Former Head of Disney Research brings breadth of expertise to ground-breaking visual effects and animation studio.
Prem Akkaraju, CEO of Weta Digital, announces today that Joe Marks has joined the company as Chief Technology Officer. Marks is an industry leader with more than 35+ years’ experience as a technology executive with extensive background in graphics, computer science and research and development. Marks will oversee the company’s technology initiatives that span visual effects as well as the newly announced Weta Animated division, and will report to 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 Prem Akkaraju, CEO of Weta Digital. “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 Joe Letteri, Senior Visual Effects Supervisor of Weta Digital. “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 at the forefront of innovation 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. 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,” said Marks. “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.
Joe Marks 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.
About Weta Digital
Weta Digital is the standard-bearer for creativity and innovation in visual effects and animation, attracting talent, partners, and clients that seek to push what is possible in pursuit of their artistic vision. Weta’s proprietary pipeline continues to evolve and provide artists with the tools they need to create their best work. Based in Wellington, New Zealand, Weta Digital is the largest single-site VFX studio in the world drawing artists from over 40 countries. They are some of the most creative and ambitious artists, engineers, and executives in entertainment and their work has earned six visual effects Academy Awards, ten Academy Sci-Tech Awards and six visual effects BAFTA Awards in addition to the 34 Visual Effects Society Awards awarded to them by their peers. Ground-breaking, performance-driven animated characters from Gollum to Caesar, and worlds from Middle-earth to Pandora, are regarded as some of the best visual effects ever to appear on screen. For more information, visit www.wetafx.co.nz and follow @weta_digital.