Ben Houston: Personal Website

email:  ben @ exocortex.org
phone:  1 (613) 762-4113

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This is my old personal website (last updated in 2008).
You may find my current project more interesting:

Clara.io: The online 3D editor.

 

Exocortex Technologies, Inc. Projects (2005 - Present)
 

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Software Product: Direct3D.NET-based Poker Game Engine

   
Images Copyright 2006 StacksPoker

Hollywood Visual Effects Projects (2002-2005)
 

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Software Product: Deadline ™ render farm management system

The Deadline ™ is a hassle free method to both administer and render on Microsoft Windows-based computer clusters of all sizes.

Ben Houston led the development, marketing and sales of Deadline while at Frantic Films.  Deadline is a ultra-robust render farm management system.  Deadline has been used by Frantic Films on the movies Paycheck, Scooby Doo 2, Catwoman, X-Men 3, and Superman Returns, by Blizzard Entertainment on World of Warcraft, and by dozens of other VFX production houses around the world.

"Deadline™ made our network rendering problems a thing of the past."
                    -  Blizzard Entertainment

Software Tool: Flood ™ fluid dynamics

Flood is a state-of-the-art level set-based fluid dynamics simulation system for the high end VFX and CG communities.  Ben Houston led the research and development of the core fluid simulation technology employed by Flood as well as being responsible for its overall software architecture.
 

Innovation: Gigantic, +1 Billion Voxel, Level Sets

The Hierarchical RLE Level Set (also known briefly as the Compact RLE level set)combines the benefits of the two previously presented sparse regular level set representations: the versatile RLE Sparse Level Set (of Houston et al. [2004]) and the near-optimally efficient DT-Grid (of Nielsen and Museth 2005]).

Houston, B, Nielsen, M, Batty C, Nilsson, O & K Museth. (2005) Gigantic Deformable Surfaces. Proceedings of the SIGGRAPH 2005 Conference on Sketches & Applications. ACM Press.

Research Result: RLE Sparse Level Sets

The RLE (run-length encoded) sparse level set is a novel scalable level set representation.  This compact level set representation, and it's ability to represent animated characters, was used in the creation of the "Tar Monster."

Houston, B., Wiebe, M. & C. Batty. (2004) RLE Sparse Level Sets. Proceedings of the SIGGRAPH 2004 Conference on Sketches & Applications. ACM Press.

Research Result: Modeling Complex Occlusions in Level Set-Based Fluid Simulations

Our contribution consists of two parts.  The first part involves representing the occlusions via an augmented level set instead of the usual polygon based representations.  The second aspect of our contribution consists of a technique called constrained velocity extrapolation, which uses the occlusions level set representation to better capture the subtle effects the occlusions have on the behavior of surrounding fluid.  In addition to just more accurate fluid-occlusion interactions the above techniques allow for our arbitrarily shaped, moving occlusions (such as the two blue cups belong) to act as containers for the fluid.

This method has since been adopted by Industrial Light & Magic to animate the semi-liquid nature of the Terminatrix villain of Terminator 3.

Houston, B., Bond, C., & M. Wiebe. (2003) A unified approach for modeling complex occlusions in fluid simulations. Proceedings of the SIGGRAPH 2003 Conference on Sketches & Applications. ACM Press.

Application: Tar Monster in "Scooby Doo 2"

Creating the Tar Monster presented a unique challenge, because the desired effect of a continually flowing textured character with expressive features had never been done before.

Wiebe, M. & B. Houston. (2004) The Tar Monster: Creating a Character with Fluid Simulation. Proceedings of the SIGGRAPH 2004 Conference on Sketches & Applications. ACM Press

 

Application: Realistic Wispy Smoke for "Cursed"

For several scenes in Cursed, Wes Craven's latest film, Frantic Films was required, during post-production, to insert wispy smoke whenever the werewolves touched silver.  We describe our implementation of a flexible, artist-friendly smoke simulator capable of producing realistic wispy smoke for a production environment.

Batty, C and B. Houston. (2005) The Visual Simulation of Wispy Smoke. Proceedings of the SIGGRAPH 2005 Conference on Sketches & Applications. ACM Press.


