Confessions of a researchaholic

May 20, 2022

Creative block

Filed under: Imaginary,Real — liyiwei @ 9:59 am
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In Concept Art: Break Artist’s Block with Emergent Design – L410, conceptual artist Sam Nielson talked about the common causes and remedies for creative blocks, which I found to be equally applicable to scientific research (or any other creative fields):


Not enough or the right kind of input
, such as visual inspirations for art or the current problems and progresses in research.
Not having anything to say
, which is related to the above about not having the right kind of input as well as not thinking enough about what one wants to do.
Fear of poor performance
which can cause actual poor performance.


Study everything and anything
, including books, papers, and artworks.
Live life a little (outside work)
, which is not just about work-live balance but also about enriching one’s creative horizon.
Give yourself permission to suck
to increase the chance not to suck.

I followed the suggested process (about using chunky oil brushes for iterative ideation) to create the visual impression I saw earlier about two white chairs inside woods.

May 13, 2022

How to encourage on-time review submissions?

Filed under: Real — liyiwei @ 6:30 pm

May 7, 2022

If you can’t draw it simply, you don’t see it well enough.

Filed under: Real — liyiwei @ 10:45 am
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The traditional way to render a realistic image is from a physics perspective: provide a complete enough description of the scene and simulate light propagation and image formation with sufficient accuracy.
The end goal of physical realism can facilitate the understanding of the physical universe, at the expense of costly computation.
Thus, computer graphics research has been mainly about how to hack this entire process to achieve maximum realism with minimum effort.
A key ingredient for this hack is the (limit of) human perception, where both sensorial and neural passageways cap the amount of generated information beyond which further enhancements cannot be perceived (and efforts wasted).

This “rendering hack” has long preceded computer graphics (or machine computation) in visual art, which are traditionally based on manual efforts and thus impractical for brute force computation.
The end goal of artistic ideal can facilitate the understanding of perceptual mechanisms which in turn provide opportunities for subjective variations (such as different artistic styles and movements).

This is one main reason why I have been practicing drawing, sketching, painting, animation, design, and other creative forms. It is more of an exercise to see than to draw. (Besides, it is fun and diversifies my daily routines.)

“If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.” – A quote attributed to Albert Einstein.

Recent trends in black-box machine learning further moves in the opposite direction, by making the visual computation even more expensive and opaque than traditional forward rendering in computer graphics.
I look forward to see if machine learning can shed light on the artistic and subjective aspects of image formation.

February 23, 2022

Lively academic thread

Filed under: Real — liyiwei @ 3:34 pm

I saw 11 replies to a Slack thread of a research project and thought “whoa what a lively academic research discussion” and then came in to find out it was all about gift card amount for user study participants.

January 24, 2022

Lip sync a pre-recorded video for live presentation

Filed under: Real — liyiwei @ 5:28 pm

In a recent research talk to about 100 people, the host suggested me to pre-upload any video files into the conferencing system to minimize network disruptions during live presentation.
Since my slides contain a lot of videos with a mix of online and local files, it would be infeasible to pre-upload them and then scramble to pick them on the fly.
Thus, I pre-recorded my entire presentation during a practice session, uploaded the recorded video, and played it during the meeting with my camera on and lip sync.
Panopto capture seems to work well for presenting from a Chrome tab (with Google slides).

January 11, 2022

Pre-recorded video presentation

Filed under: Real — liyiwei @ 5:54 pm
Tags: ,

CHI 2022 provides this medium post about giving a remote presentation as well as different styles ranging from very simple to quite fancy:

Feel free to pick a style you like.
I would do voice over only as I try not to let people know what I look like, or even sound like via synthetic voice over.
But if you like people to know you and/or have the talk video better approximate an in-person conference presentation, consider showing your face.

December 15, 2021

Multiple git personality

Filed under: Real — liyiwei @ 6:24 pm
Tags: ,

December 14, 2021

How to draw a f****** owl

Filed under: Real — liyiwei @ 10:39 am

This LinkedIn post reminded me of the talk I gave in SIGGRAPH Asia 2014 about how to make a SIGGRAPH paper.

That owl image came from here, resonating with my earlier phase of learning how to draw around that time, in addition for being a funny point of analogy for writing research papers.

Retrospect can sometimes feel like a time travel to reconnect with my past self.
My passion for SIGGRAPH peaked around 2011 to 2014, and I have been looking beyond that for interesting or important problems to work on.

November 15, 2021

Follow your passion only if you know what it is

Filed under: Real — liyiwei @ 11:54 am
Tags: ,

I have been using ray tracing as a default introductory exercise for my open mentor program. Probably as a consequence, several recent students decided to focus on rendering when applying for graduate research programs.

When I applied for grad schools 20+ years ago, I only knew that I wanted to program stuff.
I decided to focus on computer graphics after the first year during which I took courses in different topics and attended different research group meetings (not least for the free food).
I figured out my research topic after the third year, after trying out at least 20 different projects which not only greatly helped me figure out my thesis topic but also have a glimpse of what is going on in other potentially related research fields (which in turn helped me expand and transition my research topics many years later).

I guess this relates to the more general discussion about the danger of following your passion (too early); if you only do what you like, you might not try what you might like even more.

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