This is the course information for TNCG13 SFX - Tricks of the Trade 2014. It contains the schedule and information about the course. All material distributed during the course will be linked to from this page (or there will be a description on where to find it).
Course Overview
The course is organized into three mini series with invited lecturers from the movie industry, two short paper home exercises that will give you an understanding of current research, and a project where you can practice what you have studied throughout the course. The purpose of the lectures is to give a first experience view of the R&D as well as the production workflow at two world leading special effects houses. The lecturers are:
The short bio of each lecturer can be found at the bottom of this page, or by clicking their names.
Jonas Unger is managing this course and will together with Per Larsson and Andrew Gardner organize the examination tasks. The examination of this course is divided into two parts: a set of written short papers (3hp) and a group project (3hp).
Course Schedule
1.) Monday Nov. 10, 8-10, Room TP42
Lecture: Course Introduction and project overview, Jonas Unger
2.) Tuesday Nov. 11, 13-15, Room K23
Lecture: Maya intro and How to write Maya plugin and scripts, Per Larsson, Andrew Gardner,
3.) Friday Nov. 14 8-10, Room TP42
Lecture: Mixing the old with the new (focus on Image Based Lighting), Andrew Gardner
4.) Tuesday Nov. 18, 13-15, Room TP44
Lecture:TBA, Andy Lomas
5.) Wednesday Nov. 19, 10-12, Room TP44
Lecture: Production programming - Practical methods and philosophies of extensible software, Andrew Gardner
6.) Wednesday Nov. 26, at 17.00, Deadline: Short paper 1, Modelling and Animation
7.) Thursday Nov. 20, 17-21, Room Kopparhammaren conference room 5th floor
Project meeting, Per Larsson, Andrew Gardner, Jonas Unger
8.) Tuesday Nov. 25, 13-17, Room Kopparhammaren conference room 5th floor
Project meeting, Per Larsson, Andrew Gardner, Jonas Unger
9.) Wednesday Nov. 26, 10-12, Room TP42
Lecture: Production Quality Fur - Balancing speed, look, and data, Andrew Gardner, Tippett Studios
10.) Tuesday Dec. 2, 13-15, Room TP2
Lecture: The modern VFX production pipeline, Rob Pieké, MPC
11.) Wednesday Dec. 3, 10-12, Room TP43
Lecture: Rigid Body Simulation in Production, Rob Pieké, MPC
12.) Wednesday Dec. 17, at 17.00, Deadline: Short paper 2,
13.) Thursday Dec. 4, 17-21,Room Kopparhammaren conference room 5th floor
Project meeting, Per Larsson, Andrew Gardner, Jonas Unger
14.) Tuesday Dec. 9, 13-17, Room 43
Lecture: Theo Vandernoot, Sony Imageworks
15.) Wednesday Dec. 10, 10-12, K21
Lecture: Theo Vandernoot, Sony Imageworks
16.) Tuesday Dec. 16, 13-17, Room Kopparhammaren conference room 5th floor
Project meeting, Per Larsson, Andrew Gardner, Jonas Unger
17.) Friday Dec. 19, 8-12, The dome
Project presentation, Per Larsson, Andrew Gardner, Jonas Unger

The examination of this course is divided into two parts: a set of written short papers (3hp) and a group project (3hp). The papers you have to write individually, and the project can be done either alone or in groups of 2-3 persons. The short papers will be graded (3-5), and are thus what sets your individual grade in the course. The group project is only pass or fail (U/G).
Below, you can find detailed instructions on the examination.
- Remember that deadlines are strictly enforced. Late submissions will NOT be accepted!
- Read the requirements carefully
Project 3hp (group or individual)
Your project task is to implement an effect of choice and render and composite this effect into a real scene. The project and result should be documented in a short movie clip inlcuding a short behind the scenes overview. We suggest that you do this in way such that it can be used as part of a show reel.
We will supply you with back-plates (video and stills), HDR light probe images and other information that may be required from a number of scenes that you may choose from.
Data, links and other information useful for your project can be found below.
The project will be structured in the following way:
1.) Form a project group and report to the teacher who you will work with.
Deadline: Monday November 11 at 17.00.
2.) Write a one page project plan describing the aim and scope of the project. Bring this to the project meeting on Thursday November 20 and discuss with the teacher(s). If the project scope or aim is changed during the discussions, the document shall be updated.
The project plan shall include the following sections:
Project Overview
Here you give an overview of what it is that you plan to do in the project.
Time Plan
Here you present a tentative time plan for the project and describe what you intend to have done before each project meeting (see schedule above).
Deadline: Friday November 21 at 17.00.
3.) Carry out the work as described in the time plan. This includes going to the project meetings (see schedule above) to report your progress and to have a possibility to discuss problems.
4.) Write a short report 2-4 pages that describes what you have done and what you have learned during the project.
5.) Present your work for the class at the project presentations, Tuesday Dec. 17, 13-15.
6.) Send the code and project report to Jonas Unger.
Deadline: Tuesday December 17 at 17.00.
Please keep in mind that the project should be thought of as a programming exercise, but with a visually interesting result.
Project image data sets
Here you can find the data captured at the different locations. Each image data set contains two - three high resolution HDR panoramas captured at different locations, a large set of still images, as well as video sequences that you can use in the production of your final renderings. You can either download all images and videos from each location as (large) zip-files or browse individual frames, videos or panoramas in your web browser.
Location: Visualiseringscenter C exterior
The images, HDR panoramas and videos were captured outside the Norrköping Visualization center C.
Browse image and video data here.
Download entire zip archive here (3.7GB).
Location: Campus basement corridor
The images, HDR panoramas and videos were captured in a corridor in the basement of Täppan at Campus Norrköping.
Browse image and video data here.
Download entire zip archive here (3.1GB).
Location: Campus hallway
The images, HDR panoramas and videos were captured outside lecture hall K4 at Campus Norrköping.
Browse image and video data here.
Download entire zip archive here (2.4GB).

