North Carolina.
What was the first time you contributed to SIGGRAPH?
I started attending in 1982, and have only missed one conference (in 1986). My first contribution was in 1995, when I worked on organizing Ask Dr. SIGGRAPH with Ken Musgrave.
What year/city was your first SIGGRAPH? Which was most intense? Why?
Boston, 1982. I can't really pick one "most intense" SIGGRAPH - they're all memorable for different reasons. 1982, of course, as my first one, stands out, as does 1995 as stated above. But I guess I would have to rate 2005 as my most intense, as I have poured so much into the Animation Festival this year.
What contributions to SIGGRAPH are you most proud of?
Come see the Animation Festival this year and decide for yourself...
What's your favorite thing at this year or last year's SIGGRAPH?
I think the Full-Dome is going to attract alot of attention, and deservedly so. It's a great new medium, and I hope everyone gets a chance to check it out.
What near/intermediate developments in CG do you look forward to?
I look forward to the day when people will go to a animated film or rate one highly because it's a good film, not because it's CG. CG is just the medium. When you go to a live-action movie, nobody says it's live-action, so why should animation be treated differently?