ILM Employee Spotlight: Carol Payne

45+ Years | 500+ Film and TV credits | 135+ Awards

SINCE 1975

Jan 18, 2019

In today’s employee spotlight we’re highlighting Color & Imaging Scientist, Carol Payne from our San Francisco studio.

What got you into filmmaking?
I grew up watching Disney animated features, Star Trek, Star Wars, the normal stuff. I loved Legos, drawing, and computers, and eventually found the career that mixes all three (and more)!
Tell us about an inspirational shot/sequence.
I’ll always remember the crazy 360 degree shot from the end battle of Avengers: Age of Ultron. Where the Avengers are fighting all the Subultrons in that circular room. It was such a long shot that it was divided into three on our storage disks, so that we could have more people working on it simultaneously (and iterate quicker). It had everything – crowds, digidoubles, so many simulations, and the actual plate photography to composite – such a massive amount of teamwork went into making that one shot seamless.
What do you do at ILM, and what did you before working here?
These days at ILM I am a Color & Imaging Scientist. That basically means I am a specialized software engineer – my team maintains image processing standards and workflows throughout film production for all four of ILM’s global locations, which includes colorspace transforms, image re-formatting and filtering, camera RAW processing and media encoding. Before joining ILM, I was a CG Generalist at a small VFX company called Pivot VFX in Albuquerque, NM.
What do you do outside of work?
I love yoga, cooking (always with green chile), and traveling. I’m a sucker for a good board game. I also spend a lot of time on a side project called Women in VFX which is a video web series that aims to highlight some of the amazing women doing incredible work in the VFX industry, with the goal of improving inclusion and diversity.
What was your first show at ILM?
Captain America: Winter Soldier.
What’s your day-to-day like at work?
My day-to-day is constantly changing. It’s usually a mix of tackling whatever support issue on a current project crops up, and trying to focus on a longer-term development project to improve our toolsets. I’m either writing python or C++, or in Nuke or our proprietary toolsets trying to debug an issue. I spend a lot of time looking at the smallest differences between images finding the best, most economical workflow for our projects.
What’s the most challenging work task you’ve had to face?
Trying to explain my job! …Just kidding :)
I feel like that changes more often than I’d like – something new always crops up and trumps the last. Right now though, we are consistently dealing with the challenges that come from trying to match digital to film camera photography – without altering the integrity or creative intent of the captured image. Mixed media projects are becoming more and more common, and each one presents a new challenge.
And what’s the weirdest task?
Trying to restore footage from an old Star Wars show from a super old backup – the tape was almost older than I was! But by weird I mean really super cool.
What advice would you give to those trying to break into VFX?
Don’t be afraid to start at the bottom. I came in entry level at ILM, and learned so much about the entire VFX process because of it. I met tons of awesome people, some of which became my mentors as I moved up in the company. I never would have gone into color science if I’d have held out for a higher level position initially. Get in where you can, learn everything you can, and specialize from there.
What’s your favorite film, and why?
Such a hard question. I think The Fifth Element, though it might change based on my mood. It’s such a fun, upbeat movie with great effects for its time, engaging characters, and a fantastic score. It doesn’t take itself too seriously, but still has a message – which is challenging to do without becoming cheesy. Runner up: The Princess Bride.
Thanks, Carol!