Before Ken Wesley ever made a digital tornado twist or a computer-generated hovercraft blow back trees, he liked to sit and watch the rain fall at home.

Wesley, 55, now an instructor at LSU, worked for three decades in the early days of computer generated imagery — CGI — creating scenes for “Mission Impossible,” “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone,” and several other blockbusters.

His childhood in rural Foxworth in south Mississippi created a foundation for his work.

“I had a lot of time to watch rain fall or watch grass blow in the wind or natural phenomena — leaves falling from trees,” he said. “Those are the things that, as a visual effects artist, I became known for, recreating natural phenomena in the computer. That’s what I love.”

In January, Wesley became an instructor in LSU’s Digital Media Arts and Engineering program, which teaches master’s level students to create digital 3-D images for films and video games. They learn what Wesley taught himself to do, translate the natural world into a computerized language.

Since the 1980s, Wesley has helped develop much of the animation that his students have grown up watching.

“Ken brings decades of experience from the very early days of CGI to a group of students who grew up with it and take it for granted,” said Marc Aubanel, director of the program.

Wesley became interested in art at an early age, taking painting lessons as a 12-year-old after school. As a teenager, he knew he would attend the University of Southern Mississippi in nearby Hattiesburg, but he didn’t have plans for a career.

One night before his high school graduation in 1977, Wesley was leaving his parents’ house when he saw a few minutes of a “60 Minutes” segment on a new medium — computer animation — that featured a program at a university in New York.

“I looked at the TV as I was opening the back door,” he recalled, “and I said, ‘That is what I want to do.’”

He majored in computer science and minored in math. As a senior, he sent out just one resume — to the New York Institute of Technology’s computer animation laboratory, the program he saw on television years before.

Unexpectedly, they hired him.

Wesley started working on some of the early 3-D computer animation sequences, television commercials and title sequences for CBS Sports programs.

“It was new then. It was cool then,” Wesley said. “It’s expected now.”

Eager to work on bigger projects, Wesley moved to Germany before being hired at Industrial Light and Magic, the visual effects company founded by George Lucas.

In the mid-1990s, major films began to use computerized visual effects regularly. Wesley worked on one of the best-known segments of “Mission Impossible,” a fight atop a high-speed train, and an effect in “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” where a villain turns to ash.

Wesley’s work is equal parts art and mathematics. Starting with an image, he can create a computer program that creates an entire world.

One leaf of grass can become a field, each blade unique in the way it twists in the wind or curls toward the sun.

“One of the things I still like doing is studying some natural phenomenon or some process and then trying to figure out the mathematics that are at play,” Wesley said.

After nearly a decade at Industrial Light and Magic, Wesley left computer animation and California. He moved to Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, to paint.

Long hours at a computer had begun to alter his mind, he said.

“I am in the virtual world inside the computer doing stuff,” he said. “I am operating in a space that really exists inside my head, but it seems to be inside that monitor.”

He often longed for the rain, the grass, the nature with which he had grown up.

“I struggle with balancing that artificial technological influence on my life with the thing that makes grass grow,” he said. “It’s a huge struggle.”

When Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast in 2005, Wesley lost everything at his home in Bay St. Louis. Since then he has moved between California and Mississippi, alternately painting and working on movies.

CGI experts are no longer hired longterm, he said, instead working on a less-secure contract basis.

Last summer, Wesley finished work on “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1” and was hired to teach at LSU.

The new job offers security and the opportunity to work in the future of computer graphics. Wesley said he believes that films as we know them will die out. In the future, viewers will desire more interaction, like a video game.

“Every single person is going to have a different experience with that product,” he said. “I want to do that. I want to be involved in that.”

Teaching the next generation of visual effects artists, he has his chance.

 

By:  Kyle Peveto| kpeveto@theadvocate.com

Stressed out by upcoming final exams, come unwind and join us for a FREE movies at the Digital Media Center at LSU.  We will be featuring Godzilla and will feature a talk by Visual Effect Artis, Craig Houston who will discuss the ins and outs of stereoscopic compositing.

