Animation At Work & Play

Even if you’ve been wowed by the antics of Spiderman swinging across

the New York City skyline, you probably don’t know the half of what

you’re seeing. For sure it’s not a stunt man who’s crawling up tall

buildings. Instead it’s the seamless integration of computer graphics

and the live action of real people. "The audience doesn’t know if it

is totally computer animated, totally live action, or both," says Doug

Dixon, an independent Princeton technology consultant, editor, author,

frequent U.S. 1 contributor, and speaker specializing in digital

media. (Check out his information packed website at

www.manifest-tech.com).

First of all, Spiderman, whoever he is, is not webbing his way across

the "real" New York City. (Of course in a world where the folks who

make movies and TV ads want fancier effects than they can get with

actual people, one might ask what "real" is anyway?) He’s making do

with a computer generated model of the city, which includes not only

the buildings, but the rooms that face out of the buildings.

Even the crowds of people swarming the streets are not real people.

The computer generates them, dressing each individual uniquely and

moving each one differently. "It gives the impression that each of

them is an individual," says Dixon.

The movie cuts between overhead shots that are computer generated and

close-ups of the live action of real people, and the result is a huge

cost savings. Scheduling problems are reduced, you don’t have to close

streets, you don’t have to gather together crowds, and you don’t have

to a pay for a stunt man or the insurance that covers his potential

accidents.

The professional organization that deals with animation is the

computer graphics special interest group (SIG) of the ACM (the

Association for Computing Machinery). It is known as SIGGRAPH. The

mother organization has been around for a long time – as you can tell

by its name, says Dixon – but SIGGRAPH concerns itself with the

hottest technologies and the artistic products made possible by these

technologies.

Dixon will be a host of a show of computer animation declared to be

the best in the world at the SIGGRAPH conference last summer in

Boston. The event takes place on Thursday, October 19, at 7 p.m. at a

joint meeting of the Princeton ACM and IEEE-CS chapters at the Sarnoff

Corporation Auditorium at Routes 1 and 571. There will also be

networking, a silent auction of "hot gear," informal exhibits of

high-end graphics work from central New Jersey, and a free raffle of

graphics/media books and software. For more information, go to

www.movingimage.org .

SIGGRAPH’s summer conference in Boston included exhibits of emerging

technologies from more than 230 companies, a juried art show with 107

artists selected from 1,000 submissions from 29 countries, a juried

film show, and an academic segment that included 86 refereed papers

and a number of panels. To be more inclusive, the conference also

offered hundreds of informal poster exhibits of graphics works. There

were 20,000 attendees from 80 countries.

This yearly conference is the spot far on the horizon that animators

move toward all year as they prepare work to submit to its juried film

show. Out of 726 total entries, SIGGRAPH selected 97 pieces, out of

which 34 were dubbed the "best of the best."

The October 19 showing – the organization’s 27th annual – is going one

better: "We’ve picked the best of the best of the best," says Dixon.

The clips in the hour-long show will range from gee-whiz commercials,

to video games, to films that huge teams worked on for a year, but it

will also include student and individual work done on PCs with tools

that regular computer nerds can buy and use.

Representative of trends in the industry, three genres of film will be

most prominent at the festival:

Computer-generated/live mix. The movies like Spiderman that seamlessly

mix computer generated segments with live action. Another example

Dixon shares are the "disgusting-looking pirate ghost creatures in The

Pirates of the Caribbean.

Fully computer-generated. You can make use of animation to create

movies in which human beings as we know them are entirely absent. The

characters may be cartoony-looking people or even cars, as in Pixar’s

recent movie, "Cars." Another animated feature film, "Over the Hedge,"

features squirrels, raccoons, dancing badgers, and turtles who walk

upright, have big expressive faces, and talk, but they still have to

look like the type of animal they are. Disney has produced "The Wild,"

and Sony Pictures has brought out a haunted house movie.

This realm of animation demands a tradeoff between making things look

real versus cartoony. With the squirrel’s long, furry tail, for

example, the hair has to move if the wind is blowing. If the squirrel

is running, then the hair should be moved back by the force of the

wind. In planning how a squirrel will walk, the animator can use

hand-drawn pictures, a film of a running squirrel, or a human dressed

up like a squirrel. Another consideration is the film’s environment.

In films out on the water, a computer often models the motion of

waves, wind, and rain.

