Todd Keeler

Math grad summons FX smoke and water

July 26, 2007

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By Marianne Meadahl

Furls of smoke and flowing water never looked this real in the virtual world. And it’s not just smoke and mirrors. Using some innovative mathematics, SFU graduate student Todd Keeler is bent on creating the perfect visual special effect.

Todd spent four months at Vancouver-based game developer Radical Entertainment researching the optimal balance of physics and aesthetics to create realistic water and smoke simulations for the company’s games.

"The smoke you see on the screen is the current cutting-edge mathematical algorithm for smoke and water in real-time," says Keeler.

When broken down, the furls and flow are really minute moving "particles" whose motion must be calculated in milliseconds.

Keeler will carry out further research for his PhD in partnership with Radical while drawing on the expertise of SFU math professor Mary Catherine Kropinski.

Keeler’s internship with Radical is part of the Accelerate B.C. program, which connects B.C. businesses with graduate student interns and their professors to help create innovative business practices and solve industry challenges.

The program grew out of an existing internship program in mathematical sciences run by SFU-based MITACS — the mathematics of information technology and complex systems.

In June, the provincial government kicked in $10 million to allow the program to triple in size — more than 650 internships, each co-funded by the partner company and MITACS, are expected over the next four years.

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