DMAE Film Series 

Next Screening:  Saturday, April 25th, 2015; 7:00PM (doors open at 6:30pm)
Film Title:  Godzilla (2014)
Guest Speaker:  VFX Artists & Lead Compositor, Craig Houston
Where:  Digital Media Center Theater

https://www.facebook.com/events/716972468420321/?ref=3

Director Gareth Edwards mimics the original in playing coy with the title monster—and mimics its Americanized forebear by shifting much of the action and heroism stateside. But for those with a high tolerance for action-movie bingo and CGI carnage, Godzilla’s reverence for the King of the Monsters oozes from every track mark, snapping cable and thundering footstep.

Because here, Godzilla’s most important character is the radioactive sea-dweller. The lumbering legend’s rendered in painstaking detail, from jagged spikes to melancholy mien. It’s a microcosm of the movie’s visual thoughtfulness; Edwards has a knack for the frame within the frame—rearview mirrors reflecting eerie abandoned streets, windows offering incomplete glimpses—to heighten both the atmosphere of dread and in-the-moment tension, so that the final standoff captures some real thrill. It might not be enough to clean up all the loose ends, but for monster-movie fans, Godzilla offers a loving look at the old guy back on the big screen.
” – Genevieve Valentine, Philadelphia Weekly
With stereoscopic production becoming more and more common (Oculus announced a film production wing), stereoscopic compositing is affecting how movies are shot and post produced.  Come listen to Gener8’s Craig Houston and find out how this affects movie productions moving into the future.  For anyone interested in film post production, compositing and Nuke – this is a must see screening.
Come join us for a night of FREE movies at the Digital Media Center at LSU. We will be featuring Revolution OS.

DMAE Film Series – Revolution OS

Screening: Wednesday, March 11th, 7:00 pm
Film:  Revolution OS
Where:  Digital Media Center Theatre
Guest Speaker:  Dr. Robert Kooima

DMAE & CCT are proud to present Revolution OS. “The film is a documentary that traces the twenty-year history of GNU, Linux, open source, and the free software movement. Directed by J. T. S. Moore, the film features interviews with prominent hackers and entrepreneurs including Richard Stallman, Michael Tiemann, Linus Torvalds, Larry Augustin, Eric S. Raymond, Bruce Perens, Frank Hecker and Brian Behlendorf.” – Wikipedia.  Dr. Robert Kooima will discuss what has changed since the movie was made and put it in a modern context with today’s challenges.

“This in-depth study of important developments of the computer industry should make it required viewing in university computer science departments for years to come. Just on a practical level, it indicates the community-oriented approach is not only the fastest way to fix problems, but can lead to a sort of “Natural Selection” method of improving software. Intellectually, the movie explores some fairly lofty ideals and demonstrates their implementation in a capitalist environment can be much more successful than you might think. It kind of gives you hope for the human race. As Open Source and LINUX realize their potential to exploit Microsoft’s weaknesses, Stallman and his comrades might actually fulfill one of their other dreams – to become Bill Gates worst nightmare.” – Ron Wells, Film Threat

Robert Kooima is an Assistant Professor in the School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at Louisiana State University and a member of the faculty of the Center for Computation & Technology. He studies real-time 3D computer graphics, interactive display technology, digital imaging, and image processing. For more information, visit: http://csc.lsu.edu/~kooima/research.html
For more information on the LSU Digital Media Arts & Engineering Program, visit:  https://dmae.lsu.edu/
Louisiana Public Broadcasting is seeking entries for The 2015 PBS Online Film Festival. They had an entry from Louisiana make the national stage and would love to see another this year!
If you are a budding filmmaker and want to show off your work, LPB is seeking local short films for the 2015 PBS Online Film Festival. This national online festival encourages independent filmmakers to submit their unique, thought-provoking creations for possible entry to the national PBS Online Film Festival. The only restrictions are that the films must be between three and 15 minutes long and must meet the technical criteria for the festival.
For more information, visit:  http://www.lpb.org/filmfest
All entries must be received by Friday, February 20, 2015.

Over the weekend, video game developers converged upon LSU for 48 hours of straight jamming.

Happening in 78 countries across the globe in 524 sites, the Global Game Jam video game creation competition, the world’s largest event of its kind, was held at LSU’s Digital Media Center and had about 20,000 participants worldwide.

Thirty participants, who ranged from college students majoring in gaming to adults who have made it a hobby, created six video game concepts during the weekend at LSU. A local event organizer said last year, a snowstorm derailed plans for LSU’s first Global Game Jam, but this year, weather did not stop the show.