Scientific graphics. Computer graphics help scientists who need to be

able to visualize very complex systems, whether on a macro level,

perhaps a hurricane or a tornado, or on a micro level such as the

movement of nuclear plasma or the action of cells in the body.

"Either they are too big to observe or too small or too dangerous,"

says Dixon. "They want to collect data and try to look at that data in

ways that let them learn things that they can’t actually see."

Scientists need to simulate and they need to write programs that take

the data from big supercomputers and evolve it into the future, for

example, to predict the path of a hurricane. One current venture

involves using data acquired from mapping and photographing Mars that

allows people to visualize walking on the surface of Mars. "This will

enable geologists to see things that they really can’t see otherwise,"

says Dixon.

Because animation is often project based, hiring cycles for animators

bear some similarity to those of the broader movie industry, which

staffs up for feature films, and then staffs down. "But there is

always demand for good animators," says Dixon. The industry requires

different areas of expertise. It needs the artists who design the

characters, the animators who design the motion, and environment

designers to determine what the streets and houses look like.

"And you need programmers in all environments to make it all work,"

says Dixon. He says that there are always "pages and pages" of ads for

animators in industry publications like "Game Developer" and "Computer

Graphics World."

Dixon describes the artistry of the films he will be hosting. "Some

are photorealistic, recreating natural environments like you see in

Star Wars. Some are painterly, drawing-like, and cartoony, and it is

not the technology, but the artistry that is of interest." He says

that more than half of the "best of the best of the best" films were

done on PCs with tools like Adobe Photoshop, Adobe After Effects, 3D

Studio Max, and the higher end Maya.

"Students with fairly simple tools but a lot of creativity can go

far," says Dixon. "A lot of hiring goes on at SIGGRAPH. The major

companies come, including Pixar, Sony, Dreamworks, and Blue Sky. They

are not looking for people brilliant at a particular tool. They are

looking for creativity. That’s what’s so exciting."

Phil Saunders, who teaches interactive multimedia and art at the

College of New Jersey and at New York University was on the art show

jury and is a former exhibitor. He will talk about what it was like to

choose art for the show.

Eliot Feibush of the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory is among the

professionals who will be showing work at the Princeton meeting.

Feibush’s work simulates what happens in plasma.

There will also be informal demos of local student and corporate work.

Although Dixon played around with computers in high school, it was at

Brown University that he got hooked, particularly on the "visual

aspect of computing." After graduated with a degree in computer

science in 1977, he worked in video and digital media at Sarnoff and

Intel, but burned out on software development, moving on to product

development and product and project management.

Dixon really has fun with his technology and he is a natural for

sharing it with others. He writes to communicate technological

information to real people, and he makes his writing and presentations

available to all comers on his website.

Dixon also consults and develops technical communications for clients,

including Adobe, Intel, and Sonic Solutions, and he serves as an

expert witness in litigation involving digital media and DVD

technology and products.

Dixon says that typically a couple hundred people show up at the

IEEE/ACM animation event, which high school and college students are

encouraged to attend. "It’s very inspiring to see the range of things

people are doing," says Dixon, but then he expresses what has really

motivated him to come see all 27 yearly animation gems: "It’s just

fun." – Michele Alperin

Writing Laws For Cyberspace

It’s been one of those quiet revolutions. This past decade’s amazing

technological changes have rippled, rather than rampaged, into our

lives, each generally welcomed with calm accommodation. We depend upon

technology at work, at home, and on the road. To be unplugged is

increasingly to be unmoored. Yet we have been stung by technology – or

have friends who have been stung. Youngsters have been propositioned,

identities have been stolen, private medical and financial records

have been broadcast, swindles of every sort have been perpetrated. We

demand justice for these cyber-offenses. Are there laws to keep us –

and our children, and our data – safe from electronically-enabled bad

guys?

Actually there are, and they are multiplying right along with

technological advances. Members of the New Jersey Bar’s Internet &

Computer Law Committee say that it would take more than a week to

cover the recent issues and new statutes. Yet in a crash course, the

New Jersey Institute of Continuing Legal Education offers "2006

Technology and Computer Law Conference" on Thursday, October 19, at 9

a.m. at the New Jersey Law Center in New Brunswick. Cost: $169. Visit

www.njicle.com

Comprised of individual presentations and a roundtable discussion, the

panel is designed to be of interest both to attorneys and to business

owners. Speaking on branding and domain security is Susan Goldsmith,

of Newark-based Duane Morris. Several members of the New Jersey State

Bar’s Internet & Computer Law Committee are making special

presentations. They are committee chair Daniel Winters of ReedSmith;

committee vice chair, Darrin Behr, who speaks on VOIP, voice over

Internet protocol; and former chair Michael Dunne of Pitney Hardin in

Morristown, who addresses Internet privacy and security. Ronald

Coleman of Bragar, Wexler & Engel; Brett Harris of Wilentz, Goldman &

Spitzer; and Daniele Schnapp of ReedSmith in New York are also

presenting.

