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Getting to know Fran Kalal

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Video transcript

Huh. Hah. Come on! So one of the mentors that was really important to me in deciding that I wanted to go into computer graphics was Maria Palazzi. She was the director of the Advanced Computing Center for the Arts and Design at Ohio State University. And she met with me as a high schooler. And I talked to her about my interests. And she said, "There's a field where you can use your love for art and design, and your love for science and coding, and that field is computer graphics. And she showed me her center and walked me around. And I could see all of the cool things that the graduate students there were doing. And I thought, "This is my place." So this is some of my student work that you're looking at. One of my favorite things to do with my student work was to understand how signals could overlap each other to create different looks in a shader network. And so this is a lot of me playing with shader networks to see, "Gosh, can I change a high-frequency fractal, and can that alternate between a saturated and a desaturated version of this texture?" And I thought that that was so cool that you could use these relatively simple signals to combine complex texture maps and get these interesting looks in the end. What I loved about doing this work is that every time I would write a piece of code or make a connection, I could see a visual result right away from what I was doing. And that's how I loved learning how to code – to have this visual result from the work that I was doing was so rewarding. And for me, I was a really active learner. And so it was really helpful to see a result as soon as I made something. Another reason I went into computer graphics instead of live-action film is what was happening at the time. I was so inspired by the short "Bunny." I thought it was one of the most beautiful things I'd ever seen. I've always been so moved by bringing animals and characters to life. And that's something that you can do with puppetry quite well. But that's something that computer graphics does exceptionally well. It is just the right format for those things. And "Ratatouille" had just come out. And I found out that Pixar was going to come visit our campus. And I could not wait to talk to the people who made the delicious looking food. But we had a really good conversation. And they liked my work. And so they asked if I would come to Pixar and do some shading. So I did. And my boss was the lady who made the beautiful food in "Ratatouille," Athena Xenakis. It was amazing when I showed up and got that assignment on the first day. I just could not believe my luck. I was so excited. And on my resumé, there was a line that said "Hobbies." And in the line that said "Hobbies," it said, "knitting, playing piano, and sewing." And one of the supervising technical directors looked at that line and said, "Wait. You can understand how to use computer programs, and you can sew. Do you know there are jobs for people that do that at Pixar?" And I said "No." And he said, "Do you want to come and try that?" And I said, "Yeah!" So they found a spot for me on "Wall-E". We had just gone through getting some notes back from an audience preview. And the characters weren't a size that made the audience happy. So we resized some of the characters, and they needed their outfits refitted – which is perfect intern work. And then they gave me Ellie. And they asked me to dress and tailor Ellie. And I just could not believe my luck. She is the most amazing and wonderful character. She's outgoing and she's fun and she's smart. Ellie went well. They liked the way she looked. And I was happy with it too. So, they asked me to work on Merida, which was really awesome. And that went well. So then they asked me to work on Disgust and Riley and all Riley's mom's clothes, which was a lot of fun. And now I'm working on something I totally can't talk about on camera. If this is a field that's interesting to you, or if there's any field that's interesting to you, and you look around, and you see not a lot of people in that field "look like me," it's ok. You're gonna find your people. Just go into it, get some great mentors, make some great friends, and just believe if you want to be there bad enough, it's your place. Kitty! I'm sorry, there's a cat. [Laughter] There's a cat. Oh God, there's a cat. [Women laughing.]