Interview with Aleksandar Rodic

Aleksandar spent his early life in Belgrade where he studied electrical engineering and begun his career in computer graphics. Later on, he moved to United States to study visual effects and game development at Savannah College of Art and Design. Since then, he worked for companies such as EA Games, Pixar, LucasArts and Google where he developed some of the earliest applications using WebGL and WebVR technology. Most recently, he collaborated with Within on projects such as “Life of Us” and “Under Neon Lights” and he is currently helping them create a brand new musical VR experience for OK Go.

 

 

How did you get interested in the field of animation and gaming?
I think it started from early exposure to the medium combined with natural tendency for creative expression and intrigue towards intricate systems. In other words, I find computer graphics fascinating and fun!

Lucas Arts and Electronic Arts are the most famous games companies. What are the challenges of working in such companies?
While my day-to-day work is essentially a series of difficult challenges, I always felt that they make my job rewarding. When you do what you love, and you are fortunate to have great coworkers who love their work as much as you do, work comes easy. However, some companies (especially in the games industry) exploit this by making their employees work extremely long hours. They call this unhealthy practice “crunch time” and living a balanced life in those circumstances is next to impossible.

In which projects did you participate?
Pixar: “Cars 2”. EA Games: “MMA”, “NCAA” and “Dead Space 3”. LucasArts: “Star Wars 1313”. Google Data Arts: “Three Dreams of Black”, “Reflector”, “Unnumbered Sparks” and few others. Within: “Life of Us” and “Under Neon Lights”.

 

You finished  Audio and Video Technologies at The School of Electrical and Computer Engineering of Applied Studies, and later you upgraded your knowledge at the Savannah College of Art and Design. How is Serbian education different from a foreign one?
In general, I got an impression that education system in United States emphasises practical knowledge and deep understanding of the subject matter while Serbian system focuses on theoretical knowledge and requires students to memorize a lot more information. Moreover, academic integrity is extremely important over there. Any sort of cheating could have you expelled from college immediately with permanent record that would make it impossible to get into any reputable academic institution ever again.

How is knowledge acquired in educational institutions have an impact on your career?
It helped a lot, but learning only begins there. When I first started my career I realized I knew nothing; people used words I didn’t understand and amount of new knowledge was overwhelming. Now I think of education as something you do your entire life. Today, it is easier than ever to learn anything for free.  Go online and learn anything you want to learn – it is simple as that.

What advice can you give to the people who are just making their first steps in this industry? What mistakes did you make (and they should avoid them)?
Take your health seriously – you are not going to be young forever. Take regular breaks from computer work, workout, stretch, eat healthy, go outside and play.

There has always been a discussing over whether to have more technical knowledge than artistic skills and vice versa. What your opinion on this?
It really comes down to individual preference. Personally, I like to find balance somewhere in between. People have fulfilling careers on both sides of the spectrum.

 

Can you tell us more about the Under Neon Lights project you participated in?
Essentially, it is a mobile VR music video made with three.js (WebGL). It was released right at the time when WebVR technology graduated to mobile platform. We used some new sequencing tools made by Ricardo Cabello but otherwise we used the same old tools that we used for years (web browser and a text editor).


Is VR the last stage in the development of the entertainment industry? So after that there will be no major discoveries in that area.
While most people are quite enthusiastic about VR technology, I don’t think it will achieve the growth everyone is hoping for. I can’t predict the future but I wouldn’t be surprised if puppet theatres come back as the next big thing.

In the development of VR content, is the limit human imagination or technological defects in the production and reproduction device?
There are no limits to human imagination and technological limits could be viewed as challenges rather than obstacles. As John Lasseter said: “The art challenges the technology, and the technology inspires the art.”

Will VR endanger the movie in terms of popularity or will it come to their connection like in Kill Switch ?
I believe VR is not going to impact the film industry in any negative way. I haven’t seen “Kill Switch” but I can imagine regular films being adapted to VR “screens”. I’m surprised that most 3D films are not released for virtual 3D theatres yet.

 

How much VR will change the human life? Will VR change Internet access and social networks?
Depends how you define VR. If we consider VR how it is today (HMDs and 6DOF tracking gear) then I don’t see it becoming part of everyday life ever. On the other hand, we already have virtual markets that we can shop at from home using devices that sit in our pockets, although it is not “immersive” in the way people expect VR to be. Everyday VR, the way I think of it, is already here; it is all over the screens around us.

I think that in most aspects, internet is VR. We all go to it and it is changing our lives and interactions in so many ways. Some parts of the internet are already like different worlds.

What do you think is the meaning of CGA conference for this region  and which projects can you recommend from regional your authors?
Events like CGA bring community together and give people chance to meet, learn, find jobs and new business opportunities.

VR development community is quite global and overlaps with VFX and Game development that is already quite big around here. My favorite work from the region is done by Croteam. Check out their VR bundle on Steam!

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