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Joe Letteri — Senior Visual Effects Supervisor, Wētā FX

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Meet the legend behind some of the movie industry’s most iconic creatures: Joe Letteri. From Jurassic Park’s dinosaurs to Gollum in The Lord of the Rings, Avatar’s Na’vi, and the Planet of the Apes’ simian stars, Joe has constantly pushed VFX boundaries and technology to deliver utterly believable CG characters. 

In this info-packed Q&A, Joe talks about everything from how he created his very first VFX shot for Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country to the cutting-edge technology that helped him bag an Oscar for Avatar: The Way of Water, and the new AI, rendering, and depth-compositing tools that could get him another statuette. Joe also discusses where he finds inspiration and reveals his passion for fractal computer graphics and astrophotography. 

Links:

Joe Letteri on IMDb >

Joe Letteri on Wikipedia >

Joe Letteri at Wētā FX >

Joe Letteri at VIEW Conference >


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0:04:04 Science and art: Joe's inspiration

0:05:07 How Joe ended up at Weta

0:06:02 CG or miniatures?

0:06:40 Trickle-down and trickle-up technology and "Avatar"

0:08:16 Virtual production, "Avatar," and real-time depth compositing

0:10:16 Real-time, ray tracing, and path tracing

0:12:37 AI and VFX Academy Awards

0:15:13 Method and generative AI

0:16:17 Where Joe finds inspiration

0:17:51 "Avatar," "Everything Everywhere," and "Oppenheimer"

0:21:56 The opening shot of "Star Trek 6"

0:23:52 Joe's passion for astrophotography

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About the author

Christopher Nichols

Chris is a CG industry veteran and Director of Chaos Labs. He can also be heard regularly as the host of the CG Garage podcast which attracts 20,000 weekly listeners. With a background in both VFX and Design, Chris has worked for Gensler, Digital Domain, Imageworks and Method Studios. His credits include Maleficent, Oblivion and Tron: Legacy.

Originally published: December 4, 2023.
© Škoda Design

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