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Alumnus: Peter Stuart

April 18, 2024

Alumnus: Peter Stuart

A photo of Peter Stuart, a man with short brown hair wearing a green t-shirt, and resting his head on his hand while smiling at the camera.

Current Position / Employer: Senior Pipeline Technical Director at LAIKA

Degree with Department Affiliation and Graduation Date: MS in Computer and Information Science 2003

Thesis Title: Varying BRDF Reflectance Properties

1. Tell us what you are doing professionally at the current time (please include specific projects you have worked on):

I have been working at LAIKA since 2006 and I contributed to the stop motion animated feature films Coraline, Paranorman, The Boxtrolls, Kubo and the Two Strings, Missing Link, and LAIKA's upcoming film, Wildwood. I have spent most of my time in the VFX department, where we create CG characters, set extensions, FX, and do compositing and plate cleanup very similar to a traditional VFX studio. One of the nice things about my role has been its flexibility, and I've done a lot of different things here over the years, focusing on pipeline workflows and implementation, render time procedural geometry generation, FX animation, and asset and FX look development.

2. What inspires your creativity today?

I am inspired almost daily by the amazing practical artists and artisans at LAIKA that create the stylized miniature worlds and puppets that we have to seamlessly match with CG equivalents. I often refer to how they have solved a particular problem as inspiration for solving a similar issue. What they can do within the confines of physical materials like paper, wood, metal, latex, and fabrics and especially on such a small scale is truly amazing.

3. Tell us one “Aha” moment from your experience of studying, researching, or working at ACCAD.

The real "Aha" moment for me was in taking a class at ACCAD on writing RenderMan shaders. While node-based tools existed at the time to build shaders, they were also generally programmed using a shading language. This really was the gateway for me since it was about creating interesting procedural shapes with programming, and I discovered I really enjoyed it.

4. What would you say to your “Undergraduate” or “Graduate” self about studying at Ohio State now that you have graduated? Or what advice would you give to current students taking classes at ACCAD?

Sometimes it's easy to get lost in the weeds, focusing on a problem, and it might be better to bounce ideas off others. Don't be afraid to communicate and include others in your thought process. That's one thing I really remember about my time at ACCAD. The courses were all really collaborative, and when not explicitly team focused at least there were easy avenues to share ideas.

5. How could Ohio State better prepare people for a career that combines art, design, computer science, digital media and new technologies?

Maybe this is too specific an answer for this question, but it's what came to mind: an important skill for production work that doesn't seem to be touched upon much is repurposing previous work. For example, it is a common workflow for a senior FX animator to build up a system that the junior animators customize for specific shots. This allows the junior animators to leverage the senior animator's experience while also helping them to grow as well. So maybe look for ways to incorporate leveraging previous work in the curriculum.

6. What most helps you to balance life and career expectations? How do you relax or de-stress?

As counter-intuitive as it might seem, the ability to occasionally work from home has really helped me balance work and life. It is especially helpful during crunch time to be able to spend the evening with my family before putting the rest of my time in without having to go back to the office.

Consistent exercise has also been an important factor in keeping work from taking too much of a physical toll. I can't recommend it enough!

7. Tell us a fun thing (or something) most people don’t know about you?

My great grandfather was a famous (at the time) Finnish entomologist and named several species of butterfly, or so the family legend goes. He even has a Wikipedia entry.

8. What would an alternate career choice be, if you could go back and choose a different path?

I studied astronomy during my undergraduate and can still see myself having followed that path instead.

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