Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Computer Scientist Reveals the Math and Science behind Blockbuster Movies


"The simulation of gases, liquids and combustion for scientific reasons quickly translates into the ability to make animations of smoke, water and fire," Fedkiw said. "Similar statements hold for soft biological tissues, muscles, fractures and other solid material problems. Once the scientific numerical simulations are worked out, interesting animations can be made shortly thereafter."
Ron Fedkiw
Associate Professor Ron Fedkiw uses computational physics to model the human face for virtual surgery applications

Associate Professor Ron Fedkiw uses computational physics to model the human face for virtual surgery applications. Fedkiw received a Packard Foundation Fellowship for simulations of humans.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Science Lessons from Hollywood flunk out


Phil Plait's website (I think I posted this in an earlier blog, but here it is again)


Visual Communication in Dentistry

from 2005

“Thanks to digital imaging and Adobe Photoshop, patient planning and treatment are more advanced and precise than ever,” says Dr. Martinez. “Instead of relying solely on X-rays, plaster casts, and written notes, I can communicate visually with dental labs and patients. The result is more precise treatments, and more satisfied patients.”

Hollywood Math and Science Film Consulting


Hollywood Math and Science Film Consulting will ensure that the technical details and jargon in your script sound believable, whether they be mathematical, scientific, or medical. We will ensure that the backdrops in your scenes—the writing on the blackboards, the equipment in the labs—look realistic; that your universities look like universities and your academics act like academics. We have mathematicians, scientists, and physicians to serve you, and we have contacts in academia all over the world to assist us.We at Hollywood Math and Science Film Consulting don't want to destroy the fantasy of films. We can enhance your film's production design by guaranteeing the authenticity of its setting and that of your props. We can also provide the research relevant to and required by your project to ensure a credible and compelling storyline.In short, we will see that your script sounds right without affecting or undermining your story.


Visual Effects Society
The Visual Effects Society (VES) is a non-profit professional, honorary society, dedicated to advancing the arts, sciences, and applications of visual effects and to improving the welfare of its members by providing professional enrichment and education, fostering community, and promoting industry recognition.

Motion Capture Society
MCS intends to become the most respected and accessible global organization for creative motion capture professionals. MCS will support motion capture professionals at every level by offering a range of services to connect, inform, educate and promote, by celebrating achievement, excellence and innovation in all aspects of motion capture.

Seven Films that Might Be Bake-Off Bound

By Carolyn Giardina
Nov 13, 2007

The Bourne Ultimatum (Universal)
The Golden Compass (New Line Cinema)
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (Warner Bros.)
I Am Legend (Warner Bros.)
Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End (Disney)
Spider-Man 3 (Sony Pictures)
Transformers (Paramount/DreamWorks)

Battle of the Bakeoff


Nov. 13, 2007

The visual effects bake-off presents seven films that are up for consideration for the visual effects oscar nod, but what about the race to be one of those seven films??
This year has had a huge variety of visual effects films and the work is getting more complex: sand, goo, water, cg with live action, lighting, practical effects!! Then throw Beowulf in the mix and everything gets blurred. Should the time frame be a factor as well? If you have 8 months to do 700 shots or 1 year to do 500...should those films be balanced accordingly?

2007 Annie Award Nominations


Animated Effects - Individual achievement
*Gary Bruins – “Ratatouille” – Pixar Animation Studios
*Deborah Carlson – “Surf’s Up” – Sony Pictures Animation
*Ryan Laney – “Spider-Man 3” – Sony Pictures Imageworks
*James Mansfield – “How to Hook Up Your Home Theater” – Walt Disney Feature Animation
*Jon Reisch – “Ratatouille” – Pixar Animation Studios

Academy Event

Fantastic Reality: The Magic and Mystery of Movie Matte Painting

Hosted by Academy Award Nominee and Academy Governor Craig Barron

Monday, December 10, 2007 at 8PM

Take a journey through 100 years of movie matte painting from traditional to digital with clips from King Kong (1933), The Wizard of Oz (1939), Citizen Kane (1941), and Star Wars (1977), to name a few.

There is also an exhibit in the Linwood Dunn Theater foyer to go along with the presentation:

Playing God: The Art and Artists of Matte Painting

History of Effects in Film Timeline

Nova online has an entire timeline of the history of visual effects in film:


Special Effects: Titanic and Beyond
on Nova

(clip not from Nova...just found from a search)

Saturday, December 8, 2007

The Science of Superheroes

by Lois H. Gresh (Author), Robert Weinberg (Author)

From the Inside Flap:

If the planet Krypton had a gravitational field strong enough to account for Superman’s amazing strength, would it be possible to launch a rocket ship from the planet’s surface? Assuming that the Flash could actually travel at the speed of light, would any villain ever stand a chance against him? Could evolution actually produce X-Men?
The Science of Superheroes takes a light-hearted but clear-headed look at the real science that underlies some of the greatest superhero comic books of all time, including Spider-Man, Batman, the Fantastic Four, and many more. Each chapter presents the story of the origin of one or more superheroes and asks intriguing questions that lead to fascinating discussions about the limits of science, the laws of nature, and the future of technology.
If gamma rays can’t turn a 128-pound weakling into the Incredible Hulk, what could? Are Spider-Man’s powers really those of a spider? Could a person ever breathe water like a fish? From telepathy to teleportation, from cloning to cosmic rays, this vastly entertaining romp through the nexus of science and fantasy separates the possible from the plausible and the barely plausible from the utterly ridiculous.
You’ll discover the connection between black holes and green lanterns; what Galileo could have told Professor Pym about the stresses caused by shrinking and growing; and how many of Batman’s "inventions" anticipated actual technological developments such as the jet pack, unmanned aerial surveillance, and the optical laser. You’ll even learn how comic book writers use "technobabble" to create seemingly credible explanations of improbable superpowers and bizarre events.
Packed with fascinating accounts of how these characters were developed, The Science of Superheroes celebrates the ingenuity and imagination of the writers and artists who created them and offers helpful suggestions on how the origin stories of certain characters could be made more believable. It offers immensely enjoyable and informative reading for anyone who loves science, superheroes, or both.

