Page  00000001 THE LABORATORY FOR CREATIVE ARTS & TECHNOLOGIES - STUDIO REPORT Stephen David Beck, Ph.D. Louisiana State University Center for Computation & Technology ABSTRACT The Laboratory for Creative Arts & Technologies (LCAT) is a new interdisciplinary research center that explores the intersections of creativity, technology and human expression. A part of LSU's Center for Computation & Technology, the lab has become the state's focal point for research and creative activity in digital media, computer music, scientific visualization and human-computer interface. 1. INTRODUCTION 1.1. Background In 2001, the State of Louisiana created an Information Technology initiative whose purpose was to stimulate economic development through research and technology transfer in IT-related fields. Louisiana State University, the state's flagship research institution, used its $9 Million share of this annual appropriation to establish an IT research center, known as the Center for Computation & Technology (CCT) [1]. The CCT has quickly become the state's IT research leader, building a 1024-processor supercomputer, leading the development of a 40-Gbit statewide optical network, and funding over 20 new faculty positions in computation disciplines across the campus. During CCT's development phase, Michael Daugherty and Stephen David Beck, the directors of LSU's Music & Art Digital Studio (MADstudio), a digital arts collaboration between the Schools of Art and Music, were asked to create a proposal that would incorporate research in digital media, cognitive sciences, and related disciplines within a research lab housed at the CCT. From this proposal, the Laboratory for Creative Arts & Technologies (LCAT) [2] was established in 2003 as a research group focused on the intersections of creativity, technology and human expression. 1.2. Implementation LCAT is the physical space for the Visualization, Interaction & Digital Arts (VIDA) focus area at CCT. The VIDA group encompasses research activity in scientific visualization, data sonification, human-computer interaction, collaborative digital environments, computer music, computational art, computer animation and digital media. LCAT and VIDA both draw on existing faculty in computer music, cognitive science, mass communication, english, communication studies, engineering, computational art and computer science. In addition, the CCT is using its funding to add up to 40-50 new shared faculty lines across the campus in computational disciplines. Some of these new positions will become the foundation of a wide range of interdisciplinary research, with specific emphasis in VIDA-related disciplines. 1.3. Center Resources The CCT has invested heavily in computational infrastructure through the acquisition of large computing clusters, improvements to the LSU network and the development of a strong internal computing department. These resources enable researchers throughout the center, and specifically at LCAT, to pursue advanced research using the latest computational and communication technologies. CCT's supercomputer, SuperMike, is a 1024-processor 1A32 Linux cluster whose benchmarks rank it about 30th on the Top,500 supercomputer list. CCT also operates three other clusters as part of its "garden of architectures" strategy: Helix, a 256-proc cluster for biocomputing, M~ini-M~ike, a 64-proc cluster for testing and research in cluster computing, and Nemleaux, a 64-proc cluster for computational arts reserach (see section 2.3). The CCT has also spearheaded an initiative (LONI: Louisiana Optical Network Initiative) in Louisiana to improve statewide networking and computing resources via the implementation of a 40 Gigabit optical network connecting research sites along with the deployment of a grid of five substantial sized (e.g. 256 processor) clusters. LONI is now funded by the state to a level of $40 million over the next 10 years, and is expected to be operational in August 2005 and fully deployed by 2006. CCT Director Edward Seidel holds the position of Chief Scientific Officer for LONI. Louisiana has recently become a member of the National Lambda Rail, which will provide high speed networking from LSU, and all major academic sites in the state via LONI, to other national and international sites. The Baton Rouge node of the National Lambda Rail (with it's connection to LSU) is expected to be operational in late August 200,5. The CCT operates five Access Grid [3] nodes for multipoint video conferencing over the Internet. Two nodes