More Locations can be found at
The HDR panoramas are stored in OpenEXR format. For reading these images within your own code, you can use the development libraries found at the OpenEXR web page or use the OpenImageIO. Note that you will need both the ilmbase and openexr libraries found under download. A detailed overview of how these libraries work can be found under documentation.
The panoramic images are stored in the latitude longitude mapping of the sphere. Each pixel in the HDR panoramas can be thought of as the radiance contribution from a certain direction (solid angle). If you want to use these images in your own rendering code it is necessary to understand how to map from a direction in world coordinates to the corresponding pixel coordinate. This is briefly described in these files: Panorama mapping (.zip)
The zip archive contains a breif explanation of the mapping and Matlab code that maps from world directions (x,y,z) to image coordinates (u,v) and vice versa. There is also a file, test.m, that gives an overview of the code.
An HDR panorama does not contain any information on what parts of the image that represent light sources, and what parts that represent background. The large differences in intensity between the, often very small, light sources and the background leads to a significant sampling problem during rendering, especially if a stochastic rendering approach is used. This leads to long rendering times.
There are ways to improve the sampling efficiency during rendering. These are called importance sampling. An introduction to basic importance sampling techniques can be found in:
High Dynamic Range Imaging 2nd Edition, Reinhard et al., ISBN: 978-0-12-374914-7, Chapter 11, Image Based Lighting
Physically Based Rendering 2nd Edition, Pharr and Humphreys, ISBN: 978-0-12-375079-2, Chapters 12.5 and 14.6.5, Note that this book refers to this as infinite area lights.
Another option to improve rendering speed is to extract a set of light sources that approximate the HDR panorama. One approach, called A Median Cut Algorithm for Light Probe Sampling, for such an approximation that is straight forward to implement is described here.

Short papers 3hp (individual)
To pass this course you need to write a report covering two specific topics, related to Visual Effects in Shows (Motion Pictures). These topics will be covered during the lectures and in the reading material described below. For each topic, you are required to get yourself an overview of the field and select a sub-topic that you find interesting. You are then required to write a short paper that gives an overview of the sub-topic and describes one or two by you selected state-of-the-art techniques in detail. See below for the requirements.
An example of a well written short paper can be found here.
The purpose of the papers is for you to get an overview of computer graphics content creation and to further investigate the selected sub-topics in detail. The initial reading material is based on SIGGRAPH courses and sketches from 2008 - 2011. The courses give in-depth overviews of a subject, and the sketches and posters present new ideas or production techniques on a single page. The courses and sketches can be found at:
Siggraph 2014 courses and technical papers
Siggraph 2013 courses and technical papers
Siggraph 2012 courses and technical papers
Siggraph 2011 talks, posters and courses
Siggraph 2010 posters and courses
Siggraph 2009 sketches and courses
Siggraph 2008 sketches and courses

