eTech & Art
   New in 02!
  Reports from SIGGRAPH 2001

Interview: Valerie Miller, Courses Committee Chair


By Tai-San Choo
23 July 2002

What first drew you to computer graphics?
I came into the programming side of things when I was a graduate student at the University of South Carolina. The math department there got a grant and a new machine back in the early days, and they had bought a software package that did 2D graphics and they needed someone to write an interface for it to turn it into a 3D graphics system. So that’s what I did, so I got to learn all the grunt work of how to do hidden in surface removal based on the package trying to use the tools that were already there, then writing code only when I absolutely had to.

Do you have any favorite CG mentors?
I really didn’t have any, because it was my job. I just wrote code to do things, and that got me into it. The whole mathematics side of things in terms of doing the representations and the projected geometries just kept me in it and then I sort of went into fractal geometry after that because that’s all again mathematics, and then I ended up being a numerical analyst so that’s right down my alley. So all the stuff of Mandelbrot and the Julius sets, Chaos theory and everything, that’s sort of the track I headed down then turned into math visualization more broadly.

What was the first time you contributed to SIGGRAPH?
First time I contributed to SIGGRAPH was ’91 in Las Vegas, Scott Owen and I had done a paper and it got accepted.

What year/city was your first SIGGRAPH? Which was the most intense? Why?
My first SIGGRAPH was 1990 in Dallas, so I got to see the show before I actually participated in it. Just like every year since it’s overwhelming. It’s amazing how much is the same but yet how much it changes in terms of the life that it has, and the activities that are going on and it doesn’t seem to lose that high energy level from year to year, and sometimes I see that loss in other conferences and it’s just like it becomes dry and it’s not necessarily exciting to go to anymore, whereas this one you come and better have slept the week before because you’re not going to this week. There’s too much to do.

I’ve been to every SIGGRAPH since then and the most intense would probably be the first conference I worked on in 2000, I was the Educator’s Program Chair. It was intense simply because of the nerve level. Exciting as it is to be the attendee, when you’re the one responsible for putting on a program, all of the suddenly it becomes that much more intense and because you’re wondering, well I think I’ve done a great and I have a great program but are “they” going to like it and appreciate it. So it becomes much more nerve racking. Doing Courses this year has elevated that a little bit, because when I did the Educator’s Program, that program didn’t start until Wednesday so I have a couple of days to kind of get into it and see how the conference is going and balance things, but now I’m first up.

What contributions to SIGGRAPH are you most proud of?
It would probably be either the Courses Program that I’ve done this year or the mentoring that I’ve done. I came into the conference working with the education committee and around the mid-nineties they really started talking with people about getting involved and working with the conference and contributing and then the following year you would see them be on someone’s committee getting involved with the conference. Because SIGGRAPH is a living thing and unless you continually bring in new life into it, it’s going to be stagnant. So it’s great to the new people coming in all the time.

What’s your favorite thing at this year or last year’s SIGGRAPH?
That’s a trick question, that assumes that I actually get to see the conference now. I’ve not seen much of anything. I’ve seen the Art Gallery go up so there are a couple of things in there that look really kind of cool. There’s one thing in there that’s a bio-feedback situation that generates a graphics image based on the bio feedback that it gets from your fingers and if you become happy it changes the image on the screen to look happy and if you’re tense it will change the image to look tense. There’s also a couple of things in eTech I want to take a look at later in the week. As for last year, again working with the conference you really don’t get to see that much. Talking with a lot the people that have worked the conference, we haven’t really actually got to see the conference in years, only snippets and hope they’re the good pieces.

What near/intermediate developments in CG do you look forward to?
What I’m sure is going to eventually happen when the embedded systems stuff really starts to come together you’ll see all the graphics being on miniscule chips. There’s a lot of hardware stuff now but when the size gets down to something that’s more like an embedded system then all the wireless things become much more adaptable to a lot of the graphics. We’ve got a course on wireless stuff and the level of graphics you’ll be able to do on your PDI, I think that’s where its really going to go next.




People make SIGGRAPH what it is. Here a small sampling of the people here in 2002




This page is maintained by
Jan Hardenbergh
All photos you see in the 2002 reports are due to a generous loan of Cybershot digital cameras from SONY