After announcing another massive round of funding to the tune of $502 million, Magic Leap is adding another powerful weapon to its creative arsenal: John Gaeta, the man who helped develop the iconic Bullet Time effect for The Matrix series of films.
It's something that I think I can grow as a creator and innovator, and I feel, always, I have a role to help enable others to grow in some of these new platforms … Magic Leap is a company that really wants to foster enabling people to be creative in new spaces.
Most recently, Gaeta worked as the executive creative director and co-founder of Lucasfilm's ILMxLab, an immersive entertainment group that's already working closely with Magic Leap on an immersive Star Wars project. His new title at Magic Leap is senior vice president of creative strategy.
"It will be a new chapter in a long story for me of pursuing frontiers that I think will one day create compelling experiences for people," Gaeta told The Verge.
"During my time as Executive Creative Director of Lucasfilm's ILMxLAB, I've had the rarest of career pleasures to co-conceive and collaborate on future gen Immersive Entertainment within the remarkable worlds and stories of Star Wars," Gaeta wrote on his LinkedIn page in a message dated October 2017.
"That was only possible due to the trust and support of my close colleagues throughout Lucasfilm, ILM and Disney, so many of which are profound creative and critical thinkers, masters of many crafts and leading edge inventors in their own right. We created ILMxLAB to honor George Lucas and Mr. Walt Disney's unbounded spirit to explore imagination and innovation."
For those familiar with Gaeta's work, his addition to the Magic Leap team is particularly exciting for a couple of reasons. First, Gaeta pioneered a then cutting-edge immersive filmmaking technique, using a circular array of cameras to capture Keanu Reeves (as Neo) during his now famous rooftop scene (see video above) in The Matrix. It's easy to imagine his talents being harnessed at Magic Leap in an effort to bring some of the same magic that we saw on the movie screen to the real world.
Second, it pairs one of the chief architects of what currently stands as Hollywood's most successful fictional depictions of virtual reality (via 2D screens) with a very real company working to bring a new kind of immersive entertainment to the real world. In theory, this is a match made in immersive entertainment heaven.
On the same day, Andy Huang, a product manager at Magic Leap, announced that he was leaving the company. Huang, who only stayed on board for a little over a year, previously worked at Facebook and says that he's moving to San Francisco to work on augmented reality apps. Huang's relatively short tenure mirrors the trajectory of several other high-level executives who have departed the company in recent months with little explanation, further stoking the mystery (and skepticism) around the company.
Since it's big (and very weird) splash years ago at the Ted conference, speculation and questions have continued to surround Magic Leap and its eccentric founder, Rony Aboviz. However, the new funding and the addition of a renowned digital effects master may help bolster (at least in the short-term) the credibility of Magic Leap, despite skeptical reports and the fact that the public has yet to see a product emerge from the secretive company.