Keynote Speakers

Chris Ford

RenderMan Business Director, Pixar Animation Studio, USA

The future of photorealistic visualization


The decreasing cost of high performance computing is creating many new possibilities in photorealistic rendering for directors and artists working in feature film animation, visual effects, ride simulation, and scientific visualization. Previously computationally intensive techniques such as distribution ray-tracing, physically plausible shading, and bi-directional path-tracing, are now being applied in production to datasets of unparalleled size. In his presentation, Chris Ford of Pixar Animation Studio’s RenderMan team, will review the state of the art in cinematic rendering technology, describe the most notable new tools and techniques in development, explain the context in which they are being deployed, and discuss the challenges associated with managing highly scaled data. The presentation will conclude with a look at new developments that can be expected in photorealistic visualization over the next 3-years, and what based on past experience may or may not happen.


Chris Ford is currently RenderMan Business Director at Pixar Animation Studios (Walt Disney Co) with over 25 years of experience in computer graphics (CG) software development applied to contemporary feature film visual effects, animation, game development, scientific and astronomical visualization. Prior to joining Pixar in 2005, Chris held key positions at Autodesk where he was Director of Product Management for all 3D Media & Entertainment software tools between 2002 to 2005, and at Alias | Wavefront (SGI) as Senior Maya Product Manager between 1997 and 2002, introducing to market the worlds leading professional CG content creation software. Film industry applications managed by Chris have been awarded two Academy Awards for technological innovation and he is credited in nine feature films.
Chris is also an astro-photographer with a specific interest in the application of contemporary media production technologies to the visualization of astronomical data in the cause of public education, and has lectured on the state of the art at many events and conferences. Chris is currently a Board Director of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific.

Alex Szalay

The Johns Hopkins University, USA

How Big Data is Changing Science


The talk will describe how science is changing as a result of the vast amounts of data we are collecting from gene sequencers to telescopes and supercomputers. This “Fourth Paradigm of Science”, predicted by Jim Gray, is moving at full speed, and is transforming one scientific area after another. The talk will present various examples on the similarities of the emerging new challenges and how Jim Gray’s vision is realized by the scientific community. Scientists are increasingly limited by their ability to analyze the large amounts of complex data available. These data sets are generated not only by instruments but also computational experiments; the sizes of the largest numerical simulations are on par with data collected by instruments, crossing the petabyte threshold this year. The importance of large synthetic data sets is increasingly important, as scientists compare their experiments to reference simulations. All disciplines need a new “instrument for data” that can deal not only with large data sets but the cross product of large and diverse data sets. The talk will describe how we are turning several of our simulations into publicly accessible numerical laboratories. These projects span across several types of data sets, from turbulence to cosmo­logy, and soon to include the output of ocean circulation models and atmospheric dynamics. These laboratories are being housed within our data-intensive instrument, the Data-Scope. There is an ongoing project on turbulence generating a several hundreds of Terabytes. There are several multi-faceted challenges related to this conversion, e.g. how to move, visua­lize, analyze and in general interact with Petabytes of data.


Alexander Szalay is the Alumni Centennial Professor of Astronomy at the Johns Hopkins University, where he is also a professor in the Department of Computer Science. His primary research interest is in cosmology where he has made significant contribution in the field of statistical measures of the spatial distribution of galaxies and galaxy formation. He was born and educated in Hungary, and spent his postdoctoral period at the UC Berkeley and University of Chicago before accepting a faculty position at the Johns Hopkins. Alex is the architect for the Science Archive of the Sloan Digital Sky Survey and the project director of the US National Virtual Observatory. He has written more than 340 papers that have appeared in various scientific journals, covering areas such as theoretical cosmology, observational astronomy, spatial statistics, and computer science. He was elected to the Hungarian Academy of Sciences as a corresponding member in 1990 and since 2003 he is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He received an Alexander von Humboldt Prize in Physical Sciences in 2004 and a Microsoft Award for Technical Computing in 2007. The next year he also became Doctor Honoris Clausa of the Eotvos University in Budapest.