Page  00000002 are located in the CCT's main building, a third node is in the Life Sciences annex, and a portable node is available for installation in locations where a permanent installation is not feasible. The fifth node is currently being built at LCAT's new laboratory space (see section 3.1). LCAT researchers and faculty are able to leverage these technologies for their research. As stated later in this paper, LCAT is also investing in similar technologies in order to advance research opportunities in the computational arts & humanities. 1.4. New Faculty Since 2004, the lab has hired two new faculty, one in mass communication and one in computer science. Lance Porter is a specialist in Internet communication, with a specific focus on Internet advertising. Formerly the head of Internet advertising for Disney, Dr. Porter is a graduate of the University of Georgia and is leading efforts at LCAT in the area of information design and interaction. Brygg Ullmer holds a Ph.D. from the MIT Media Lab, where his work in tangible devices brought him to the Zuse Institute Berlin for a two year post-doc. Dr. Ullmer is leading work at LCAT in human-computer interface, using tangible objects for manipulating data across large networks and computer clusters. The lab has just been approved to begin searching for a new position in computational art, and will begin additional searches for positions in computer music and computer graphics in Fall 2005. By the start of the 2006-07 academic year, the lab expects to fund at least 6 shared faculty positions, as well as provide additional support for up to 6 positions for existing LSU faculty who wish to pursue research in computational arts disciplines. 1.5. New Research Staff Most recently, LCAT has hired two new research programmers in the area of scientific visualization. Shalini Venkataraman is a graduate of the Electronic Visualization Laboratory at the University of Illinois Chicago, and is an expert in remote visualization over high-speed networks and megapixel tiled display systems. She has participated in several computational arts projects, most notably, Jackie Matisse's VR art piece Kites flying in and out of space [4]. Werner Benger will join the CCT as a researcher in scientific visualization in September 2005. He is a noted visualization artist and scientist whose work includes visualizations in astrophysics and general relativity [5]. His work has appeared on the covers of Scientific American, Discover Magazine and in films shown on the Discovery Channel. He holds a Ph.D. in computer science and mathematics from the Freie Universittit Berlin. 2. CURRENT RESEARCH ACTIVITY Research projects are currently being funded by both internal and external funds. 2.1. ICAST - Immersive Computer-controlled Audio Sound Theater ICAST is a portable 24-channel immersive audio sound theater that will leverage a variety of sound diffusion strategies and technologies to create immersive audio experiences. The system includes BagEnd TA2000, TA5000 loudspeakers and INFRA subwoofers, Stuart PR-1000 amplifiers, MOTU 192HD audio interfaces, and a variety of traditional (fader-based) and non-traditional control interfaces. The control software for ICAST will be constructed in a client-server modality, using SuperCollider [6] and Max [7] over OpenSound Control (OSC) [8]. SuperCollider will run on the server computer, handling the audio routing and signal processing, while Max will be used for user interface applications on the client computer. The computers will be connected by wireless ethernet (802.1 1b/g), thereby reducing the amount of technology and cables required within the concert space. Our goal is to create software will merge traditional sound diffusion strategies (arbitrary multi-channel systems, 5.1/7.1 cinematic systems) with acousmatic approaches (collections of paired stereo speakers) and ambisonic diffusion technologies. ICAST has applications in a variety of fields, primarily for electroacoustic music concerts and immersive environments for both scientific visualization and entertainment. Current timeframes have the hardware acquisition complete by July 2005, basic software interface completed by September 2005, ambisonics implementation by October 2005, and integration of acousmatic approaches by December 2005. Ultimately, the goal of ICAST is to create a layer of abstraction between the composer/diffusionist and the underlying diffusion technology such that the composer/diffusionist can focus on the location, size and depth of the diffused sound rather than on which fader controls which speaker. Our first concert on ICAST will be in February 2006. 2.2. DART - Distributed Audio Rendering with Triana The DART project, "Distributed Audio Rendering using Triana," explores the potential uses of Grid-computing technologies towards sound computation and music synthesis. Our team of researchers is using Triana [9] to control a cluster of 32 Apple Xserve computers in order to demonstrate the potential of distributed audio rendering over a gigabit network. Triana is a Java-based software framework that facilitates computational workflows over networks of grid enabled computers. The framework enables researchers to automatically find available computational resources, transfer necessary code and data to those resources, process that data, and pass that data to other computational processes on other computers. The advantage of using Grid-enabled computers for audio processing is the unlimited availability of computing resources both in terms of CPU power, and DSP-imposed computational limits.

