Diversity/Careers in Engineering & Information Technology



February/March 2012

Diversity/Careers February/March 2012 Issue

Hispanics in government
Healthcare IT
Robotics careers
Disabled veterans
NACME symposium

MBEs & their clients
News & Views
Regional roundup
Supplier diversity

Diversity in action
News & Views

U.S. Coast Guard Civilian Chesapeake Energy
Intel Telephonics


Bettina Martin is 3D tech supervisor at 3ality Technica

"Integration" is the word to describe her responsibilities, she says. "I work in R&D most of the time and my day is spent addressing support issues."

3ality Technica (Los Angeles, CA) grew out of 3ality Digital's acquisition of Element Technica in 2011. It's a marriage of hardware and software expertise: Element Technica is known for manufacturing and design capability while 3ality Digital's strength is production technology.

The company works with some of the largest studios in Hollywood. Its 3D technology has been used most recently to make The Amazing Spider-Man, Prometheus, The Great Gatsby and The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, all slated for release this year.

Bettina Martin is the company's 3D technical supervisor. "It's very exciting for me," she says. "I love it!"

Her responsibilities, she says, are best described as integration. "I work in R&D most of the time. I also address support issues from our customers.

"One of the things I'm working on is our new 'Intellisystems.' We have created three 3D stereoscopic systems. One of them is the Intellicam, which basically takes away the need for a convergence operator. It's computer-based and does the so-called '3D operating' by itself."

Evaluating and debugging
A lot of Martin's time is spent evaluating and debugging software features and systems. "I am part of the development team even though I don't develop software anymore. I've come a step farther in the managing role, supporting the needs of production, ensuring the quality of the software and the 3D technology our system is producing. I'm researching new methods, implementations and workflows for production and integrating a lot of systems. I also train people, explaining how things work.

"We provide the entire 3D solution for a production, not just the rig but also the stereo image processor and all the systems in between to ensure that the quality of the 3D is very high." For The Hobbit, she notes, "Director Peter Jackson purchased all the equipment and systems from us.

"It's a change from the way it's been done in the past," she explains. "The production needs to have an engineer who knows how to use the system. For the director and the camera operator it's the same as a 2D shoot, but you need to add a few more people and understand the difference between 2D and 3D technology. 3ality Technica tries to provide as much automation as possible, so you don't really have to think about it. You can just push a button and the image will align itself. You can pretty much do a 3D shoot on a 2D schedule."

She does it 150 percent
Martin has members of the support team, tech workers and freelancers reporting to her directly. On the movie set she's also the supervisor responsible for training technicians and engineers.

"When I do something, I do it 150 percent. I work very hard, and I'm passionate about my job.

"I would be lying if I said it hasn't been difficult from time to time," she admits. "In production, women tend to be more on the artistic side. Even when I was in school in Germany, there weren't many women interested in writing algorithms and software.

"But when it comes to acceptance, I've never had any issues. The people I work with are highly technical, and they figure out pretty early that I know what I'm talking about."

Into computer science
Martin is from Augsburg, Germany, a small town near Munich. "I was essentially never out of Augsburg until I came to Los Angeles," she says. "I come from a science-driven family, and I always had an aptitude for math and chemistry. These were my strong suits, and where my interests were."

She also studied computer science. "The way you have to think about the logic you use is very helpful for troubleshooting on the set," she says. "It lets me fit well into that role.

"I loved to play computer games and a friend had a computer company where he was developing them. I interned there, did image processing and learned how to manipulate images. It's fascinating, because you get an outcome. You see something."

When Martin studied CS at the Augsburg University of Applied Sciences she started in the software area, expecting to go into software development. For her 2001 diploma thesis she did an analysis of images used in nuclear medicine.

Image processing
Then she learned that 3D Image Processing GmbH, a company in Kissing, near Augsburg, was looking for a software person to develop algorithms in 3D for industrial uses. Martin got the job and worked in algorithm research.

In 2005 the founder of what was then 3ality Digital decided that 3D Image Processing had exactly the capabilities he needed to develop really good 3D stereoscopic production. He acquired the company, changing the name to 3ality Digital Systems GmbH.

Martin was asked to go to Los Angeles in 2005, when 3ality Digital was working on post-production concert footage of U2 3D (The Movie). "It was the first movie 3ality made and there weren't many post-production facilities that were comfortable doing the work in 3D at that time.

"So they asked me to come over and develop editorial repositioning software to manipulate images. We could tweak the convergence and change the geometry of the picture, rotating, shifting, zooming, pushing in and all the things that are important for creating quality 3D."

Culture shock
"Coming to LA was a culture shock for me, and the first year was pretty difficult," she says. "I had to learn how to behave on set in terms of what to do and not to do.

"Production is a very traditional field here," she explains. "With the unions, you have to approach the right person to do anything. Just to plug something in, there are rules you have to follow. In Germany, it's not that extreme. You do whatever needs to be done."

She was supposed to stay only a few months but she's been in LA for six years. 3ality Digital Systems GmbH developed more algorithm-driven hardware, "and I stayed here to do the integration of everything coming from Germany."

Educating and training
"Our goal at 3ality Technica is to educate and train," Martin says. "There have been lots of classes and students from film schools, high schools and universities that come through here, and I'm often asked to give them an introduction.

"Every day I'm working on the edge of technology. I go one step at a time. There are so many things that are going to happen in this area, and I want to be part of them."


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