Ben Houston: Resume
email: ben @ exocortex.org
phone: 1 (613) 762-4113
President & Founder
(February 2005 - Present)
Exocortex Technologies, Inc. / Clara.io - Online 3D Editor and 3D Models / ThreeKit - Online 3D Configurators
- Founded professional services firm in
order to gain entrepreneurial business experience.
- Developing graphics, information
visualization and simulation solutions for various clients, including:
Clara.io: Online 3D Editor(November 2011 -
Epidemic Simulation and Response Evaluation (February 2005 -
Multiple engagements with Health
Canada in the service of modeling outbreaks using an agent based
models of SARS and pandemic influenza. Also consulted others in the
group as they have developed TB and smallpox models. Developed a
diffusion model of pathogen spread based on fluid dynamic concepts.
Document Clustering, Search and
Visualization (February 2006 - Present)
Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission / International Atomic
Designing and building a real time
document classification, control and retrieval system to aid in
nuclear counter-proliferation intelligence gathering. Initial versions
of the system are in use by IAEA intelligence analysts.
3D Game Engine (November 2005 -
Stacks Poker LLC
Designed and developed a
full-featured real-time Direct3D.NET 3D engine for an online poker
company under significant schedule pressure. Extensive off-line build
system included scene, texture, character and shader optimization.
Run-time system included two innovative features:
- A render batcher: a
flexible alterative to direct scene graph rendering or maintaining a
separate "shader graph." The render batcher decoupled the
ordering of render execution from the specification of what to be
rendered for a particular frame. This maximized resulting
framerate by optimal minimization of GPU state changes.
- An animation and event scheduler:
Because of complex interactions between game characters and between
characters and dynamic scene elements (such as picking up dealt cards or
sliding poker chips to another player), a high level animation and event
scheduling system, capable of handling thousands of tracks, and with
awareness of inter-track dependences, was required for optimal
scheduling of animation sequences.
Lead Software Architect & Commercialization Strategist
(March 2004 - January 2005)
Fluids Researcher & Lead Software Developer
(August 2002 - February 2004)
Frantic Films Corporation / Frantic Films Software
- Applied computational fluid dynamics
- Led the research and development of
Flood, a large state-of-the-art fluid simulation system based on the
Navier-Stokes equations and using level sets for interface
- Led the creation of the unique
animated Tar Monster CG character featured in the 2004 Warner
Brothers release Scooby Doo 2 via the use of the Flood
- Frantic Films, because of its robust
and successful fluid R&D efforts, was recognized in March 2004 as one of
Canada's Innovation Leaders by the National Research Council of
- Led the creation of the wispy smoke
effect seen in 2005 Dimension Films release Cursed.
- Research results were presented in 5
peer-reviewed SIGGRAPH sketches and one paper published in ACM
Transaction on Graphics.
- Research has subsequently been
reproduced and explicitly cited by industry leaders including:
- Industrial Light and Magic,
- Pixar, and
- Stanford University.
- Enterprise distributed computing
- Led the creation of the Deadline
Render Farm Management system, which is capable of managing the
scheduling and distribution of computational tasks across hundreds of
computational nodes with robust recovery in the presence of hardware,
software and network failures. Initially deployed internally at
Frantic Films and used on the all productions since including
Italian Job, Paycheck, Scooby Doo 2, Resident Evil
2 and Catwoman.
- Krakatoa - A High Quality Point Renderer
- Concieved of and lead the development of a high quality point renderer for VFX. The point renderer was designed first for rendering the complex fractals for Stay (2006) and was later used for the smoke on Cursed (2006.) Has since been used on dozens and dozens of top Hollywood films.
- Software commercialization:
- Managed the commercialization of the
Deadline Render Farm Management System
including market research (customer segmentation, competitor
analysis, potential sales strategies), product introduction (promotional
material, product website, public relations events, and a targeted
advertising campaign), and sales (customer relationship management,
technical support, and "closing".) Personally handled the first
dozen sales of Deadline including a sale to Blizzard Entertainment
as well as numerous other top-tier international VFX production houses.