Page  00000003 In this project, we are developing software objects that will function much like unit generators, software instruments or effects processors that can run simultaneously or in parallel on different machines across a common network. Ultimately, we envision a Web-services or peer-topeer virtual sound design engine or synthesizer to which anyone on the Web can subscribe, utilize and provide component parts. 2.3. Nemeaux: A Supercomputer for the Arts Nemeaux1 is a 64-processor computer cluster designed for research and creative activity in computational arts disciplines. The cluster was built from 32 Apple Xserves, each with 2 GB of RAM, and 80 GB of local hard disk storage. Originally, Nemeaux was built from 24 Xserves with dual 2.0 GHz G5 processors. We were recently able to fund an additional 9 servers with dual 2.3 GHz G5 processors, bringing the cluster to a total of 32 computation nodes and one head node. With these processors, the Nemeaux cluster will run at over 0.25 Tflops, with an aggregate CPU speed of 133.4 GHz. The entire cluster is linked to a Fibre-Channel-based Storage Area Network with 3.5 TBs of online storage. This network will ultimately be directly linked to a highdefinition video editing suite, multichannel audio production suite, and to Linux- and Mac-based real-time visualization workstations. Nemeaux is currently being used as a render farm for Maya and POVray animation files, an audio rendering platform using Logic Audio, and a testbed for gridcomputing applications in digital media, including Triana. The cluster is also being used by other research groups at CCT for computational simulations in numerical relativity and fluid dynamics. 2.4. Viz-Tangibles: Scientific Visualization and Human-Computer Interface Dr. Brygg Ullmer is leading a research team in the area of viz-tangibles [10], devices that enable researchers to access, retrieve and manipulate large amounts of data and visualizations from computers and data stores spread across a network. This work is an extension of his Ph.D. dissertation research at the MIT Media Lab. The group's research has four interdependent components: Develop viz tangibles for facilitating interactive visualization, focusing on collaborative (e.g., meetingand classroom) and immersive (VR) environments. Develop tangible visualizations offering interactive, physically-embodied representations of domainspecific content. Develop electronic and programmatic tools for supporting the design and implementation of viz tangibles and tangible visualizations. 1 pronounced nee-moe, as in Captain Nemo or Finding Nemo Develop supporting web- and VR-based software visualization tools which bootstrap and drive the endusage of viz tangibles and tangible visualizations. This research will help support the overall efforts of the scientific visualization group at the CCT by providing compelling interfaces for visualization work across the state's new optical network. 3. FACILITIES The lab is currently renovating and developing new research facilities both on campus and off. Funding for this expansion comes from CCT capital outlay money and grants from external sources. 3.1. LCAT's New Laboratory Space at Frey LCAT is currently moving into roughly 6000 sq ft of newly renovated space in the Frey Computing Services Center building on the LSU campus. Central to the space is a 1700 sq ft room called the Imaginarium. The Imaginarium will house the lab's scientific visualization technologies, including a GeoWall [11] 3-D projection display, a 4-panel 16 megapixel tile displays, and immersive audio technologies, all of which can create immersive environments for scientific exploration or artistic expression. The new space will house several labs (HD Audio/Video Post Production Suite, 8-channel Audio Research Lab, Human-Computer Interface Lab), faculty & visitor offices, collaborative spaces, and a 700 sq ft technology-rich classroom which includes wireless networking, DVD projection with 5.1 surround sound, and an Access Grid node [3] for multi-point teleconferencing. Funded by a grant from the LSU Student Technology Fee program, the classroom will engage students in cutting edge technologies, giving them access to on-going research activities in computer music, digital media and scientific visualization. LCAT will have moved most of its resources to the Frey building by the middle of July, and will be fully operational in time for the Fall 2005 term. 3.2. Shaw Center for the Arts The Shaw Center for the Arts is a new $55 Million arts complex built with collaboration between Louisiana State University, the Baton Rouge Area Foundation, the city of Baton Rouge, and the state of Louisiana. The SCA is comprised of a 325-seat theater, two black box performance spaces, the LSU Museum of Art, School of Art Gallery, and arts classrooms. LCAT occupies about 1000 sq ft of lab and office space in the original AutoHotel portion of the building, and will use the space primarily for community outreach activities. These activities include courses in digital media for K 12 students, collaboration with the Community School for the Arts, and public concerts and festivals, including the Red Stick International Animation Festival.