Goldsmith’s, in her fifth year with Duane Morris, works in the same

building in which her attorney father and grandfather worked before

her. A native of West Orange, she says she was grew up knowing "that I

was always destined to be a third generation lawyer." After graduating

from the University of Pennsylvania in l981 with a bachelor’s in

business and marketing, she attended Rutgers University Law School.

Goldsmith and the other panelists say that the legal teeth we so

desperately seek in the electronic media do indeed exist. However,

since the tools, infringements, and protections themselves are new,

many people are not familiar with them.

Cybersquatters. Currently over 33 million domain names are registered.

Add to this millions more protected brand names and logos applicable

to all media, and there is huge potential for infringement. Most

domain infringement is simple – the intentional or unintentional use

of a pre-existing domain name on the web.

The predators’ aim is to use your company’s and products’ hard won

reputation to siphon off profits. But not all domain thieves are

profit motivated. Disgruntled employees and customers have been known

to pirate the company’s domain name, simply to redirect the visitor to

a hate website.

In either case, the original domain owner has recourse, but first he

must discover the copier. The first sign that one is victim of a

theft, says Goldsmith, is that strange messages will begin to flood

into the business. The company owner can wait for this warning sign,

or he can begin to poke around preemptively. Using a series of search

engines, begin to hunt through variations of the company name and the

names of its executive. To go a step further, hire a watch service,

such as Thomson & Thomson of Quincy, Massachusetts

(www.thomson-thomson.com). Such services will not only monitor and

track your domain globally, but many will also help prosecute

infringements.

It costs only $10 to $50 to register your website’s name. (See

www.register.com). Those seeking an extra measure of security may want

to register their site at not just ".com," but also at ".biz" and

".net." If your site has a hyphen, it is best to register both words.

Once you locate a cybersquatter, Goldsmith warns against taking

excessive action. Yes, you want to send out a letter informing the

individual of your prior claim to the domain title. "But be very

careful about how you word any actions you might take if they do not

cease and desist," says Goldsmith. "These could come back to haunt you

as an implied legal threat."

Goldsmith suggests that the better course is to keep control of the

action. Inform the cybersquatter, in a most amicable way, that you

have all the pertinent patent and registration information for the

domain name, and that you are happy to send it upon request. Mention

your assumption that the copying was, of course, an oversight. But

within this velvet glove of the polite missive, begin stockpiling your

written claim evidence.

Telephony privacy. Ever since the old party lines died out, the

telephone has been deemed a private person-to-person communications

device. Attorney-client conversations given over a land line are still

considered privileged, regardless of what federal agency would like to

listen in.

But when telecommunications became possible via computer, new

expectations of privacy had to be analyzed and established. E-mail and

in-home wireless, with its original narrow frequency, were considered

about as secure as a note pinned to the back door. As a result, legal

applications remained vague.

Yet recently, presenter Darrin Behr points out, E-mail has come to be

viewed under the law as affording sufficient expectation of privacy to

meet standards of attorney-client privilege. Further, he adds, "There

are plenty of opinions indicating that Voice over Internet Protocol

has the same privacy expectations."

The process of communicating both voice and images in real time over

the Internet paths has matured both in capability and protection.

Security experts themselves are noting that the VoIP service is more

difficult to breach than a land line. However, as the newer technology

is applied to increasingly large and sensitive business operations,

nobody is taking security for granted.

Building walls. "All levels of government are demanding more and more

of institutions to make it harder and harder to obtain a client’s

personal information," says Dunne. Cybersecurity appears to be one

issue on which government and business most heartily agree. The

penalty a bank or brokerage house faces should its ledgers be hacked,

or the financial hit an insurance firm or hospital would face should

its patient records be published online would far outweigh any federal

fine.

The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation has issued a guidance paper

concerning the use of VoIP in banks and lending institutions. It

acknowledges the efficiency and low cost of this mode of

communications, but at the same time notes the potential for disaster

inherent in having both data storage and communications carried on a

single wire. The National Institute of Standards and Technology has

recently published a report "Security Considerations for VoIP." The

paper notes that in both homes and in major companies VoIP has

increased rapidly throughout North America, yet it is sometimes

"awkwardly installed," leaving great security gaps.