- Co-managed the 8-person software, R&D
and internal tools division of Frantic Films -- tasks included hiring,
coaching, project management, and architecting cross-product
Junior Consultant (Summer 2000,
Summer 2001; Internships)
Visual Insights (now known as Oculus Info)
- Worked as the main developer for a
multimillion dollar Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA)
Command Post of the Future contract for two summers under the
supervision of Bill Wright.
- After completing a general rewrite and
refactoring of the application the first summer, my tasks the second
summer involved implementing new features in response to the feedback of
retired 1-star and 2-star US Generals and civilian human factors
specialists and the project supervisor, Bill Wright.
Cognitive Science Specialist
(Summer 1999; Internship)
Consulting and Audits Canada
- Developed, under the direction of
Zack Jacobson (PhD, Psychology) and Els Goyette (PhD,
Psychology), a series of experimental 3D text retrieval interfaces using
- The results, the NetViz and the
AutoViz prototypes, have been presented & published at two
international North American Treaty Organization (NATO) "Network
of Experts" workshops.
Computer Science Officer (Summer
National Research Council of Canada
- Interned in the Visual Information
Technology Lab under the supervision of Michael Greenspan
(PhD Electrical Engineering).
- The first project, the Range Image
Data-Processing Library (RiDL), entailed the creation of a +10,000
line C++ library for use in the manipulation of 3D surface point
datasets acquired from 3D laser scanners.
- The second project, Sushi,
involved the design and development of an interactive 3D object scanning
system that made use of a 1-meter 6-DOF robotic arm and multiple
computers synchronized over TCP/IP.
(Summer 1997; Internship)
MCI Systemhouse Ltd. (now called MCI Worldcom)
- Developed area-code conversion
utilities for Bell Canada’s Toll-Free telephone system.
- Utilities were written in C and SQL
for Tandem Minicomputers and Sun Microsystems workstations.
3D Game Engine Developer
(Fall 1996 – Spring 1997; Part-time)
Sir-Tech Canada Ltd.
- Hired to introduce company to 3D
development. Invented and implemented a series of 3D graphics
algorithms for use in a computer game. Lead a team of 5 in the
creation of a number of prototype game engines.
Houston, B. & M. Wiebe. (2005)
Method for converting explicitly represented geometric surfaces into
accurate level sets.
United States Patent #20050128195.
Houston, B. & M. Wiebe. (2005) Method for modeling complex
occlusions in fluid simulations.
United States Patent #20050240384.
Houston, B, Nielsen, M, Batty C, Nilsson,
O & K Museth. (2006) "Hierarchical RLE Level Set: A
Compact and Versatile Deformable Surface Representation."
ACM Transactions on Graphics 25(1), January 2006. [Peer Reviewed
Batty, C., & B. Houston. (2005)
Visual Simulation of Wispy Smoke. SIGGRAPH 2005. [Peer Reviewed
Houston, B., Nielsen, M., Batty C., Nilsson,
O. & K. Museth. (2005)
Surfaces. SIGGRAPH 2005. [Peer Reviewed Technical Sketch]
Houston, B. & H. Masum. (2004)
Explorations in 4-peg Tower of Hanoi.
School of Computer Science Technical Report TR-04-10. Carleton University,
Ottawa. [Technical Report]
Houston, B., Wiebe, M. & C. Batty. (2004)
RLE Sparse Level Sets. SIGGRAPH
2004. [Peer Reviewed Technical Sketch]
Wiebe, M. & B. Houston. (2004)
The Tar Monster: Creating a Character
with Fluid Simulation. SIGGRAPH 2004. [Peer Reviewed Technical Sketch]
Houston, B., Bond, C., & M. Wiebe. (2003)
A Unified Approach to Modeling Complex
Occlusions in Fluid Simulations. SIGGRAPH 2003. [Peer Reviewed
Batty, C., M. Wiebe and B. Houston. (2003)
High Performance Production-Quality Fluid Simulation via NVIDIA’s
QuadroFX. NVIDIA-Frantic Films Whitepaper. [Whitepaper]
Houston, B. & Z. Jacobson. (2002)
3D Visual Text Retrieval Interface. Meeting Proceedings
TRO-MP-050: "Multimedia Visualization of Massive Military Datasets," NATO.
Houston, B. (2006) "Level set
methods, surface representation and Scooby-Doo."
Applied Mathematics and Computational Mathematics Seminar.