Page  00000004 The Shaw Center will also be used for specialized Visitor Programs that bring leading digital artists in a range of disciplines to LSU to work with college and pre-college students. 4. OUTREACH PROGRAMS 4.1. Visitor Program The CCT has a robust Visitors program that brings scholars, researchers and faculty from other institutions to the center for anywhere from a few days to a few months, semester, or year. LCAT has enjoyed the benefits of this program with an active array of guest lecturers, performers, and composers. Over the past two years, the list of LCAT visiting scholars has included Jean-Claude Risset, Robin Bargar, Carla Scaletti, Maurice Wright, James Mobberley and Timothy Place. Beginning in 2006, LCAT will accept proposals from outside visitors for short- and long-term residencies at the lab. Residencies can be as short as a few days and as long as a full year. Proposals should articulate specific research goals, objectives and timeframes. Particular interest will be given to projects that leverage LCAT's unique resources and engage the CCT's broad interest in computational activity across all disciplines. 4.2. Red Stick International Animation Festival The Red Stick International Animation Festival [12] has become one of the lab's signature events. In its inaugural season, the festival received over 140 submissions from around the world. Submissions were accepted in five categories, including 2D animation, 3D animation, experimental/abstract, scientific visualization, and animation for games. International showcase screenings presented curated works from China, France, and Germany, and a special showcase featured the five animated shorts nominated for the 2005 Academy Award. Over 1400 people registered for the festival. The purpose of the festival is to bring a community awareness to computational technologies that impact both creative and scientific pursuits. Animated films like Shrek are rendered on clusters of 300 or more computers, much like the large scale supercomputer found at LSU. In fact, of the top 100 supercomputers listed on www. top 5 00. o rg, two are with entertainment companies. These same computers can just as easily be used for animation as they can for computational fluid dynamics, or numerical relativity. By raising awareness of the importance of high-performance computing, the festival makes the case for high-technology research activities like LCAT and its parent Center for Computation & Technology. Future editions of the festival will include digital media exhibitions, computer music concerts, conferences and K12 education programs focused on digital media and animation. 5. CONCLUSION Although the lab is relatively young, it has already had a profound impact on activity throughout the state. As part of the Center for Computation & Technology, LCAT has become its most visible research group. Our focus on visualization, interaction and creativity has renewed focus on the importance of computational arts within the computer science and engineering disciplines at LSU. And the interdisciplinary nature of the center assures a broad array of research opportunities for faculty, students and visitors. 6. REFERENCES [1] Center for Computation & Technology. See website at [2] Laboratory for Creative Arts & Technologies. [3] Access Grid: a grid community. See website at [4] Shalini Venkataraman, Jason Leigh, and Tom Coffin. Kites flying in and out of space: distributed physically based art on the grid. Future Gener. Comput. Syst., 19(6):973-982, 2003. [5] Gabrielle Allen, Tom Goodale, Gerd Lanfermann, Thomas Radke, Edward Seidel, Werner Benger, Hans-Christian Hege, Andre Merzky, Joan Mass, and John Shalf. Solving einstein's equations on supercomputers. Computer, 32(12):52-58, 1999. [6] James McCartney. SuperCollider: a new real time synthesis language. In Proccedings of the International Computer Music Conference, 1996. [7] D. Zicarelli. An extensible real-time signal processing environment for max. In ICMC, pages 463-466, 1998. [8] M. Wright and A. Freed. OpenSound Control: A new protocol for communicating with sound synthesizers. In Proceedings of the International Computer Music Conference, 1997. [9] Ian Taylor, Ian Wang, Matthew Shields, and Shalil Majithia. Distributed computing with Triana on the Grid. Concurrency and Computation:Practice and Experience, 17(1-18), 2005. [10] B. Ullmer and H. Ishii. Human-Computer Interaction in the New Millenium, chapter Emerging Frameworks for Tangible User Interfaces, pages 579-601. Addison-Wesley, 2001. [11] GeoWall Consortium. See website at [12] Red Stick International Animation Festival.