“We are still learning every day what virtual production is capable of, and what real-time technology is able to do for it. Right now, everyone can contribute to the massive advancements we are making by bringing fresh perspectives.”
Luis Placid, our Lead Real-time Developer in the Research Department at DNEG, joined our talented team in Vancouver a little over a year ago. With a background in game development and the ever increasing use of real-time technology in the world of filmmaking, Luis saw the potential of the tools being built in this space, and set himself on a path to take on new and exciting challenges. Keep reading to learn more about his journey into the world of VFX.
Hello Luis! What brought you into the world of VFX and Animation?
I’ve always been a fan! Films actually sparked my interest in programming so, you could say I owe to them what I am now. It all started with the 1984 film Tron, my first exposure to computer generated graphics and video-games. I knew I wanted to be in that world of technology from very early on and I’ve had a long successful career in games thanks to that movie. I thought gaming was the area where I was going to be forever. But then I vicariously learned through my wife, who is a makeup artist in the industry, all the technology and amazing creative opportunities that are part of the process of filmmaking. I never even dreamed that the skills I had built then intersected with the advancements in virtual production. Now I get to help build worlds that you wouldn’t even dream of: unknown places, vast and rich in story and emotion, oozing with potential. And the best of all is that these worlds, these moments I helped build with the amazing team at DNEG, won’t be lost in time. They will outlive me.
How did your journey start? Any career highlight(s) so far?
The real journey into VFX and virtual production started one fateful day at a Games Developer’s Conference held in San Francisco. I was invited by Epic Games to attend the launch of their virtual production toolset in Unreal. My jaw was stuck to the floor during the demo, I was barely blinking so as to not miss anything. I was in full awe of the potential tools that were just starting to be built and I immediately knew I wanted to be part of that future. After that I set the path to sunset my current game projects and ended here at DNEG which is a massive career highlight in itself for me. I got into the company that works on everything my nerdy self cares for. I’ve been absolutely elated since day one.
What is your day-to-day like as a Lead Real-time Developer?
Some of the usual: meetings, reacting to tickets regarding the efforts I have under my umbrella. Lots of touch points for planning and coordination. Especially since my area is so nascent. But the real challenge and enjoyment in my day-to-day comes from the slew of challenges I get since the toolset I manage is so foundational. It impacts the entire chain of production in filmmaking so my days are filled with new things.
What do you like the most about your job?
The part that I enjoy the most is seeing the toolset I am providing being used with such wildly different outcomes and workflows. It’s even hard to describe how amazing it is to see the creative output. And how well it accelerates existing processes to bring on more collaboration between the teams involved, yielding richer worlds, heightened emotions, better connections with the media we create.
What advice would you give to someone wanting to pursue a career in the industry?
Don’t let your impostor syndrome overwhelm you and prevent you from entering the industry! We are still learning every day what Virtual Production is capable of, and what real-time technology is able to do for it. Right now, everyone can contribute to the massive advancements we are making by bringing fresh perspectives. I was confident in my skills yet failed to overcome my fears of joining the industry and now I regret not doing so earlier! Don’t be like me!
Time for some rapid fire questions – What’s one thing that is always on your desk when you work?
It’s a tie! One thing is my iPad, because I doodle for a break whenever I get a particularly challenging item. Doodles involve funny things, full diagrams of network processes, data mapping building blocks, crass things, random objects I see around me, etc. What is funny is that I am such a horrible artist no matter how much I practice. The other thing is a Rubik’s Cube. Not only does it help me fidget, I actually talk to it as a form of rubber duck debugging. Basically rubber duck debugging is a method to articulate a problem by voicing it out. It’s totally a thing, I swear.
What’s your ‘special power’ at work?
I encourage failure on purpose *raucous laughter*. Someone drilled into me that failure is ultimately the best way to learn: “We never really learn when we succeed, we don’t question why we succeeded at something, but when we fail, it keeps us up at night, it puts you to think and it drives you to overcome”. I am a strong believer that you should experiment, fail and take those failures in stride because you’ll be better for it. I work hard to provide my team with a safe environment to pursue knowledge, and fail safely so they can grow. Although I must say, coding something and having it work the first time is a special kind of bliss too.
What are you most looking forward to every day at DNEG?
To learn! The people I have around me are such forces of nature in their skill and knowledge that I find myself lucky to even be allowed around them. So every day the thing that drives me to my desk is to be exposed to these amazing individuals.
Do you remember how you felt on your first day at DNEG?
Buzzing with excitement, a tiny bit overwhelmed, and I confess I even got a bit bummed out… but not for the reasons you think! The day I joined DNEG, I was shown a sizzle reel of everything they had in production which was nothing short of mind-blowing work. It cemented the fact that I was surrounded by significant talent and I needed to bring the best in me. It was ALSO the day I had every major show & movie I was looking forward to watching spoiled by being shown the best and most riveting scenes that DNEG was working on!
What is your proudest moment to date?
The proudest moment I’ve experienced so far is also the date I finally felt that I could effectively contribute to the team at DNEG, and shut down that voice that always drives you to question yourself. The triggering moment was simple, someone asked in a meeting how much time it would take to trial out the new version for Unreal for a project. You see, he was used to the deployment taking weeks before the tool would be in the hands of the users. My response, “I can give it to you as early as *clicks*, now.. As I already had it ready for testing.” The face of disbelief and wonder at the possibilities they have been given is the thing I strive to experience every day.
Finish this sentence: DNEG is…
A powerhouse that a lot of people might underestimate. If you think people at DNEG were pushing the boundaries before, just wait until you see what we have in store now!
Luis is at SIGGRAPH 2022, find out more about our programme here. Interested in joining DNEG’s Oscar-winning team? Stay tuned for our next ‘FOCUS’ and click here to find out more about our open positions across our studios in North America, Europe and India.