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Weta Digital Names Joe Marks as New CTO

Veteran tech exec joins company from Carnegie Mellon University; will oversee technology initiatives for VFX work as well as at new animation division.

Veteran technology executive Joe Marks has joined Weta Digital as the company’s Chief Technology Officer, according to an announcement by CEO Prem Akkaraju. Marks has an extensive background in graphics, computer science and research and development; he will oversee the company’s technology initiatives that span visual effects as well as the newly announced Weta Animated division. Marks will report to Weta Digital CEO Prem Akkaraju.

“I’m thrilled to have attracted technology leadership of Joe Marks’s caliber to Weta Digital. A pivotal part of the future of VFX and animation rests in artificial intelligence, machine learning and cloud computing. Joe’s deep experience in these areas makes for a perfect fit at Weta as we continue to push the boundaries of our industry,” said Akkaraju.  “Joe’s experience leading research teams both inside and outside our industry will bring new ideas and methodologies to our existing state-of-the-art pipeline. It’s a privilege to bring someone of Joe’s stature to double down on one of the core strengths of the company.”

“The addition of Joe Marks allows us to go deeper and push further into the technical innovations that will define the next generation of storytelling,” said Senior Visual Effects Supervisor Joe Letteri.  “His ability to unite artificial intelligence initiatives with real-time technology and increasingly procedural workflows will allow us to fully realize the promise of the virtual production workflows we pioneered for the first Avatar.”

Marks joins Weta Digital from Carnegie Mellon University, where he served as Executive Director of the Center for Machine Learning & Health, working in digital healthcare. Marks is best-known for his prior roles at Mitsubishi Electric Research Labs (MERL) and Disney Research where he orchestrated and led the premier R&D organization in the media and entertainment industry with labs in Pittsburgh, Zurich, Boston, San Francisco and Los Angeles.  Marks’s research interests span CG, video processing, media distribution, robotics, HCI, mobile computing, computer vision, AI, sensors, embedded systems and behavioral economics.

“While working with The Walt Disney Company and the ACM SIGGRAPH community, I admired Weta for many years,” Marks said. “It’s an absolute thrill to be joining the company as it embarks on a new adventure in animated storytelling, while continuing their unparalleled tradition of excellence in VFX for live-action movies. Weta’s proprietary tools have long set the standard in simulating appearance and behavior in virtual worlds. I’m excited about how we will build on this base: the incorporation of techniques from AI and Machine Learning will broaden the scope of what can be simulated; new display and camera technologies will enable us to connect the virtual world to the real world in exciting new ways; and cloud computing will allow us to do it all more efficiently.  I am looking forward to combining my own experience with that of industry veterans like Joe Letteri and Prem Akkaraju to broaden the cinematic palette for the great directors that work with Weta.”

Marks has been active in the SIGGRAPH community serving as its Papers Chair in 2004 and Conference Chair in 2007 and has a broad portfolio of peer-reviewed publications in applied computing.  He has also managed over $100M in corporate and academic R&D spend in addition to co-founding two e-commerce start-ups. He holds an A.B. in Applied Mathematics and a PhD in Computer Science, both from Harvard University.  His appointment to CTO comes on the heels of other recent strategic additions to Weta Digital’s leadership team, including the announcement of Akkaraju as CEO in June 2020, to whom Marks will report.

Source: Weta Digital