Confessions of a researchaholic

August 12, 2010

Reviewing computer science papers

Filed under: Imaginary,Real — liyiwei @ 5:06 pm
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Computer theory: A hundred page proof that takes many very smart people weeks or even months to verify and (eventually) reject.

Computer graphics: A 4 to 8 page paper that takes one Joe Six Pack maybe just 3 seconds to reject because the teaser image does not look beautiful enough.

August 7, 2010

Social pass

Filed under: Real — liyiwei @ 10:15 am
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It will be great if SIGGRAPH (and other conferences) could have a new registration category called “social pass”. This social pass will be (significantly) cheaper than full registration, and is designed primarily for people who go to conferences mainly to socialize with colleagues. When I was in grad school I used to listen attentively to all the technical sessions, but nowadays (for better or worse) I found myself spending so much time chatting with people to the point that I serious doubt the value I paid for a full registration. I still go to many technical sessions, but my main purpose now turn to meet specific people (e.g. paper authors or people who work on related fields) and pay enough attention to the presentations so that I could have enough information to chat up with the authors later on. (Man, I like your presentation, especially demo XXX. What a cool paper!)

On a further thought, I could be tricky to design such a social pass. If I just want to talk to people in the hallways, I actually do not have to pay a dime and just need to walk into the convention center. But then that might not be enough, as a lot of the conversations happen inside the sessions (especially at the beginnings and ends) and the parties (most of which, hosted by various companies and research groups, I could already go for free). So I still need the credential to attend a certain subset of full registration.

Maybe one possibility is to charge for individual sessions so that I could pick only these that I plan to attend (to socialize). For the rest, I could simply loiter in the hallways and the parties.

April 12, 2010

Accidental art

Filed under: Imaginary,Real — liyiwei @ 2:55 pm
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For some reason, the most beautiful images I have produced tend to be the buggy ones.

I guess this is a unique advantage of graphics research (compared to other CS fields): when we screw up, we might be able to claim the result as an art.

February 16, 2010

The Rowling criterion

Filed under: Imaginary,Real — liyiwei @ 3:41 pm
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I guess I am not the only one who ever heard people commenting that “computer graphics research is mostly done” or “all the big ideas in graphics have been discovered and the remaining research is mainly about incremental ideas” or something like that.

If you look at history, similar comments have been made about physics in the early twentieth century when people believed that Newtonian physics is near perfection and all the remaining problems are incremental. And then came quantum physics, relativity, and other ground breaking stuff.

I do not think computer graphics is done for a very simple reason. Every year I have been kept seeing interesting/exciting papers coming out of various graphics conferences. So these pessimistic comments may reflect more about the status of people who made them rather than the status of computer graphics research.

And I would not claim graphics is done until people can author images, movies, and animations as easily as writing articles. And these do not even have to be good; not everyone can be Shakespeare, but at least almost everyone (who is literate without severe handicaps like blindness) can easily write an article, a letter, or a diary entry via existing tools, ranging from simple pen and pencil to more advanced text editing software. But how many people today can easily make an image or a movie all alone? It is true that amazing effects have been achieved in many movies, but these almost always involve significant resources, not least a large team of talented professionals. (Take a look of the end credits of the kinds of movies like Harry Potter or Avatar.)

Talking about Harry Potter, this is actually a good example on the difference between authoring textual and non-textual artifacts: for the former, a good writer like J.K. Rowling could single-handedly author an entire book series, but for the latter, a large team of talented staff has to be devoted to realize the books into movies. And this a technology, not talent issue; no existing tools today would have allowed J.K. Rowling to turn her visions into movies, even though these imagery would likely have existed in her minds while writing the books. (I believe she can do that because that is exactly what happened in my minds when reading her books.)

Thus, allow me to propose a necessary condition to claim the completeness of graphics research, the “Rowling criterion”: it should be as easy for a single individual to author a movie/animation/image as to write an article. And when such technology is available, I would happily turn myself from a researcher into a content creator.

December 15, 2009

Toon shading

Filed under: Imaginary,Real — liyiwei @ 6:52 pm
Tags: ,

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tZkag7M_i5A&hl=en_US&fs=1&]

Appleseed: Ex Machina is the best toon shaded animation I have ever seen. It really beats 2D cel animation.
I am too busy right now to write down more details, but just checkout this movie if you like anime or computer graphics.

