We have completed the first phase of our NASA-funded work to advance the tools for planetary terrain mapping. Conducted jointly with researchers from Carnegie Mellon University, this work is needed as NASA planetary missions are generating ever-greater volumes of terrain data from orbital and surface-based assets at vastly different scales. Current state-of-the-art tools for terrain visualization, such as Google Earth, only manage terrain represented as Digital Elevation Maps (not full 3-D), and integrate high-resolution imagery, but not high-resolution or 3-D terrain geometry. In addition, multiple sources of information are presented as image layers, not as a unified surface.

We developed some novel methods in addressing these problems:

  • Terrain reconstruction from volumes: A central contribution of this work is a procedure for converting terrain data from disparate sources into a volumetric representation from which a unified mesh is reconstructed.
  • Unified mesh representation: We augment Pixar’s subdivision surfaces by allowing nested control meshes within the subdivision hierarchy.

See additional scope of project and technical details.

Together with our CMU colleagues, we have submitted a proposal to carry on this work under a NASA Phase II STTR. We hope next to build a prototype software tool enabling mission planners to incorporate these terrain-mapping improvements into their ongoing mission planning.  

The ACMI exhibit DreamWorks Animation has drawn to a close, having introduced over 195,000 people to the art of animation and DreamWorks’ 20-year journey. The DigitalFish kiosks showcased the advanced tools available to DreamWorks' professional animators. The exhibit creators are now planning a five-year international tour. DigitalFish is glad to have participated in showcasing some of the most powerful creative tools and tech in the industry today in this first-ever behind-the-scenes look at a major global studio. See the exhibit info and trailer from the Melbourne-based launch to get a feel for the scale of the show.

Thanks to our friends and colleagues for another enjoyable SIGGRAPH! Vancouver is a fantastic place for this conference, and we all hope it returns there more frequently in the future.

Below are a few of the most interesting items we saw at the conference.

  • In OpenSubdiv news, thanks to Barry Fowler’s work, DreamWorks Animation is contributing a significant advancement to the code base, refactoring the front end, and accelerating both general CPU processing and GPU pre-processing.  The result: easier adoption and a faster back end by directly facilitating a more efficient compute strategy for GPUs.  Additionally, Autodesk added Maya to the list of tools supporting OpenSubdiv. 
  • As a founding member, we again attended the OpenSubdiv Advisory Board meeting to further ongoing collaboration and push beyond film and game use.  We are finding good applications for subdivision surfaces and OpenSubdiv on the digital-media side of conventional manufacturing firms. Conventional NURBS and polygon modeling tools are often a poor fit for this segment's digital media, and we're seeing great interest in and some early adoption of OpenSubdiv among these users.  The OpenSubdiv BOF was also a success and we appreciated the opportunity to get together. We noticed that OSD was referenced in a number of SIGGRAPH research papers on various topics, further evidence of its growing acceptance as a standard.
  • DreamWorks showed its new animation system, Premo, in several sessions. As many of you know, DigitalFish had a central role in the design of Premo, and it's great to see it getting showcased in public now.

We're fortunate to get to work in deep collaboration with our clients and together tackle challenging problems. If you have one you'd like to discuss with us, drop us a line.


The annual SIGGRAPH computer-graphics conference is right around the corner, this year in Vancouver, BC. As always a number of DigitalFish-ers are attending. Please drop us a note if you'd like to connect at the conference.

DigitalFish is again hosting the OpenSubdiv BOF (Birds of a Feather). It will be Tuesday, August 12, 5:00 PM - 7:00 PM at the Fairmont Waterfront ARC Bar. Join us to relax and discuss a year of advancement, future direction, challenges and opportunities around Pixar’s OpenSubdiv.

See you at SIGGRAPH!

Well, we're not going to Mars ourselves, but DigitalFish may have the opportunity to help support NASA operations there.

This morning NASA announced they selected DigitalFish's STTR proposal, submitted in collaboration with researchers at Carnegie Mellon University, to apply OpenSubdiv in representing the Martian terrain for planetary-rover mission and science planners.

Beyond its application in space, we believe our work in subdivision-surface terrain representation under this project will have Earth-bound applications for mobile mapping by field scientists and engineers, military operations planning and C4I mobile systems, naval and commercial-marine bathymetry mapping, and terrain rendering for film and games.

NASA's official announcement tells more about the highly competitive federal SBIR/STTR R&D programs.

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August 12-16, 2018
Vancouver, Canada

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September 13-14, 2018
Austin, Texas

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Tokyo, Japan

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San Jose, CA

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Turin, Italy

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