The recommended reading will serve as a starting point for your investigations. However, you will also be required to seek information on your selected topics from other sources, and to read scientific papers. You are required to find, read and correctly reference at least two full length scientific paper about your selected sub-topics. Relevant references to scientific papers can be found from the course notes and sketches. The actual papers can be found from the ACM portal:
ACM digital library (works from within the university network.)
To make sure that there is enough time for the group project towards the end of the course there will be three deadlines, one for each topic.
Note that the listed sub-topics are examples and that you are encouraged to, based on your own interest, select other topics. You are not required to read all of the material listed under recommended reading. Instead, the idea is for you to get an overview of the material and select what is appropriate for your selected topics. However, you are encouraged to read other course notes, papers, sketches, books etc. than the ones listed.
-Each short paper shall be at least 3 and no more than 5 pages formated in 11 or 12 pt font size.
-For each paper you select a sub-topic. The sub-topic is selected by you during your investigations.
-Each paper shall give an overview of the subject and also present an in-depth study of one or two state-of-the-art techniques the field.
-Apart from other references, you need to, for each paper, read and reference (correctly) at least 2 full length scientific papers on your selected sub-topic(s). Referencing is described below.
-The papers shall be sent to Jonas Unger by email. In the subject line you must write the following: [tncg13] Your Name, Topic. Replace "Your Name" with your actual name and "Topic" with the actual topic, i.e. Modeling and Animation, Rendering Techniques or Compositing.
Check your spelling and grammar more than once! If the report contains non-original texts you have copied from other sources without appropriate quotation it is disqualified and considered plagiarism, which will be reported. If you include quotes from other sources it is imperative you clearly specify these as quotes and from where they are taken. The report must also include a proper reference list for all the cited articles in the report. Carefully examine how citations and references are written in scientific publications and do the same in your report. Plese note that your report will be run through the "urkund" system to detect plagiarism.
Citations are given as [N] in the text, commonly as "Kronander et al. [1] present a method to ..."
In the list of references the citation is detailed:
1. Joel Kronander, Jonas Unger, Torsten Möller and Anders Ynnerman. Estimation and Modeling of Actual Numerical Errors in Volume Rendering. Computer Graphics Forum, Vol. 29, No. 3, June 2010
Guest Lecturers
Rob Pieké
Rob Pieké is the Research Lead at MPC in the heart of London. He dabbled in computer graphics programming in BASIC on the PCjr from an early age, and was completely hooked by the visual effects industry after seeing Jurassic Park in the cinema. After studying Computer Engineering at the University of Waterloo, Rob led a small VFX R&D team at C.O.R.E. Digital Pictures in Toronto from 2003-2007. He then moved to London to join MPC as a Senior R&D Artist on The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian, and has since developed a series of Character, FX, and Core technologies for a variety of Hollywood blockbuster films. Presently Rob is focused on investigating the state-of-the-art in computer graphics technologies, and trying to figure out what “the next big thing” for the visual effects industry will be.
Andrew Gardner
Andrew Gardner is a Senior Software Engineer at Tippett Studios, where he is responsible for the design, implementation, and maintenance of large scale studio tools. He recieved his bachelor's degree from the University of Wisconsin with a focus on retargeting motion capture data, moved to the University of Southern California's Institute for Creative Technologies to develop novel image-based lighting and facial animation techniques, and later found himself at Tweak Films as a Senior Technical Director working on specialized shots in films such as "Superman" and "Spiderman 3." His most recent work involves the practical implementation of fur, making image based lighting work for traditional lighters, development of the in-house matchmove camera solver, and the creation of an efficient visual effects pipeline to tie it all together.
Andy Lomas
Andy Lomas is the Katana Product Manager at The Foundry, steering the development work on the application used for Look Development, Lighting and pipeline at companies including Sony Imageworks, ILM, Pixar and MPC. Prior to joining The Foundry in 2004 he was Head of CG at Framestore (Avatar, The Tale of Despearaux, Dinotopia, Walking with Dinosaurs, Lost in Space), Character Effects Supervisor at Dreamworks Animation (Over the Hedge) and Head of CG at ESC Entertainment (Matrix: Reloaded, Matrix Revoltions). He received an Emmy in 1999 for his work on the TV Series Alice in Wonderland, and also won the 2014 Lumen Prize for his own digital art work.
Theodor Vandernoot
22 years experience in Visual effects imagery generation. Originally set to be a Physician involved in diagnostic Imagery, I was always interested in diagnostic technologies such as MRI, Nuclear Medicine and Pet scanners.A debilitating scuba accident left me bedridden during 1992, at which point I discovered ,and fell in love with CG. I began my career working in desktop publishing ,later switched to modeling and animation using electric image and form-Z,and subsequently wavefront ,houdini, and renderman. I have worked on over 25 projects, including broadcast and films, and have had the pleasure of supervising in my area of expertise ( effects) at VIFX, and Sony Pictures Imageworks.As a developer, I've written over 400 shaders, and specialized in problem solving and quick turn-arounds. I always push the bounds of software and the boxes they run on.I believe that anything can be accomplished ,and that we can always learn from each other.I have taught courses in Houdini, prman, VEX, and dynamic simulations.I am constantly educating myself ,and have a particular interest in Digital Cinematography as well as the future of CG in gaming.I love the creative process,and I never take lunch.,but I make sure everybody I work with has a productive and rewarding experience.

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Jonas Unger 2012