John Gaeta

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John Gaeta is a visual effects designer best known for his work on the Matrix film trilogy where he explored and advanced the effects methods and formats known as "Bullet Time", "Virtual Cinematography" and "Universal Capture" (aka UCAP). Later areas of creative exploration include "Photo Anime", "Nuvies" and "Holo Cinema".


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.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.

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.

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 Lana 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 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 "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 Wachowski siblings. 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 newly launched ILMxLAB.

ILMxLAB is composed of equal parts Lucasfilm (Star Wars Story Group), Industrial Light and Magic and Skywalker Sound. It is focused on development of premium Immersive Entertainment properties/experiences for emerging platforms such as Real Time Cinema for Widescreen and Mobile Devices, Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality, Next Generation Theme Park Experiences and alternative forms of New Media (Unusual Media, Immersive Caves, Robotics, Projection Mapping,more)

ILMxLAB also innovates state of the art real time graphics through the Advanced Development Group housed within it's talent roster.

ILMxLAB is additionally connected to Disney Imagineering.



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Virtual cinematography[edit]