Jean-Charles Cuillandre

Astronomer, Commissariat á l'Energie Atomique et aux énergies alternatives (CEA Saclay) / Observatoire de Paris, France

Astronomical wide-field imaging in the era of precision cosmology


Dark energy and dark matter are today's cosmology greatest challenges, together they represent 96% of the energy budget of the universe. In order to better understand their mysterious nature, astronomers across the globe have developed a myriad of experiments. In the context of big data, this lecture will focus on a successful effort from this past decade: the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope Legacy Survey (CFHTLS), a 500 nights observing program aimed at the determination of the dark energy parameters with an unprecedented accuracy as well as mapping dark matter on the largest scale ever observed in the universe. Topics covered in the lecture will range from the Maunakea observing site in Hawaii, the innovative 340Mpx digital camera (MegaCam) used on the telescope, the data handling, storage and distribution challenges, and data analysis. The lecture will naturally bridge to the European Space Agency (ESA) mission Euclid, planned for launch in 2020, which will bring far greater insights on the nature of dark energy and dark matter by accurate measurement of the accelerated expansion of the Universe across cosmic times. The lecture will conclude with a live 3D demonstration in the lecture hall of CFHTLS data visualization in the context of a public outreach effort and display tool for researchers.


Jean-Charles Cuillandre is a French astronomer from the Observatoire de Paris working on the Euclid mission at the CEA Saclay. He spent nearly two decades working in Hawaii at the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope (CFHT), a facility operating atop Maunakea since 1979. He joined CFHT in 1996 after completing a PhD in Astronomy in Toulouse, France. Prior to engaging in the fundamental research world, he received a training in engineering as it fitted well his taste for astronomical data processing and instrumentation. His main field of expertise is wide-field optical imaging, from the detectors and data processing up to the broad science enabled by such instrumentation. Being also an astrophotographer, he uses his free time to develop sky art.

Bram Reinders

Director Alliance Management, Alliander BV, Netherlands

Smart Cities Collaboration and Open Data


Challenges to improve the ecosystems of cities around the world demand for smart and integrated solutions. Cities will become smart cities. Smart solutions result in flexible and sustainable living and working places, energy and water provision, better mobility of people and goods, better waste disposal and a cleaner and healthier environment. Smart and integrated city planning, urban design and architecture are key to improve the quality of work and life in cities.
Open and freely available data increases our understanding about peoples' movement, plans and desires. When used in a privacy proof smart way it enables citizens, companies and governments to identify problems, prevent them from happening or jointly contribute to solving them. Smart solutions make use of open data.


Bram Reinders studied Computer Science and holds an Executive MBA from Purdue University, USA. His professional career focuses on developing and implementing emerging technologies in Europe and the United States. Within Alliander, Bram’s role is to establish relevant Smart Grid and Smart City partnerships with European technology providers, government regulators, universities, consumer organizations and the European Commission. Bram is also a founder of the European Network of Cyber Security (ENCS) and a Chairman of several Expert Groups of the European Commission. He is an active contributor and a co-author of several European Commission reports.

Frank van Ham

Data Visualization Expert, Watson Division, IBM, Netherlands

Visualization and data analytics - two sides of the same coin


The combination of large amounts of data and high performance computing allows us to crunch massive amounts of data using sophisticated analytical algorithms. However, until computing systems are smart enough to understand the exact context they are working in, creation and/or application of these algorithms needs to be overseen by humans. In this talk, I will outline how interactive data visualization and data analytics cover each others weaknesses, and how their combination allows humans to use computers as data-tools, rather than having computers drive humans through data algorithms.


Frank van Ham obtained his PhD in Computer Science from the University of Eindhoven, specializing in graph visualization. After his doctorate studies, he joined IBM Research where he was one of the co-creators of IBM Many Eyes visualization service. Currently, Frank is part of IBM's new Watson division where he helps integrate information visualization with Watson's cognitive computing capabilities. Frank is a well-known international researcher and an IBM Master Inventor in the area of information visualization who holds several patents and has published extensively in peer-reviewed journals. Currently, he is also an associate editor for IEEE Transactions on Visualization and Computer Graphics. Frank's current research interest revolve around visualization frameworks, data mining algorithms, collaborative visualization, network visualization and general user interface design.