Furthermore, “this is a must-have for educational institutions,” said Marc Aubanel, the director of LSU’s Digital Media Arts and Engineering program who helped organize the weekend of events. “These types of marathons are happening in business and academia all over.” Aubanel said similar events are taking place within colleges and major companies including Facebook and Google.

The events breed innovation, he says, although only about one or two out of a thousand of the ideas make it to market. “You don’t get a complete game from these competitions. Just the blueprint. Sometimes it takes several years to develop.”

. . . . . . .

Renita D. Young is a business reporter based in Baton Rouge. Email her at ryoung@nola.com or call 504.352.2548. You can also keep up with all of her local updates on Twitter @RenitaDYoung and on Facebook.

Prototypes, coding, alphas and betas were just some of the foreign vocabulary words used at the Digital Media Center last weekend. The University participated in Global Game Jam, a 48-hour game creation event centered around this year’s theme: “What do we do now?”

Participants at 519 sites in 78 countries who developed video games or board and card games convened for the jam.

Marc Aubanel, director of the Digital Media Arts and Engineering program, said the gaming community breaks all language barriers.

“Here’s a way of getting a whole bunch of nations together where we can build something positive and work together as teams,” Aubanel said.

This is the first year the University participated in the jam after the 2014 event was canceled at the last minute for the polar vortex.

Anyone from students to professionals can take part in the jam. Participants are not required to have any game developing experience, and sites like LSU provide computers to loan.

Teams had 48 hours to work on their games. They were free to come and go, but some dedicated participants brought air mattresses to sleep on at the site.

Teams complete a small portion of their games in a limited time frame but sometimes continue development after the jam to publish their creations.

Computer science professor Robert Kooima said the deadline creates an engaging environment students otherwise would not encounter.

“What a student tends to do, of course, is do their assignment, get it done, hand it in and then do no more, “Kooima said. “And this is something more.”

He said participating in the event makes the University a greater part of the global world of technology.

“I think a student would expect nothing less from a school like LSU,” Kooima said.

Digital art juniors Cameron Bragg and Tylar Spencer were part of “Team Awesome Potato.” They both said they had some experience with game development on their own but wanted to participate in the event to learn team dynamics and gain experience.

One day into the jam, the team’s room was lined with air mattresses and littered with coffee bags.

“I think the hardest part so far has been getting everyone to agree on certain concepts and key ideas of the game, so I think development was the hardest part, and production has been sort of smooth,” Spencer said.

The University began a master’s program in digital media arts and engineering last week, focusing on animation, effects and video game development.

Aubanel said if the University was going to offer a game program, it had to participate in the global jam as a “rite of passage.”

He said video games go beyond entertainment, emerging in many industries like engine repair, where augmented reality glasses display a simulation of the repair and show the user exactly what to do.

The first Global Game Jam was in 2009. Though many universities host jam sites, companies like Facebook and Google also participate in the event at their headquarters.

[In January 2014, there were 488 locations in 72 countries creating over 4,000 games in one weekend!]
Registration is NOW OPEN!
Dates:  January 23-25, 2015 (estimated start 5:00PM on Friday; 48 HOURS of STRAIGHT JAMMING )
Where:  Digital Media Center, Louisiana State University, Room #1034

The Global Game Jam (GGJ) is the world’s largest game jam event (game creation), brought to LSU by the LSU Center for Computation & Technology and Digital Media Arts & Engineering Program. Think of it as a hackathon focused on game development. It is the growth of an idea that in today’s heavily connected world, we can come together, be creative, share experiences and express ourselves in a multitude of ways using video games – it is very universal. The weekend stirs a global creative buzz in games, while at the same time exploring the process of development, be it programming, iterative design, narrative exploration or artistic expression. It is all condensed into a 48 hour development cycle. The GGJ encourages people with all kinds of backgrounds to participate and contribute to this global spread of game development and creativity.
Who:  Age 18+, amateurs through professionals (minors allowed if accompanied by their legal guardian). Designers, developers, artists and anyone is welcome to try their hand at making a game during the GGJ.
Registration:  $25/per person.
For more information, or to register, visit:  https://www.cct.lsu.edu/GGJ2015

Note:  This training is FREE and will be held in the Digital Media Center @ LSU, Room #1008B.

