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John C. Gaeta (born 1965) is a creator, designer and inventor best known for his work on the Matrix film trilogy where he explored and advanced methods and formats known as "bullet time", "virtual cinematography" and "universal capture" (UCAP). Other areas of exploration include "photo anime," "Nuvies", "holo cinema" and emerging platforms for immersive and experiential entertainment.
John Gaeta was born in New York City and grew up in Shoreham, Long Island, the small town where Nicola Tesla's secretive lab still stands. He eventually grew an interest in photography and the films of Stanley Kubrick and Ridley Scott. He entered New York University's Tisch School of the Arts to study film, and acquired a BFA degree with honors in 1989. He was introduced to the industry as a staff production assistant for the Saturday Night Live film unit, as well as doing camera and lighting work for a variety of media types and makers. Some of these early work experiences included holography with Jason Sapan, stop-motion animation with Peter Wallach, motion control with Bran Ferren, nature documentary, filming birdlife for National Geographic Explorer, timelapse and experimental photography in Namibia, Africa on Miramax's first feature, Dust Devil
A few years later, Gaeta heard from a friend that visual effects innovator Douglas Trumbull was founding a new company in Massachusetts and needed technicians based on the East Coast. Gaeta went on to be drafted into the camera department of the newly formed Trumbull Company, where he was introduced and educated in a spectrum of innovative film formats such as 48fps VistaVision, 70mm Showscan, IMAX, OMNIMAX and stereo CGI, to create the ambitious simulator Back to the Future: The Ride for Universal Parks & Resorts.
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. Trumbull Company was renamed Mass Illusion and started feature film effects for movies.
After co-supervising development for 3-D paint effect stylizations and LIDAR laser scanning(Reality Capture) for What Dreams May Come (1998 Visual Effects Oscar winner), Gaeta began his first solo effects supervision project for The Wachowskis' science fiction 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 with longtime colleague Kim Libreri(Lucasfilm, Current CTO of Epic Games) 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 and rendering at, then groundbreaking, HD resolution. The research was demonstrated at Siggraph 2000. Later, he partnered with colleague Rudy Poat(Microsoft, Amazon VR), returning 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 The Curious Case of Benjamin Button 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 location photography (360 degree spherical capture) 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 into immersive entertainment.
In 2009 he had formed a new type of development company, FLOAT (hybrid) and was its acting Chief Creative Officer from 2009-2012. Float (hybrid) specializes in discovering and developing intuitive "Natural and Human Interfaces" and changing the way people relate to, engage and directly interact with entertainment.
Working directly with the advanced labs at Microsoft which birthed and developed the prototype technology (project natal) that led to the Kinect, and following that, Hololens, his focus was on enabling leading edge experiences within an emergent "Natural User Interface" (NUI) paradigm. First of its kind advancements were made with the intuitive and articulate gesture based navigation and multi modal interaction of characters through complex and virtually tactile worlds.
Gaeta also pioneered methods within a format termed Nuiscopic. The Nuiscopic format directly links the viewer spatially with real-time camera perspectives with the screen acting more like a window then a surface upon which media is displayed. Added to this, were specific approaches to driving moving cameras (cinematography) and changing lenses based on the viewers poses and motions weighed against the virtual proximity of content. Another term coined within this format was NUVIE (NU Movie, Natural User Movie).
Float experience prototypes were displayed in formats such as widescreen special venue, "connected living rooms", virtual reality hmds, Augmented and blended reality proto tech, mobile devices, location-based installations.
Gaeta was part of the core conceptual development of Jupiter Ascending for longtime associates, the Wachowskis. Throughout the pre through post production of Cloud Atlas, Gaeta led a network of top tier game and film artists around the globe on behalf of the Wachowskis.
Gaeta is a founding member and Executive Creative Director at Lucasfilm's ILMxLAB, a joint venture between the Lucasfilm Story Group, Industrial Light and Magic and Skywalker Sound - with connections to Disney Imagineering - launched in 2015 to focus on developing and releasing premium immersive and experiential entertainment. Some formats under the umbrella of "Immersive Entertainment" include Real Time Cinema, Virtual Reality, Mixed Reality, Theme Parks, New and Experimental Media.
- 2000 Academy Award for Visual Effects, for The Matrix
- 2000 BAFTA Awards for Best Achievement in Special Effects, for The Matrix
- 2000 MTV Movie Award, Best Action
- 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
- Hollywood Film Festival: Hollywood Visual Effects Award, 2003 
- 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
- 2014 Palo Alto International Film Festival, Muybridge Award for Innovation
- "Matrix2: Bullet Time was just the beginning. F/x guru John Gaeta reinvents cinematography with The Matrix Reloaded." (Wired, May 2003)
- Artist Profile: John Gaeta
- "'The Matrix' Revealed: An Interview with John Gaeta" (VFXPro, March 9, 2004)
- CGSociety - John Gaeta
- The "Matrix" effects maestro fuels hybrid entertainment
- Interview: Float Hybrid Plugs Into The Matrix With Kinect
- Virtual Cinematography: Was The Matrix under-rated and Avatar over-rated?
- 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
- "One Against Many: A stunning showdown in Reloaded improves upon bullet time" (Premiere)
- "The Matrix Resolution" (Computer Graphics World)
- "Entertainment Beyond The Matrix" (Wired News, October 20, 2003)
- "A Celebration of Effects" (Cinefex Weekly Update, February 24, 2004)