Category Archives: events


Image excerpted from Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud (1993)

Here’s something new! A group of researchers from MIT, Stanford, Cambridge and UW Madison have put together a new interdisciplinary workshop “at the interface between cognitive science 🧠 and computer graphics 🫖“, aptly named COGGRAPH. I’ll be on a panel about non-photorealistic rendering, next Tuesday, July 16th, at 11am Pacific (2pm ET). It’s virtual, free, and open to the public. If you’re interested, you can sign up here to see it!

The real Chuck Close

A diptych by Chuck Close: two portraits of artist Fred Wilson, painted in grids of pixels using layered glazes of transparent oil paint. The effect makes the paintings look almost like watercolor.

Chuck Close, “Fred/Diptych”, 2017-2018, oil on canvas, 36″ x 30″.

I was stunned to see this series of Chuck Close portraits painted in an almost watercolor style.

“These full-color portraits and self-portraits employ a palette of only three colors: red, yellow and blue. Layering transparent glazes of paint, Close created an effect of abstract likeness entirely different from that of his previous work. The complex color relationships that unfold in these paintings are visible at the bleeding edges of each square within the grid, where the ragged ends of each individual color are visible.”

A half-finished Chuck Close portrait of Michael Ovitz. A faint pencil grid on bare canvas is partly filled in with squares of transparent oil paint.  You can see from the incomplete squares that the artist started with a layer of magenta, followed by blue and yellow.

Chuck Close, “Michael Ovitz (Unfinished),” 2020-2021, oil on canvas, 72-1/2” × 61-1/2” × 2.”

When I started working on my “Big Wet Pixels” homage, I had no idea that the artist himself had spent the last few years of his life painting this way. Seeing these paintings now is bittersweet. It would have been wonderful to see what he would have done next had he lived long enough. But it’s also encouraging to see how many different interpretations are possible in this space. And that makes me want to keep exploring it.

The paintings will be on exhibit at the Pace Gallery in New York, from Feb 23 – Apr 13, 2024.

“Believable Acting” video now online

ACM SIGGRAPH has posted the video of my April 12 talk about our team’s work on believable acting for autonomous animated characters. This was a really fun one to do. Most conferences limit you to 25 minutes for technical talks, but we’ve always had a lot more material than that! The San Francisco SIGGRAPH chapter’s talk format is comfortably open-ended, so I was able to spend a full hour and go a lot deeper without rushing through it, and still leave plenty of time for Q&A.

Huge thanks to Henry LaBounta and the SF SIGGRAPH organizers for inviting me, and to the audience for showing up and asking such thoughtful and interesting questions!

Believable Acting, April 12 at SF-SIGGRAPH

Hey animation heads, AI enthusiasts, game developers, and curious people of all kinds! Have you ever wondered why video game characters often seem so robotic, compared to animated characters in movies? Have you ever wished for some way to bridge that gap? This is what my team, Synthetic Characters, has been working on at Google Research. I’ll be giving a talk about our paper, Toward Believable Acting for Autonomous Animated Characters, for the San Francisco SIGGRAPH chapter, next Wednesday, April 12, at 6pm Pacific time.

The event is online, free, and open to the public– but if you want to see it, you have to sign up in advance. Here’s the link to reserve your spot!

Our autonomous character, Axo, acting on its own motivations.

Animation Day at Infinity Festival

"Infinity Festival Hollywood" logo

I’m heading to LA this coming weekend to do a retrospective talk about Spotlight Stories. It’s part of an ASIFA-organized “Animation Day” event at Infinity Festival Hollywood. starting Saturday, November 9th at 10am. (Our friends from Baobab will also be doing a talk about some of their latest work, so it should be a really interesting morning!) Angelenos, swing by and say hello!

FMX and Expressive 2019

Next week I’m heading to Europe for a couple of conferences: FMX (Stuttgart) where Jan Pinkava will be giving two talks about our work at Spotlight Stories, and Expressive (Genoa) where I’m presenting a paper about our look development work for Age of Sail: Non-Photorealistic Animation for Immersive Storytelling. I’m beyond excited to meet up with old colleagues and new ones, learn about the latest graphics techniques, mangle two foreign languages, and explore some cities I’ve never been to before. If you’ll be at either of these events, let me know!

“Age of Sail” at the Annies and the VES Awards

It’s not every week you have to fly down to LA twice, but what a great reason to do it. “Age of Sail” was nominated in a bunch of categories, and won Outstanding Production Design at the Annie Awards, and Outstanding Visual Effects in a Real-Time Project at the VES Awards.  I’m so grateful to have worked with this amazing team of artists, and and so proud of what we’ve accomplished together!

Jasmin Lai, Céline Desrumaux, Sikand Srinivas and Neth Nom at the Annie Awards.
John Kahrs, Kevin Dart, yours truly and Theresa Latzko at the VES Awards.
(Apparently I still don’t know how to keep a bow tie straight.)

more “Age of Sail” news

Wow, it’s been a busy few weeks since we launched “Age of Sail“!  Hard to keep track of all the news, but here are a few highlights…

It’s been nominated for four Annie Awards

For the first time, the Annie Awards will honor animated VR productions. Vying for the prize are “Age of Sail” by Google Spotlight Stories and Broadreach Pictures; AtlasV’s “BattleScar”; “Crow: The Legend” by Baobab Studios; “MindPalace” by Filmakademie Baden-Württemberg GmbH; and Polyarc’s “Moss.”

In addition to the VR bid, Google Spotlight Stories’ “Age of Sail” came away with three other nominations, including character animation in an animated TV/broadcast production (Sikand Srinivas); character design in an animated TV/broadcast production (Bruno Mangyoku); and production design in an animated TV/broadcast production (Celine Desrumaux and Jasmin Lai).

Gnomon released the video of the making-of talk that John Kahrs and I did. (John’s part is not to be missed: a life lesson in thoughtful, personal filmmaking.)

Watch The Making of Google Spotlight Stories: ‘Age of Sail’ from Gnomon_School on

And AWN just ran a nice interview with me and my partner-in-crime, Chromosphere’s Theresa Latzko, about the art and tech challenges of the ocean, the look, and more.

Still reading?  Really?  Well, here’s some other nice press, about both VR and cinematic cuts:


Age of Sail launches today!

The show we’ve been working on for more than a year is finally out in the world, in all its forms!  You can see it:

“Age of Sail” was directed by John Kahrs, and produced at Chromosphere, Evil Eye Pictures, and Google Spotlight Stories.  Working on this story, with this crew, has been an unforgettable experience. I’ll have lots more to say about it in future posts, but for now: enjoy the show!