SCA 2011 Keynotes

There will be three keynote speakers at SCA:

James O'Brien (UC Berkeley)    Thoughts on Physically Based Animation
Niko Troje (Queen's University)    Perceiving People: Visual Processing of Biological Motion
Warren Trezevant (Pixar)    An Animator's Eye on Motion

James O'Brien, UC Berkeley    

Thoughts on Physically Based Animation

Simulation of physical systems has been used as an animation tool for over 25 years. During that time a diverse variety of methods has been developed, or adopted from other fields, to model most physical phenomena that one might wish to use in film or games. As the field has progressed, the set of things that we don't know how to model has shrunk to the point that it is somewhat difficult to come up with examples that could not be addressed by some existing method. As a result, current research often focuses on methods that improve over existing techniques rather than addressing fundamentally new problems. New methods generally aim to be faster and/or better than previous ones, but it's not always clear what faster and better should be: an algorithm that performs relatively poorly on small problems may excel for larger ones, a procedure that is numerically more accurate could nevertheless introduce ugly visual artifacts. In this talk I'll discuss the evolution of physically based simulation over the last two decades, look at some of the problems that have been solved, and share my opinion on the big problems that still remain.

Short biography:

James F. O'Brien is an Associate Professor of Computer Science at the University of California, Berkeley. His primary area of interest is Computer Animation, with an emphasis on generating realistic motion using physically based simulation and motion capture techniques. He has authored numerous papers on these topics. In addition to his research pursuits, Prof. O'Brien has worked with several game companies on integrating advanced simulation physics into game engines, and his methods for destruction modeling were recently used in the film Avatar. He received his doctorate from the Georgia Institute of Technology in 2000, the same year he joined the Faculty at U.C. Berkeley. Professor O'Brien is a Sloan Fellow and ACM Distinguished Scientist, Technology Review selected him as one of their TR-100, and he has been awarded research grants from the Okawa and Hellman Foundations. He is currently serving as ACM SIGGRAPH Director at Large.


Niko Troje, Queen's University    

Perceiving People: Visual Processing of Biological Motion

A few dots moving as if attached to the major joints of a human body elicit a vivid percept of a person in action. Psychologists studying visual processing and perceptual organization were fascinated by this phenomenon since its first introduction to the community almost 40 years ago by Swedish psychologist Gunnar Johansson. The appeal of what was since called `biological motion perception' stems from the discrepancy between the sparseness of the visual stimulus itself and the richness of the information that it appears to provide to our visual system. The enduring interest in this phenomenon is due to the fact that it allows us to study one of the cardinal questions of perception: How does our brain turn generally noisy, incomplete, ambiguous sensory data into a consistent, stable, and predictable model of the world? The solution to this question lies in the fact that perception is not just based on current sensory information, but at least to the same degree on expectations based on previously acquired knowledge about the statics and regularities of the world. I will present my view on biological motion perception as a hierarchical, knowledge-based, hypothesis-driven process. Specifically, I will talk about the nature of the visual representations underlying this process, the role of redundant information in these representations, and the significance of internal consistency for the creation of perceptually convincing animations.

Short biography:

Dr. Nikolaus Troje received his PhD in Biology from the Albert Ludwigs University in Freiburg, Germany, in 1994. Subsequently, he taught at the Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics in Tuebingen and later at Ruhr University in Bochum, Germany. In 2003, he joined Queen's University as a Canada Research Chair in Vision and Behavioural Sciences. He is now a Full Professor in the Department of Psychology, the Department of Biology and the School of Computing at Queen's and an Adjunct Professor at the Centre for Vision Research at York University. At Queen's he is the director of the BioMotionLab. His main research interest is focused on questions concerning the Biology and Psychology of perceptual processes, that is, how the brain transforms the incoming flow of sensory data into the reality of objects and events. He worked for many years on human face recognition. Currently, most of the projects in his laboratory are concerned with visual perception and recognition of other people from the way they move. Dr. Troje received numerous awards for his work, including the Steacie Fellowship of the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada. He is also a Fellow of the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research.


Warren Trezevant, Pixar

An Animator's Eye on Motion

A trained animator has learned to observe motion and to perceive subtleties of motion, developing a heightened sense of the kinds of movements that convey emotions, actions, and intentions. My goal is to pull back the curtain and show the animator's thought process as they observe motion. The animator's task of creating character motion requires the study of people - both in life and captured on film. Using a rigged model created as an inert figure in a computer system, the animator then combines these observations with his or her own imagination to create motion, ultimately breathing life into a character for audiences to enjoy.

Animators at Pixar digitally hand craft each motion in a character's body, from the blink of an eye or the curl of a lip to the shape of each finger on a hand. So what is it that animators look for when observing motion in people around them? What choices do they make to turn this observation into a convincing performance? By analyzing film clips - both live action and animated - and discussing the factors involved in creating a character performance, I hope to demystify this process. By the end of this journey, you will look at the world with a new eye for motion.

Short biography

Warren Trezevant is a Character Animator at Pixar Animation Studios. Hired in 1995, Warren has helped animate eight of Pixar's feature films: A Bug's Life, Toy Story 2, Monsters Inc, Finding Nemo, The Incredibles, Cars, Ratatouille and, most recently, Cars 2. In addition to successfully bringing characters to life on the big screen, Warren expanded his role at Pixar by creating the Toy Story Zoetrope, an updated version of an 18th century "illusion of movement device." The Toy Story Zoetrope premiered as part of the Pixar: 20 years of Animation exhibit, which opened at the New York Museum of Modern Art in 2005 and is still touring world class museums around the globe.

Warren is also a co-founder of the 360 Group, part of the research arm of Disney/Pixar. As part of this group, Warren continued his exploration of the relationship between computer animation and dimensional figures by creating animation for the animatronic versions of Pixar's WALL-e and Luxo Jr. characters. Additionally, Warren has collaborated with a variety of research teams under the Disney Research umbrella.

Warren is currently working with the software teams at Pixar to help design and implement a renovation of their entire production software to improve the process of animating for feature films.