Friday, December 7, 2007



National Geographic Channel
"A Night of Dinosaur Discoveries"

Dino Death Trap
Sunday Dec. 9th @8pm
Imagine the dinosaurs and other prehistoric creatures of the mid-Jurassic–predators and prey–locked in the daily struggle of survival. Suddenly, a volcanic cataclysm–a dinosaur Pompeii–engulfs them. Some die in an instant. Others break for the safety of the horizon as hot ash rains down on surrounding wetlands. As they plow through the forming ashy mud, they are swallowed, as though by quicksand, frozen in death for 160 million years. Until now.

It's advancing technologies that help us to visualize how the world was all those millions of years ago. They even use highly sophisticated CT machines to scan dinosaur fossils and peer within rocks to view the dinosaur formations.


Quick article about the history of scientific visualization:

During the Renaissance, popular belief held that the visual study of nature could, in fact, reveal the hidden laws of nature. This prompted da Vinci and other artists to look beneath the surface of the skin and to record the anatomy in detail. This was quite a revolutionary idea at the time. Artists and scientists began working together to create books -- anatomy and botany books -- and new disciplines were thus created that are still important tools for physicians and scientists today. This philosophy -- that you visually study nature to reveal the hidden laws of nature -- was developed by Renaissance artists and scientists, and it set the stage for the scientific revolution. Galileo developed the scientific methodology of visually and objectively recording data that may lead to the formation of hypotheses, having one's peers test these hypotheses, and eventually forming a scientific theory. This is how scientists still work today.

"Top Scientific Visualization Research Problems"

Dr. Christopher R. Johnson
In IEEE Computer Graphics and Visualization: Visualization Viewpoints, pp. 2--6. July/August, 2004
Scientific Computing and Imaging Institute at the University of Utah
"Scientific visualization as currently understood and practiced is still a relatively new discipline. As a result, we visualization researchers are not necessarily accustomed to undertaking the sorts of self-examinations that other scientists routinely undergo in relation to their work. Yet if we are to create a disciplinary culture focused on matters of real scientific importance and committed to real progress, it is essential that we ask ourselves hard questions on an ongoing basis. What are the most important research issues facing us? What underlying assumptions need to be challenged and perhaps abandoned? What practices need to be reviewed? In this article, I attempt to start a discussion of these issues by proposing a list of top research problems and issues in scientific visualization."

Thursday, December 6, 2007


Last time I was home I stopped by our science center COSI (Center of Science and Industry) in Columbus, OH. It's a wonderful place for hands-on science experiences (there's the California Science Center just south of USC campus as well) and they had a traveling animation exhibit: http://www.cosi.org/visitors/exhibits/animation-ex/

They had a bunch of down-shooters set up to do your own frame-by-frame stop motion animations. There was a 'foley' room, a digital station, an area to make flipbooks, and even a few volumes where you could place yourself into animated scenes in realtime (even one that did bullet-time motion). There were signs all around explaining the techniques as well taking you through the history of animation.
sponsored by Cartoon Network

This is the current technological exhibit: http://www.cosi.org/visitors/exhibits/WOSU/
about the art and science of television production.


This isn't related to VFX, but throughout this blog a lot of my focus has been toward science and education. How has science class evolved since my days of elementary school? What efforts are being made to engage the students and hold their interest in the topics? How are the teaching strategies of science class evolving with technology?
I came across the FOSS science curriculum (Full Option Science System) which has been officially adopted by the California State Board of Education http://www.fossweb.com/CA/
It is a program that supplies technological resources and encourages teachers to incorporate those into the curriculum, while maintaining state educational standards. Some of these technologies are computers in every classroom, with the teacher station having 'more power' and maybe a DVD station, cordless microscopes, etc.
Activities are catagorized by grade level available for parents and teachers.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

USC Vector Journal

Vector: Jornal of culture and Technology in a dynamic vernacular

Vectors maps the multiple contours of daily life in an unevenly digital era, crystallizing around themes that highlight the social, political, and cultural stakes of our increasingly technologically-mediated existence. As such, the journal speaks both implicitly and explicitly to key debates across varied disciplines, including issues of globalization, mobility, power, and access. Operating at the intersection of culture, creativity, and technology, the journal focuses on the myriad ways technology shapes, transforms, reconfigures, and/or impedes social relations, both in the past and in the present.


It's a very interesting journal. Most of the projects are interactive and some of them are scientific visualization.

Saturday, December 1, 2007


Here is an interesting article about creation of Beowulf:
The best thing is that you can discuss the creation of Beowulf on CGtalk with its animation supervisor here:

Catalina Island - Visualizing Science project

Here is a test render of Catalina Island that me and Prof. Eric Hanson are working on. L.A. coast is right now an island but I'm putting together the DEM files to correct it. I'll post more information about this project soon.