Also, don’t miss the bonus features. I find it particularly interesting that the American crew talked about the “amazing collaboration” between Chinese (John Woo, producer) and Japanese (Shinji Aramaki, director) as though these two countries ought to start the third world war instead of collaborating on animation projects.

September 29, 2009

Anti-Neo

Filed under: Imaginary — liyiwei @ 5:56 pm
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If I were a character in The Matrix, I want to be Anti-Neo who drags everyone from the real world back into the matrix. The synthetic world is so much easier to manipulate than the real one.

September 1, 2009

Waltz with Bashir

Filed under: Imaginary,Real — liyiwei @ 4:48 pm
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The phrase “animated documentary” may sound like an oxymoron, but that is exactly what I would use to describe Waltz with Bashir. I was originally attracted to this movie due to its graphics effects, especially on the masterful use of large regions of monotonic colors. What I did not expect was thought provoking storytelling, and I was thrilled to find plenty in this movie.

I highly recommend this movie, as well as the behind the scene bonus features on how the movie is made.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ylzO9vbEpPg&hl=en&fs=1&]

August 16, 2009

Renaissance

Filed under: Imaginary — liyiwei @ 12:02 pm
Tags: , ,

Renaissance is a stylish binary animation. By binary, I mean it is rendered in only two colors, black and white, not even gray scales which the movie used only rarely for special effects like transparency.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oh7s32XRScQ&hl=en&fs=1&rel=0]

I watched this movie because it was mentioned in a research paper titled Artistic Thresholding, and I am curious about the artistic and technical effects. In particular, even though binary rendering has been performed on static images (e.g. posters), these are usually abstract renditions. Thus, it was not clear to me how the effect would carry over for 3D animations, for which frame-to-frame coherence is required in addition to single frame stylization.

Overall, the binary rendering of the movie looks very good, in terms of both intra frame stylization and inter frame coherence. The binary rendering, combined with the nature of the story line, pushes the film noir genre to the extreme.

In the bonus materials, the creators explained that the movie was authored as a combination of motion capture and 3D polygonal rendering. This is quite comprehensible. Unfortunately, no explanation was given to the binary shading part. From what I could see, no published research algorithms have achieved binary animation anywhere near what is shown this movie. The usual suspect is heavy manual work, but even with that I still cannot figure out how things were really done.

Looks like this is still a open research problem, and probably a darn hard one.

July 15, 2009

First encounter with Ciao

Filed under: Real — liyiwei @ 4:40 pm
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A good friend of mine, Ciao, is relocating to another part of the world.

Ciao is a very nice dude, and we have had a lot of fun hanging out together. Perhaps the funniest ever experience is our first encounter, when Ciao went to interview with a company that I previously worked for.

I guess most companies have a certain interviewing style that reflects the company culture. And for that particular company, the custom seems to be grilling the interviewees with trick questions, mostly in low-level math and computer science. I could see the value of such a style in testing the interviewee’s character and intellect, but I simply couldn’t bring myself to do that to someone who has recently obtained his Ph.D. with a SIGGRAPH paper. So instead I talked with Ciao a bunch of high-level research questions. We had a great time.

The troubles came after I filled out the interview evaluation. The hiring manager informed me that my interview style is “not very proper” and sent me to a course teaching people how to do proper interviews. (I confess I never attended the course.) Furthermore, the interview with Ciao turned out to be not only the first but also the last one that I ever conducted for that company.

Fortunately, my “not very proper” interview with Ciao did not cost his job offer, and later he joined the company. Together we had some additional fun for a couple of more years. It soon became pretty apparent that we are both not very good fit for that company (my “not very proper” interview with him is probably a good early sign), so eventually we both left. But I would like to thank that company for enabling me to learn a few very important lessons that I wouldn’t have otherwise, and most importantly, the chance for getting to know Ciao.

July 10, 2009

DEADLINE post-it stop motion

Filed under: Imaginary,Real — liyiwei @ 2:25 pm
Tags: , ,

Idea is more important than graphics in producing a good video.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BpWM0FNPZSs&hl=en&fs=1&]

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