I have been a Virtual Reality (VR) compositor and supervisor since 2013, using my previous expertise in films visual effects and CG animation to create fully immersive 3D 360 degrees videos seen in the Oculus Rift or Gear VR. My role consists in stitching multiple cameras together into a seamless spherical image, correcting parallax issues, improving color and 3D stereo, stabilizing camera moves to avoid VR motion sickness, as well as adding effects or CG elements into the spherical image if needed. On the technical side, I design VR compositing workflow and templates adapted to each project. I also collaborate with developers to create new tools or plug-ins for working with full stereo spherical images, since most of the commercial post-production tools are not adapted to this kind of image yet.
What are some of the projects you have worked on / clients or studios you’ve worked with? Can you tell us about your time at NASA?
I currently work at Jaunt, a VR start-up, as Director of Creative Technology. I’ve contributed to several VR experiences such as the music video Paul McCartney - Live and Let Die, which was our first online release in November 2014, as well as The Mission, an action-packed cinematic VR short produced in collaboration with New Deal Studios. Other VR videos I’ve worked on include North Face Climbers, an extreme sport experience, and Kaiju Fury, a short fiction homage to classic Kaiju films which was presented at Sundance Festival 2015 New Frontier.
Paul McCartney - Live and Let Die
With Condition One, another VR start-up, I supervised compositing on Zero Point, directed by award-winning filmmaker Danfung Dennis. It was the first movie made for the Oculus Rift in 3D 360 video. This documentary follows the pioneers of virtual reality, the researchers and developers creating an entirely new digital dimension. It was released online in October 2014, and also selected at Sundance Festival New Frontier in 2015.
Before that, I worked for 12 years as a Digital Matte Painter, Environment artist and Textures painter on VFX feature films and CG animated movies in Europe and Canada. I truly enjoy creating environments; it might entail destroying buildings, extending existing environments, removing roads or adding mountains, or whatever needs to be there to fulfill the direction of the story. I also enjoy the first research and design phase, when you try to define the concept for the shot. I had the chance to work on Persepolis, an animated film by Marjane Satrapi which won the Cannes Jury’s prize in 2007. At Double Negative in London, I created matte paintings, textures and 3D projections for Captain Philips, Skyfall, The Dark Knight Rises explosion sequence, Fast and Furious 6 tank chase sequence and Les Miserables, among other films. I later worked as Concept artist and Lead Matte Painter on Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle at Image Engine, in Canada.
Prior to being a visual artist, I had another career as a computer scientist in the 90s. I worked for 8 years at NASA Ames as Lead of the Advanced Interaction Media group. My team developed an adaptive online documentation system for Space Shuttle operations, and one of the first Internet bookmarks sharing tool integrating a machine learning engine.
What’s the most indispensable tool you use?
These past few years I’ve been mostly using Nuke. It’s an awesome tool for compositing 2D as well as 3D elements. I also use Photoshop extensively for matte painting, and Maya and Mari for modeling and texturing. Mari lets you paint or project images directly in 3D. It was a tremendous help for texturing the Gran Canarias canyon in Fast and Furious 6.
Whose work (both past and present) do you really admire and why?
I was very inspired the first time I saw Ralph McQuarrie's matte paintings at a San Francisco exhibit 20 years ago. They were huge paintings on glass, bigger than me, and they were so realistic looking with planets and alien worlds – all painted by hand by this incredible artist. I had the chance to meet him in person, and a brand new career path opened up for me.
I find live and interactive digital art very inspiring too, whether it’s projection mapping, light painting, augmented dance performance, creative coding. I particularly like the works created by Design I/O, Obscura Digital, and AntiVJ. Being able to play, interact with body and hand gestures, and being part of a piece of interactive art is really fun.
In terms of immersive media like VR, I truly enjoy the emotional experiences created by director Chris Milk or journalist Nonny de la Peña, as well as the piece Cloud created by artists James Goearge and Jonathan Minard’. It’s a computational documentary exploring art and code, mixing artists interviews, direct experience of their works, and interactive navigation.
The experiences I find the most compelling personally are the ones where you have an emotional immersion, more than a “waou” kind of experience. I would love in the future to be able to have an experience where I participate in the life of someone else, in another country, a different culture, being able to experience how they think, how they feel.
When not creating world beating art, what do you like to do? What are you currently doing, reading, listening to or looking at to fuel your work?
When I need to recharge my batteries, I go for a hike, a swim or a walk on the beach. Nature is really the best fuel for me. Going to see exhibits, art events, meeting new artists and expanding my horizons is also a great way to refuel my creativity. I just open my mind and soak it all, and suddenly all these ideas start flowing in and connecting together.
Visions of California
Is there something you are currently working on, or are excited about starting, that you can tell us about?
Sorry, I cannot share about current projects I am working on. But recently I’ve been really excited by a new VR tool called TiltBrush, for painting directly inside the Oculus Rift in 3D with hand gestures and body movement. I saw 3D paintings and demos made by artists at Gray Area exhibit last month in San Francisco, I can’t wait till I can paint with it myself, and create all kind of worlds in VR.
The second thing that I am really looking forward is natural body inputs, hand gestures, gaze, even biofeedback or things like skin temperature, heart rate. Being able to move your body and feel present in VR. And finally, I would like to see more women working and creating in VR, right now it’s not even 5%. Major cultural changes are needed to make it happen.
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