Sebastian Sylwan is Chief Technical Officer at Weta Digital. His role takes him from internal R&D discussions that will drive the future of film making to industry events where he swaps ideas with some of the world’s top creative professionals.
He has a superb, TED-like outlook on life, saying “I have been successful in applying my intuition, creativity, experience, and tech knowhow to the fields I love; telling some fantastic stories along the way. I’ve been handling projects beyond the established boundaries and I’m always trying to push forward the limits of ‘what can be done’. I like to experiment and rationalize. I look to understand processes and improve the usual way of doing things. I am focused on integration…and becoming a better human being.”
Sylwan says he loves working on visual effects – the perfect intersection between art and science – both of which are lenses though which we interpret reality. We need stories in order grasp what scientists discover, Sylwan gave the example of the picture below painted to give a pictorial representation of Einstein’s theory of relativity;
The stories well tell define us, we are the stories well tell, even more so with the mass distribution that modern media offers. Digital technologies are the best way to create suspension of belief. Weta creates an environment where they model the fundamental rules of the things they observe – understanding physical phenomena at a very deep level and extending that reality. Sylwan shows videos that Weta use to see how skin, muscles, bones, hair all work in the real world and use the findings from that research to make their animations hyper realistic – even going so far as to partner with scientific institutions to built the best possible starting model.
Digital tools however are not only changing the images we see, but also changing the process to create those images – the create environment is becoming much more collaborative, iterating across a myriad of different functional roles. Collaborating around the central role of the director helps to create progressively refined wonders like Avatar and LoTR.
The next generation of film makers however will help us push the boundaries of storytelling even further. Building on the shoulders of giants, we all have the responsibility to build the ladders that let us reach the shoulders of those ahead of us.