XSEDE HPC Workshop: OpenACC
December 4, 2014

XSEDE, along with the Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center and the National Center for Supercomputing Applications at the University of Illinois will be presenting an OpenACC GPU programming workshop on December 4, 2014.

OpenACC is the accepted standard using compiler directives to allow quick development of GPU capable codes using standard languages and compilers. It has been used with great success to accelerate real applications within very short development periods. This workshop assumes knowledge of either C or Fortran programming. It will have a hands-on component using the Blue Waters which is deployed at NCSA.

Due to demand, this workshop will be telecast to several satellite sites. This workshop is NOT available via a webcast. Please note that the hands-on accounts will be limited to 200 students, available across all sites and awarded by order of registration.

You may attend at any of the following sites:

* Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center
* Michigan State University
* University of Tennessee-Knoxville
* University of Michigan
* Stanford University
* Louisiana State University
* Youngstown State University
* University of Houston Clear-Lake
* National Center for Atmospheric Research
* Lehigh University

Please register for the site that you wish to attend:

https://portal.xsede.org/course-calendar

Please address any questions to Tom Maiden at tmaiden@psc.edu 

XSEDE, the Extreme Science and Engineering Discovery Environment, is the most advanced, powerful, and robust collection of integrated digital resources and services in the world. It is a single virtual system that scientists and researchers can use to interactively share computing resources, data, and expertise. XSEDE integrates the resources and services, makes them easier to use, and helps more people use them.

The Laptop Orchestra of Louisiana, or the LOLs, are back with music created through mobile apps, 3D tracking, video synthesis and haptic interfaces for physical models, all developed here at LSU. Come experience the technical wizardry and sci-fi strains of new experimental music. Featuring Live Coding and debut works for the Louisiana Mobile App Orchestra, or LMAO, with works by: Jesse Allison, Edgar Berdahl, Zak Berkowitz, Danny Holmes, Will Conlin and Guest Artist Vanissa Law.

Tickets for the LOLs are $20 general admission, $15 for faculty/staff, $10 for students. For more info call 225-578-5128.

The LOLs will have an encore performance at the P3+BR festivities at the BR Walls space in the Chase Towers in downtown Baton Rouge on November 15th. Activities will be going on all day with the LOL concert at 8:15PM. The event is free and open to the public. http://www.thewallsproject.org/

For those interested in pursuing a career in Video Games, we highly recommend you attend one of these sessions with Jeremy Snead, the writer, director, producer and cinematographer of Video Games: The Movie.  Great for middle and high school students too!  FREE and open to the public.

TWO EVENTS:

The Making of Video Games: The Movie with Jeremy Snead

Jeremy Snead, the writer, director, producer and cinematographer of Video Games: The Movie is coming to LSU to talk about the making of the film. From crowd sourcing on Kickstarter to direct distribution with movies on demand – Jeremy is part of the changing publishing landscape for films. To add to the challenge he did this in a tough genre of documentary filmmaking. Find out the trials and tribulations of bringing a subject that is of personal and cultural significance to market. Jeremy has a rich background professionally in the field of video games through his work at Media Juice Studios which produces marketing content for video game publishers.

When:  Tuesday, November 11th, 1:00PM – 3:00 PM
Where: LSU College of Art & Design, CADGIS room #217

and ……….

As part of Louisiana Innovation Month, the DMAE Film Series is pleased to have director Jeremy Snead joining as a panelist to talk about the video game industry. This is one of the first films to take a serious look at the impact and potential of this growing field and is of particular importance strategically to the state. We will be screening the documentary after the panel.

DMAE Film Series

Screening: Tuesday, November 11th, 7:00 pm (doors open at 6:30 PM)
Film:  Video Games: The Movie
Where:  Digital Media Center Theatre
Guest Speaker:  Jeremy Snead

“From executive producer Zach Braff and director Jeremy Snead, VIDEO GAMES: THE MOVIE is an epic feature length documentary chronicling the meteoric rise of video games from nerd niche to multi-billion dollar industry. Narrated by Sean Astin and featuring in-depth interviews with the godfathers who started it all, the icons of game design, and the geek gurus who are leading us into the future, VIDEO GAMES: THE MOVIE is a celebration of gaming from Atari to Xbox and an eye-opening look at what lies ahead.” – Variance Films

For more information on the LSU Digital Media Arts & Engineering program, visit:  https://dmae.lsu.edu/