John Gaeta is a visual effects designer best known for his work on the Matrix film trilogy and Speed Racer, where he explored and advanced the effects methods known as "Bullet Time", "Virtual Cinematography", and "Photo Anime".
John C. Gaeta's career began in New York City. While acquiring a BFA degree with honors from New York University's film school, he was introduced to the industry as a staff production assistant for the Saturday Night Live film unit. Following NYU, he began camera and lighting work for a variety of media types including stop-motion animation, nature documentary, and holography.
A few years later, he was drafted into the camera department of the newly formed Trumbull Company, founded in Berkshire County, Massachusetts by Douglas Trumbull. Trumbull was visual effects supervisor for such films as 2001: A Space Odyssey, Blade Runner, and Close Encounters of the Third Kind, as well as the director of such films as Silent Running and Brainstorm. It was at Trumbull Company that Gaeta was introduced and educated in a spectrum of innovative film formats such as 48fps VistaVision, 70mm Showscan, IMAX, OMNIMAX and stereo CGI (partnered with Kleiser-Walczak). These were all applied to pre digital special venue-immersive and simulator "ridefilm" projects often accompanied by powerful motion bases in which the audience was placed upon or within.
Following this special venue period (1991–1994), Gaeta became interested in applying computer-generated animation as a means of visualizing content and visual effects concepts for directors as well as for custom camera-path planning. This led to experimentation with emerging forms of space analysis including photogrammetry, stereo and laser radar (a.k.a. Reality Capture). Trumbull Company was renamed Mass Illusion and started feature film effects for movies. Gaeta continued there as an associate supervisor under the senior supervision of Oscar-winner Joel Hynek.
After co-supervising development for 3-D paint effect stylizations and LIDAR laser scanning for What Dreams May Come (1998 Visual Effects Oscar winner), Gaeta began his first solo effects supervision project for Larry and Andy Wachowski's film, The Matrix.
Designing and testing The Matrix bullet time effects began in early 1996. This work directly overlapped R&D for What Dreams May Come. Shortly after the release of the original Matrix in 1999, Gaeta continued his exploration of content design through CGI visualization by developing fully "virtual" scene and action layouts for use in realtime interactive composition. Scenes ran on the GS Cube, a machine consisting of 16 parallel processors each based on a PlayStation 2, but with HD rendering resolution. The research was demonstrated at Siggraph 2000. Later, in 2006, partnered with Rudy Poat, he would return to real time cinema experimentation by inserting, possibly the first ever, real time composed and rendered, full resolution/2k content into a theatrically released movie, Trapped Ashes.
In 2000, Gaeta was brought on as the senior visual effects supervisor to complete the Matrix Trilogy including The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions. This pair of films were created in parallel and featured over 2000 visual effects shots. Many photographed and post processed at a custom built complex called ESC, located at the Alameda Naval Base near San Francisco. Overall conceptual design as well as research and development was initiated for the final two installments in January 2000. There were a wide range of effects content from large-scale man vs. machine-type battles, to anime-styled hyper-real moments. The centerpiece innovations and new methodologies presented through the Matrix universe was the creation of "Virtual Cinematography" and "Virtual Effects," phrases coined by Gaeta in 1999 and 2000.
In fully synthetic scenes within The Matrix sequels, all aspects including principal characters, elaborate performances, dynamic events, and deep surrounding scenery were computer generated by way of customized "image based" rendering techniques. Content components were constructed from "universal capture" sources based upon real actors, production design and cinematography, in a "sample cinema" type process more analogous to producing virtual reality than to film making. Impact, evolution and expansion of these once emergent content forms can be seen in later breakthrough films such as Benjamin Buttons and Avatar as well as ongoing interactive research happening in games and military simulation.
