Q&A with Ann McNamara, SIGGRAPH 2012 Courses Chair from Texas A&M University

by | 6 June 2012 | Animation, Gaming, Graphics, Interactive Techniques, Visual Effects

Following below is a brief conversation with Ann McNamara, SIGGRAPH 2012 Courses Chair and assistant professor in the Department of Visualization at Texas A&M University.
Her research is in computer graphics and she is currently particularly focused on the application of visual perception to accelerate and improve computer graphics and visualization.
SIGGRAPH Courses are short (1.5 hours) or half-day (3.25 hours) structured sessions that often include elements of interactive demonstration, performance, or other imaginative approaches to teaching. Attendees hear directly from industry experts and gain knowledge critical to career advancement and job satisfaction.

In general, who typically is interested in Courses?

Courses are diverse, in terms of topic and attendee level, so it makes sense that a broad range of people—from beginners to veterans, students to professors, hobbyists to professionals—can all find something to pique their interest.

How is the content different from 2011?

Courses may have the same name, and even some of the same speakers, but quality control is enforced to ensure that courses are kept up to date.  bouncy castle Attendees want cutting edge content and every year the Courses deliver!

Did you notice any trends in this year’s content?

The biggest trend was the number of quality submissions – the jury and selection committee had a tough job, and that’s a good problem to have and a trend we hope continues.

How many submissions were there and how many acceptances?

Overall, we had 51 submissions and accepted 23.

What are some highlights of this year’s Courses content?

We have a great slate of courses this year and I encourage everyone to check the website  for more information.  In addition to updated versions of established courses such as Advances in Real Time Rendering for Games and Character Rigging and Creature Wrangling in Game, Feature Animation,and Visual Effects Production, we have new exciting courses in store, including an interdisciplinary course called Principles of Animation Physics by Dr. Alejandro Garcia, a professor in physics and astronomy from San Jose State University.

This course was developed with support from the National Science Foundation by Professor Garcia, who was on leave at the Department of Artistic Development at DreamWorks Animation SKG,where he presented more than 30 classes and special lectures on physics as it applies to animation. The course covers essential topics from physical mechanics to basic bio-mechanics that apply specifically to character animation.

For anyone who has to provide or receive creative feedback (whether you are a student, professor, artist, or industry professional) Evan Hirsch’s course (Delivering Creative Feedback: A Workshop on Critique) addresses how delivering useful, honest, and effective feedback to creatives is one of the biggest daily challenges producers, supervisors, teachers, and more face. When critiques “feel” subjective, feedback loops can have negative effects on morale and production overall, regardless of the validity of the criticism offered.  This was presented at the SIGGRAPH 2011 Business Think Tank and is invaluable information for anyone seeking to give or receive more effective feedback.

I am also really excited to attend a new course entitled  The Invisible Art: The History of Matte Painting Through the Digital Age. Matte paintings, a mainstay in the filmmaker’s repertoire, are used to create realistic illusions while working within strict budgets. This course focuses on matte painting in film, ranging from traditional matte paintings to modern techniques including 3D projections and software-generated matte backgrounds.  The organizer Craig Barron has worked on many notable shots in feature films, and is the recipient of Academy and BAFTA Awards for achievement in visual effects for the work his company Matte World Digital did on The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.

I am also excited to see what some of our new courses have in store for us including Computational Plenoptic Imaging, Computational Aesthetic Evaluation: Steps Toward Machine Creativity, and State-of-the-Art Stereoscopic Visual Effects: Stereoscopy and Conversion are “More than Meets the Eye”.

In general, what are you looking forward to at SIGGRAPH 2012?

You mean apart from the great courses?  So many wonderful programs – including Real-Time Live!, Studio, Posters, Talks, SIGGRAPH Mobile, and the Computer Animation Festival. Of course I always look forward to reconnecting with friends over pancakes in the pantry (The Original Pantry Café in downtown L.A.) – good thing that place is open 24 hours!

What is the best advice you can give someone interested in submitting a course for consideration in 2013?

The absolute best advice would be to communicate with your SIGGRAPH 2013 Courses Chair, Paul Strauss.  While every course proposal goes through the rigorous jury process, the Courses Chair may have a specific vision and hope to actively encourage submissions in a certain area.  A conversation with Paul would help determine if your idea is in that domain.

My other advice is to carefully read the submission requirements – there are several key pieces of information you will need to provide, and accidentally leaving something out of your proposal can count against you in the review process.  Looking at successful proposals can help too. Think about who your audience is, what you want to teach them, and who are the best people in the world that can help you to deliver your great course. Don’t be afraid to reach out to them and tell them you would love to include them in the course you are proposing!

Oh another good piece of advice – go to courses, and if you can’t attend SIGGRAPH you can still become an ACM SIGGRAPH  member and gain access to recordings of courses from previous years in SIGGRAPH Encore.

On a personal level, what projects are you currently working on and what makes them interesting to you?

This spring I was lucky that my department (Visualization at Texas A&M) enabled me spend a semester at Yale University in New Haven, Conn. While there I worked with the graphics group and in particular Su Xue, Holly Rushmeier, and Julie Dorsey on a new project that looks at the perception of memory colors.  Memory colors refer to those colors recalled in association with familiar objects, like sky, grass, and skin.  It turns out that we all have an internal representation of these so-called memory colors that are not necessarily the same as the actual color.

For example, we think of the sky as being bluer than it really is.  We are looking at ways to apply this perceptual knowledge in the realm of computer graphic and image processing.  This is really early work and the beginning of what I hope will be a long and fruitful collaboration. I am excited to see where it goes—we are giving a SIGGRAPH 2012 Talk about it [Crowd Sourcing Memory Colors For Image

While on the subject of color, I should mention we have three really cool courses on color this year:
1. Cinematic Color: From Your Monitor to the Big Screen
2. Color Transfer
3. Applying Color Theory to Digital Media and Visualization

What does SIGGRAPH mean to you on a personal and a professional level?

Being an assistant professor it is often difficult to separate professional and personal “levels.”  On a professional level SIGGRAPH means an opportunity to stay current with the most recent research trends in both academic and industry.  On a personal level, while the people I work with at SIGGRAPH are like a second family to me – I am also amazed at how many new people I meet each year and how easily lasting friendships can be born at such a big conference.

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