Cyber criminals have so many more tools than bank robbers do. Law and

policies to corral them are being written all the time, but it’s hard

to stay ahead. In the next decade our communications gadgets and

methods will most likely have undergone another quiet revolution. And

just as likely, humankind, with the same ingenuity that brought forth

the new devices, will grapple the new problems and, with a little law

and a little inventiveness, will try to solve them.

– Bart Jackson

Help For Small Business Owners

As everyone knows, owning and running a business is full of

challenges. But for minority-owned businesses those challenges are

amplified. "It is hard for us to get a foot in the door when it comes

to securing jobs in the area," says William Burnett, owner of W.R.

Burnett and Sons (609-743-5601), a South Brunswick-based business that

offers paving and hauling services throughout the state. "When I

started out it was very hard. It’s still a struggle out there. Certain

jobs we are still excluded from. We are not even given the opportunity

to bid on them."

Burnett is one of the honorees at Metropolitan Trenton African

American Chamber of Commerce’s (MTAACC) Empowerment Fund Dinner on

Wednesday, October 25, at 5:30 p.m. at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in New

Brunswick. Cost: $150. The keynote speaker is Cory A. Booker, the

mayor of Newark.

W.R. Burnett and Sons is being honored for its contribution to a

recently completed site preparation job where it provided the paving

and excavation for a $3 million project in conjunction with Grace

Cathedral First Born Church. "MTAACC is an organization with many

highly qualified members who are capable of doing excellent work in

Mercer County and throughout the state," says Burnett. "We are

certainly very happy to be receiving such an honor."

The MTAACC Empowerment Fund’s mission is to foster support of

community and private sector relationships in order to better serve

the interests and needs of women, African Americans, and other people

of color. Other honorees at the dinner include James Kocsi, of the

Small Business Administration New Jersey District Office, Linda

Johnson and Roslyn Council, who will receive an education award for

their work with breast cancer awareness, and Bishop Jerome S. Wilcox,

Pastor of Grace Cathedral First Born Church.

Burnett’s company is a success story that from which many small owners

can draw inspiration. Born and raised in South Brunswick, Burnett

graduated from South Brunswick High School in 1973. He started his

business almost by accident in 1987. "It all started out with my dad

owning a couple of trucks that he used for hauling," says Burnett. "I

just started working with him. As time went on I began to take on more

and more responsibility and then, after a while, I took things over."

Now focusing primarily on asphalt paving as well as hauling services,

Burnett initially limited his services to hauling. It was only after

his sons grew old enough to work in the business that Burnett added

paving to his company’s services. "We started paving things like

driveways and sidewalks," he says. "At first, all the paving work was

done by hand, but as the business prospered and the jobs got bigger,

we began buying more trucks and heavy equipment."

His sons – Shawn, James, and Khataan – are still an integral part of

the company. In fact, W.R. Burnet and Sons is pretty much a family

affair. "I guess you could say that the company is family owned and

operated," says Burnett. "I have brothers who run the trucking part of

the company, my sons do the paving, and my father does the maintenance

work on the vehicles. My wife, Anita, does all the clerical work." In

addition to the seven family members, Burnett has 10 non-family

employees.

While many dream of quitting their work-a-day job and starting their

own business, Burnett is a testament to the fact that the reality

usually means more work rather than less. On an average week, he puts

in 60 to 80 hours. "The thing about running your own business is that

when you get done you, really aren’t done," says Burnett. "It’s not

like you can punch a clock at the end of the day. A lot of times my

weekends don’t belong to me. I go out a lot trying to get more jobs,

doing estimates, and things like that."

On the other hand, Burnett says that owning his business brings

rewards that would be impossible to get in a traditional nine-to-five

day working for someone else. "If you are in it just for the money, it

just takes too much of your time," he says. "I’m lucky to have so many

of my family members involved, because that allows me to share the

responsibility a bit and that takes some of the stress for me."

Burnett says is grateful for the opportunities that MTAACC provides

for minority-owned businesses. He says that it is important for small

businesses to build on past successes. "I’m finding it a little easier

now because most of the people I work with already know me. That’s

because I’ve either done work for them in the past or because I get

references from other clients. I have no complaints. I’m satisfied

with the decision I made years ago to do this."