The years 2005–2008 marked a deepening of the pursuit of sample cinema with new ground covered in the feature Speed Racer. The advent of a new genre type, dubbed "Photo Anime", was the centerpiece of a retro-modern universe in which optimistic pop art design ("Poptimisitic") threaded through dramatic collage based editing and motion graphic heavy kung fu car action. Inspired in part by the production attitude of Sin City, the expressive animated cinema of Hayao Miyazaki and Andy Warhol, the Wachowski brothers focused Gaeta's sensibilities once more toward new forms of post cinematography, deploying end to end high definition pipelines, comprehensive greenscreen/virtual set processes, fully computer generated race worlds, "2 and 1/2 D" layering methodologies, "faux lensing" as applied to vr photography and "techno color" in pursuit of a different movie experience. In addition to visual effects design for the film, Gaeta was additionally enlisted to creatively produce the Wii game counterpart.
Gaeta is an avid proponent of enabling image based realtime virtual cinematography and pushing it toward "Hybrid Entertainment". Hybrid Entertainment could be described as unified content forms and formats found between cinema, interactive games, simulation, mobile media and other alternatives. With additional focus on "universalizing universes": the centralized conception and production of worlds, settings and content components, upon which could be layered dynamic story and social paths, overlapping real or virtual performance and channeled in parallel toward passive and interactive distribution.
To that extent, in 2009 he had formed a new type of development company, FLOAT (hybrid) and is its acting Chief Creative Officer. Float(hybrid)specializes in discovering and developing intuitive "human interfaces" and changing the way people relate to, engage and interact with entertainment within their living rooms.
Focus is on enabling leading edge brand and entertainment experiences in tandem with sophisticated and functional User Experience design for Sensor based interfaces / NUI, Connected and Companion Content (Interactive TV, Mobile Device, PC), High and Low fi Augmented Reality across multiple platforms.
To that extent, Float is a development bridge between traditional creative ip franchise holders and new emergent entertainment platforms.
John Gaeta is currently active in the conceptual design of Jupiter Ascending with longtime associates, the Wachowski siblings.
- 2000 Academy Award for Visual Effects, for The Matrix
- 2000 BAFTA Awards for Best Achievement in Special Effects, for The Matrix
- 2003 Visual Effects Society Award for Best Single Visual Effect of the Year in Any Medium, for The Matrix Reloaded (trailer "Top Crash"), shared with Dan Glass, Adrian De Wet, Greg Juby
- 2003 Visual Effects Society Award for Outstanding Visual Effects Photography in a Motion Picture for The Matrix Reloaded (U-cap facial photography), shared with Kim Libreri, George Borshukov, Paul Ryan
- Nominated, 2003 Visual Effects Society Award for Outstanding Visual Effects in a Visual Effects Driven Motion Picture for The Matrix Revolutions, shared with Kim Libreri, George Murphy, Craig Hayes
- John Gaeta at the Internet Movie Database
- Interview: Float Hybrid Plugs Into The Matrix With Kinect
- Virtual Cinematography: Was The Matrix under-rated and Avatar over-rated?
- Speed Racer: The Future of Movies
- Eclectic Pioneer in Photography Connects Art and Science
- 'Speed Racer' Soars!
- New Speed Racer Technology Could Be a Radical Innovation
- Beyond Machinima: Rudy Poat and John Gaeta on the Future of Interactive Cinema by Jason McMaster, Gamasutra.
- Eadweard Muybridge and The Matrix
- Cinefex index
- The "Matrix" effects maestro fuels hybrid entertainment
- "One Against Many: A stunning showdown in Reloaded improves upon bullet time" (Premiere)
- "The Matrix Resolution" (Computer Graphics World)
- "Matrix2: Bullet Time was just the beginning. F/x guru John Gaeta reinvents cinematography with The Matrix Reloaded." (Wired, May 2003)
- "Entertainment Beyond The Matrix" (Wired News, October 20, 2003)
- "A Celebration of Effects" (Cinefex Weekly Update, February 24, 2004)
- "'The Matrix' Revealed: An Interview with John Gaeta" (VFXPro, March 9, 2004)
- George Borshukov, virtualcinematography.org
- The Campanile Movie
- Art of Optical flow article on fxguide.com