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NCSA’s Borkiewicz Named SIGGRAPH 2023 Electronic Theater Director

Kalina Borkiewicz on stage presenting an award at SIGGRAPH 2022.

Kalina Borkiewicz presents at SIGGRAPH 2022.

Kalina Borkiewicz headshot
Kalina Borkiewicz

Kalina Borkiewicz, director of the Visualization Program Office and Advanced Visualization Lab at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications, was named the SIGGRAPH 2023 Electronic Theater Director for the conference August 6-10 in Los Angeles.

Historically filled by a member of the film industry, Borkiewicz will apply her scientific visualization background to the conference’s theater experience.

It’s a huge honor to serve in this position, which has historically been filled by computer graphics pioneers and leaders in the field. In the early days of computer graphics in the 1970s and 1980s, scientific visualization was a huge driver of CG techniques and technologies. Over time, the field fractured into different application areas – ‘entertainment graphics’ and ‘education graphics’ being the focus of ACM SIGGRAPH and IEEE VIS, respectively. I see this as a false dichotomy. Science doesn’t have to just be for scientists. It can absolutely be beautiful, engaging and entertaining. I’m thrilled that in this role I have the opportunity to make visualization a core focus of SIGGRAPH once again.

Kalina Borkiewicz, Director of NCSA Visualization Program Office and Advanced Visualization Lab

ACM SIGGRAPH, the international Association for Computing Machinery’s Special Interest Group on Computer Graphics and Interactive Techniques, hosts an annual conference attended by thousands of computer scientists and professionals. This August marks the 50th year of the conference and reflects on half a century of discovery and advancement while charting a course for the bold and limitless future ahead. For this special 50th SIGGRAPH, Borkiewicz and her subcommittee are planning not only the annual Electronic Theater showcase, but also a special “Retrospective” event that highlights seminal historical videos, with an all-star list of special speakers to be announced soon.

In one of her roles at NCSA, Borkiewicz leads the Advanced Visualization Lab team that creates cinematic scientific visualizations, using computer graphics and filmmaking techniques to make science beautiful and interesting. She has helped bring visualizations of galaxies, tornadoes, molecular structures and other scientific phenomena to life in documentaries and immersive audience experiences.

And for the first time in more than two decades, someone with that scientific expertise will lead the conference’s Electronic Theater program.

“The Electronic Theater is an incredibly prestigious event that receives hundreds of submissions for the limited 90-to-120-minute event. It’s a qualifier for the Oscars and many films that premiered at the Electronic Theater have then gone on to receive an Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film,” Borkiewicz said. “NCSA has shown numerous visualizations in the program’s history; though, unfortunately, no Oscars yet but one nomination for ‘Cosmic Voyage.’”

Submissions for the Electronic Theater are currently open and due March 21. Since 1999, the SIGGRAPH Computer Animation Festival’s Electronic Theater has been recognized as a qualifying festival by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. What began as an annual showcase of advances in computer graphics now celebrates the rise of computer graphics as a medium for storytelling in animation, visual effects, games, scientific visualization and more.

“The Electronic Theater is like a film festival, but it’s so much more. It features everything from short films and music videos to data visualizations and behind-the-scenes visual effects reels,” Borkiewicz said. “The best-of-the-best videos from the past year, from the entire field of computer graphics, submitted by creators ranging from student groups to giant studios like Disney. It’s really something special.”

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