Academy of Art University alumni working at Stereo D, left to right: Charana Mapatuna, Mike Hedayati, Ryan Thurlow, Jeannie Ben-Hain, Jenna Sunde, Soyeon Jung, Ryan Bauer, Stephanie Woo, Brandon Blevins, Jae Young-Chang, Hemanth Kovvuri 

[Janet Hill] The rise in popularity of 3D movies around the world has led to an increase in jobs related to creating films in the stereo format. Stereo D, leader in 2D to 3D conversion, is home to a number of Academy of Art University graduates interested in working on big movies with worldwide appeal.

Founded in 2009 by William Sherak, Stereo D became the go-to name in 3D in 2011, when director James Cameron chose the company to convert his Academy Award-winning Titanic for a 3D re-release. The Burbank-based company now boasts over 1000 employees in four locations around the globe and continues to be the first choice of filmmakers such as Steven Spielberg, J.J. Abrams, Guillermo del Toro and Brett Ratner, to name just a few.

We asked some of the Academy graduates (all from the School of Animation & Visual Effects) working at Stereo D about their experiences working at this hot 3D studio and how their schooling prepared them for the exciting world of Hollywood post-production.

All of those we spoke to work at Stereo D work as finaling artists. As part of the Finaling Department, the paint/composite artists are responsible for delivering the final shots after stereo conversion. Working with a team that includes a lead artist and supervisors, paint/compositing artists creatively interpret and apply artistic concepts including stereo painting, clean plate preparation and compositing.

Ryan Bauer (MFA, 2012) came to Stereo D in 2013 and is excited by the pace and variety of work. “I’ve loved being able to touch so many blockbuster movies in a short time. In one year I’ve worked on about 10 major features,” she notes. Jenna Sunde (BFA, 2012) agrees that the opportunity to work on big releases is a draw, “One of the first projects I worked on was Star Trek: Into Darkness,” she says. “As a longtime fan of the Trek universe, it was a dream come true.”

Jeannie Ben-Hain likes the challenges and teamwork. “I enjoy helping the artists on my team tackle problems on a shot, learning their strengths and skillsets, and deciding how best they can focus their work, as well as getting to develop new tools and techniques for the team to use.”

Academy classes had a big impact on preparing the grads for entering the VFX workforce. Everyone we spoke to mentioned Catherine Tate’s Compositing for Production as most valuable in the curriculum. “By having the opportunity to work with some amazing independent filmmakers,” says Sunde, “it really sparked my passion for VFX as a viable career choice and equipped me for the working world.” Soyeon Jung (MFA, 2011) adds, “I learned real VFX pipeline processes during the class, and it influenced me to work in a real studio as professional compositor.”

The grads also had some great advice for those looking to work at Stereo D. Jae Young Chang (BFA, 2013) said prospective employees should “practice clean-plating, recreating hair, tracking, and try to learn Stereo Paint in After Effects.” Bauer went even further: “Be able to remove entire objects or people from a shot, so when you compare to the original, the only thing that looks different is the absence of whatever you removed.” Charana Mapatuna (BFA, 2012) says Stereo D is looking for people who combine life skills with artistry and technical ability. “Above all, Stereo D strives to find artists who are also talented problem solvers, and are able to apply the many tools and techniques to a unique process that can change shot by shot,” she says. Sunde concludes with some less technical but wise counsel: “Have a strong work ethic and a good attitude!”

Janet Hill is a publicist at Stereo D.

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Tags: Alumni,  Animation & Visual Effects