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Behind the Title: Weta Digital’s Paolo Emilio Selva

NAME: Paolo Emilio Selva 

COMPANY: Weta Digital

CAN YOU DESCRIBE YOUR COMPANY?
In the middle of Middle-earth, Weta Digital is a VFX company with more than a thousand artists and developers. While focusing on delivering amazing movies, Weta Digital also focuses on research and development for VFX. 

WHAT’S YOUR JOB TITLE?
Head of Software Engineering 

WHAT DOES THAT ENTAIL?
In the software engineering department, we write tools for artists and make sure their creative intent is maintained across the pipeline. We also make sure production isn’t disrupted across the facility.  

WHAT WOULD SURPRISE PEOPLE THE MOST ABOUT WHAT FALLS UNDER THAT TITLE?
Writing code, maybe? Yeah, I’m still writing code when I can, mostly fixing bugs and off-loading other developers from nasty issues, keeping them focused on the research and development and providing support.  

HOW DID YOU START YOUR CAREER?
I started my career as researcher in Human-Computer interfaces at a university in Rome. I liked to solve problems, and the VFX industry has lots of problems to be solved 😉 

HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN WORKING IN VFX?
Ten years  

DID A PARTICULAR FILM INSPIRE YOU ALONG THIS PATH IN ENTERTAINMENT?
I grew up with Pixar movies and lots of animated short movies. I also played video games. I was always fascinated by what was behind those things. I wanted to replicate them, and which I did by re-writing games or effects seen in movies.

 I started by using existing tools. Then, during high school — thanks to my older cousin — I found Basic and started writing my own tools. I found that I was able to control external devices with Basic and my Commodore64. I also started enjoying electronics and micro-controllers. All of this reached the acme with my thesis at university when I created a data-glove from scratch — from the hardware to the software — and started looking at example applications for it. This was in between 1999 and 2001, when I also started working at the Human-Computer Interaction Lab.  

WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE PART OF THE JOB?
It’s challenging, in a good way, every day. And as problem solver, I like this part of my job. 

WHAT’S YOUR LEAST FAVORITE?
Sometimes too many meetings, but it’s important to communicate with every department and understand their needs. 

IF YOU DIDN’T HAVE THIS JOB, WHAT WOULD YOU BE DOING INSTEAD?
Probably teaching and researching at university in Human-Computer Interaction. 

CAN YOU NAME SOME RECENT PROJECTS YOU HAVE WORKED ON?
Just to name some of them: War for the Planet of the Apes, Valerian, The BFG and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.          

WHAT IS THE PROJECT/S THAT YOU ARE MOST PROUD OF?
I was lucky enough to be at Weta Digital when we worked on Avatar and The Jungle Book, which both won Oscars for Best Visual Effects, and also The Adventures of Tintin, where I was directly involved in the hair-rendering process and all the TopoClouds tools for the Pantaray pipeline.

WHAT TOOLS DO YOU USE DAY TO DAY?
Nowadays, it’s my email client, my phone and very little text-editor and C++ compilers.

WHAT DO YOU DO TO DE-STRESS FROM IT ALL?
Mostly enjoy time with my wife, my cats, video games and the gym when I can.


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