University of Waterloo. November 30, 2006. [Invited Presentation]
Houston, B. (2005)
Introduction to 3D
Computer Graphics with Direct3D and .NET. Winnipeg .NET Users' Group.
February 17 Meeting. [General Interest Presentation]
Houston, B. (2004)
Simulation for Visual Effects and Virtual Surgery. TRLabs Winnipeg,
Information & Communications Technology Symposium: Health Sector
Challenges and Solutions. [Invited
Houston, B. & Z. Jacobson. (2000)
Text Mining for Knowledge
Visualization of Massive Military Multimedia Datasets, Quebec City, QC,
Canada. [Invited Presentation]
Education (February 2005 - Present)
Cognitive Science, BA Honors
Carleton University, Institute for Interdisciplinary Studies
- Specialized in "Biological Foundations
of Cognition", also known as neuroscience.
- Thesis: design and implementation of a
very large software system for 3D microscopy image deconvolution and
immunochemistry-based protein collocation.
- Various scholastic scholarships,
Dean’s List, graduated with high honors
- Debating Team
- Cognitive Science Students' Society
- 2001/2002 Vice-President Internal
- 1999/2000 Co-President
- 1998/1999 Vice President Internal
- Celtic House Business Idea Competition
- Entry in 2000 competition: an web-based
centralized book/resource search solution for libraries that offered
Amazon.com-like features in addition to allowing for online book sales if
books weren't available to borrow.
- Ottawa ACM Special Interest Group for
- 1999-2000 Organizing Executive
- ACM Inter-University Programming Contest
- Placed, in 1999, 14th out of +100 teams
in the combined Ontario, Quebec, and Northeastern United States
- Placed, in 1998, 17th out of 92 teams
in the combined Ontario, Quebec, and Northeastern United States
- Computer Science Students’ Association
- 1997/1998 Vice President Internal
bar none" Ottawa Citizen newspaper, Tech Weekly section,
April 27, 2006.
Set Morphing Goes to Hollywood!" Department of Computer Science,
Drexel University. Fall 2004.
Set Morphing Goes to Hollywood" Scientific Computing and Imaging
Institute. University of Utah. Fall 2004.
"Frantic Films R&D at SIGGRAPH 2004." CgChannel.com. August 18, 2004.
Films and NVIDIA: Creating Groundbreaking Visual Effects."
NVIDIA Website. Summer 2004.
Frenzy of Success for Frantic Films." Playback Magazine.
May 24, 2004.
peer-to-peer virus hits." IDG News Service. February 27, 2001.
worm finds new way to squirm into PCs" C|Net News.Com. February
Gnu Day." Red Herring Magazine. December 2000
A 3D OpenGL & Cg Game Engine (Winter 2001)
- Released a 3D game engine written
entirely in C# for Microsoft’s .NET platform.
- Allows for level data to be imported
from Counter Strike level editors.
- Features a 2D fluid simulation and a
particle physics system (a semi-hidden feature).
- Proved to be extremely popular with
over 100,000 downloads since its release in January 2002.
A Complex Number & Digital Signal Processing Library (Spring 2002)
- Created a native C#/.NET digital signal
processing library that includes both statistical, complex number and
fast Fourier transform routines.
- Library is completely documented and
- Frequently recommended to developers
and third parties looking to create DSP solutions by Microsoft
- The library has been downloaded more
than 10,000 times since it release in March 2002.
A complete list of previous
software projects can be found here:
Superman Returns (2006) -
Kryptonite Crystal Placement and Rendering
Researcher: Frantic Films
Poseidon (2006) -
Fluid Pre-Visualization Researcher: Frantic Films
Stay (2005) -
Visual Effects Researcher: Frantic Films
Cursed (2005) -
Fluids Researcher: Frantic Films
Catwoman (2004) - Network Rendering Software: Frantic Films
Resident Evil (2004)
- Network Rendering Software: Frantic Films
Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed (2004) -
Fluids Researcher: Frantic Films
Paycheck (2003) - Network Rendering Software: Frantic Films
Paper reviewer for ACM Transactions on
Paper review for
Contributor to Mono v1.0 (the open source project run by Miguel de Icaza)
Canadian Secret Security Clearance [renewal required, expired in Summer
References available on request