Image Copyright 2005 Dimension Films

University-Era and Internships Projects (1997-2002)
 

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Software Prototype: DARPA Battlefield Visualization

Interned two summers with Visual Insights (now called Oculus Info) under the supervision of Bill Wright.  Primary task included a general rewrite of a futuristic and interactive 3d battlefield command and control project and the subsequent development of features in response to requests from generals in the US military.  This project was a component of DARPA's Command Post of the Future initiative and has subsequently won numerous awards.

Software Prototype: NetViz Document Visualization

Houston, B. & Z. Jacobson. (2002) A Simple 3D Visual Text Retrieval Interface. Meeting Proceedings TRO-MP-050: "Multimedia Visualization of Massive Military Datasets," NATO.  Workshop Proceedings]

Software Prototype: AutoViz Autonomy Search Visualization

Another collaboration with Zack Jacobson: A 3D visual front end for the Autonomy search engine.  It features clustering through multiple queries as well as interactive relevance filtering.

Software Prototype: Robot-3D Scanner Control System

Written for Silicon Graphics machines under the supervision of Michael Greenspan. It's mostly a control system with a little bit of graphics thrown on top. The program is inoperative without an attached robotic arm.

A larger screen shot (66 kB)
My supervisor's (Michael Greenspan, PhD) "Sushi" page

Research Result: Explorations in 4-Peg Tower of Hanoi

Ben Houston and Hassan Masum.  "Explorations in 4-peg Tower of Hanoi."  Carleton University Technical Report TR-04-10, November 2004.

Software Tool: Deconvolution and Analysis of Non-Confocal Optical Sectioning Microscopy

Developed a large 3D image deconvolution (for non-confocal microscopy) and protein-collocation analysis software in conjunction with the Carleton University Department of Life Sciences.

Open Source Project: Exocortex.DSP

An open source C# complex number and fast Fourier transform library for Microsoft.NET.  It features 2 demo applications.  It has been downloaded over 30,000 times since Spring 2002.

Open Source Project: ExoEngine, the first 3D engine for Microsoft .NET

The first 3D game engine written using C# and Microsoft's .NET framework.  All source available for download.  It has been downloaded over 120,000 times since its release in January 2002.

Experiment: Real-time Audio Spectrograph

Real-time audio spectrograph displays component frequencies the input source source in real time.

Download binaries only (Win 95/98/NT, 166kB)

Experiment: Real-time 3D Rendering: OpenGL Free Form Deformation

Free form deformation (FFD) is a method of smooth structural animation.  It involved the warping of space using a Bezier hypercube.

Download binaries only (Win NT, 126 kB)

High School-Era and Earlier Projects (1990-1997)
 

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Software Prototype: 3D Game Engine

Written while interning at Sir-Tech Ltd, a local Ottawa games company, while attending high school.

Software Prototype: Real-time 2D Sprite Shader

This program will shade a 2D sprite as if it was a 3D object. Written while interning at Sir-Tech Ltd, a local Ottawa games company, while attending high school.

Demo scene: Real-time 3D rendering of complex shaders

This 16 bit DOS application implements, via a x86 assembler shader routine, both Phong illumination, Phong shading, texture mapping, bump mapping and environment mapping.  Performance is acceptable on a 486dx 50 MHz and memory usage is below 550kB.

Download binaries and source (DOS, 159 kB)

Demo scene: Real-time 2D Phong bump-mapping

An original method for real-time 2D Phong bump-mapping. The code is included. Written as part of the Azure demo group.

Download binaries and source (DOS, 110 kB)

Demo scene: Real-time 3D rendering of a spinning duck

A real-time Phong illuminated, flat shaded duck. Written as part of the Azure demo group.

Download binaries only (DOS, 55kB)

Experiment: The Classic Bezier Teapot

Everyone has to render the classic Utah Bezier teapot at some point.

Download binaries and source (Dos, 100kB)

Experiment: Analog Signal Interference and Multiplexing Simulator

A custom GUI based simulator which allows a person to explore the interaction of simple sine waves.  Written in grade 10 using Microsoft Quick C.

Download binaries only (DOS, 56 kB)

Experiment: Digital Logic Analyzer

A digital logic circuit construction and simulation tool.  Written in grade 10 using Microsoft Quick C.

Download binaries only (DOS, 56 kB)

Contest Winner: Fireworks Screensaver

This graphical simulation of fireworks exploding and subsequently fading won a programming contest held by Nibble Magazine in June 1990.

Scan of the original page from Nibble Magazine