– Jack Florek

The Road To Success Begins With a Map

Phyllis Sisenwine, a business coach and speaker, says that business

ownership is in her blood. "I just recently found out that my

grandmother used to own four different candy stores in Manhattan in

the 1920s," she says. "She didn’t trust other people to run the store

for her so when she wanted to take a vacation she would just sell the

store and then buy another one when she got back. It was really

unusual for a woman to be a business owner in those days. She was a

very remarkable woman."

Sisenwine is the principal in Langhorne-based "Powerful Coaching"

(www.powerfulcoaching.com) and specializes in coaching business

owners, lawyers, executives, and other professionals. She talks on

"How to Get All the Business You Want in Record Time" at a meeting of

the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO) on Thursday,

October 26, at 6 p.m. at the Grain House Restaurant in Bernardsville.

To register or for more information, call 908-647-5801.

Attracting more business, especially in a challenging economy, is a

top priority for many business owners, big and small. The secret,

Sisenwine says, is largely one of focus. "Most people have the best of

intentions in growing their business and following through with

necessary tasks. But the problem is that they let things get in the

way."

Losing focus is something that most people experience to one degree or

another both in personal and professional life. "Staying focused is

important because procrastination is the big problem for most people,"

she says. "People say they are going to exercise or lose weight and

they never do it. They wind up sleeping a little later in the morning

than they should or deciding that the cookies in the kitchen smell

pretty good after all. They never reach their goals, and it is the

same in business."

Sisenwine, who started her coaching business in 1997, says that she is

living proof that reaching your goals can be exciting and financially

rewarding. "After working for 20 years for a company selling office

supplies, I completely reinvented my life," she says. "The company I

worked for was sold to the Staples office supply store and I decided

to go into my own business."

Initially Sisenwine started coaching sales people who she knew. After

some success, she decided to go to coaching school, where she took

nearly 40 courses and earned her master certification. "Right away I

started coaching sales people again, but then I found that a lot of

executives and lawyers wanted to hire me to teach them better ways to

create business development opportunities," she says. She now coaches

clients all over the world.

Most of her coaching is done by phone. "Coaching is really about

support and strategy," she says. "It’s kind of like coaching athletes.

All the best tennis players and golfers have a coach. I feel that when

I work with people, I am in their corner for them. I provide time for

my clients to think out loud."

Born in New York City, Sisenwine and her family moved to the

Philadelphia area when she was just four years old. "My grandmother

was an entrepreneur and so was my father," she says. "He started a

screen-printing t-shirt business in New York and then built it up in

Philadelphia." She earned her bachelor’s degree from Temple University

before starting her career in sales. Two decades later Sisenwine

earned her coaching certification from Coach U, based in Andover,

Kansas. She is married and has three grown children.

For those business owners or budding entrepreneurs interested in

reaching their goals, Sisenwine offers the following advice:

Investigate obstacles and set goals. Ask where you want to be in a

year and investigate what has been holding you back. It may be a lack

of time, an inability to delegate enough, or not having workable

systems in place, but all these road blocks can be successfully

managed. "At its most basic level, setting goals is quite simple,"

says Sisenwine. It’s a matter of stopping long enough to figure out

where you want your business to go, creating a time line, and making

an incremental plan.

Clear away the clutter. According to Sisenwine, clutter is more than

having a sloppy home or office. It is a real energy drain that keeps

people from getting to their goals. "When I start coaching a client I

ask them what does their desk or office look like," she says. "Usually

they moan and groan. But it is necessary to take the time to get rid

of clutter, because how can you have time for new business when you

can’t handle the basics? You need to be organized."

Vanquish the time crunch of shoulds. Many people think that they don’t

have enough time to do the things necessary to get their business to

another level. But, according to Sisenwine, it is possible to set

priorities and thereby create the time you need.

People think in terms of "should," as in "I really should get more

business." Better to change the "should" to a "will." People suffering

from the "shoulds" tend to find that it’s almost five o’clock – day

after day – and they haven`t followed through on any of their plans.

Being open to possibility is another skill that can pay big dividends.

Reinventing herself after working for 20 years took courage as well as

personal insight. This is something that Sisenwine hopes to transfer

to her clients. "Being a coach is something that I never thought I

would be doing," she says. Losing a job gave her an opportunity to

reassess her career, and like so many other downsized professionals,

she found that unemployment was one of the best things that could have

happened to her. – Jack Florek

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