Amy Calcote lives and works at the corner of Art and Science. As the Post Production Manager for Vicon’s House of Moves, one of Hollywood’s most prestigious motion capture studios, she’s able to blend her years of experience as a mechanical engineer with her distinctive creative spirit. And the results, which are no less than magical, can be seen in some of the top feature films, commercials and video games. But it wasn’t always so rewarding.
As a student at Houston’s Rice University, Amy spent years pursuing her dream of a career in engineering. But after spending five years in the engineering labs at Corning, she knew in her heart that a big part of her life was lacking. “It was challenging and technically interesting,” says Amy, “but it wasn’t really speaking to the creative side of me.” It was time to go. But to where?
“I was talking to my brother one day he had moved out to L.A. to work in the business – and I said, you know, I’m really not sure that this is what I should be doing with my life. It’s just not fulfilling me.” Amy pauses, remembering the moment that changed everything for her. “And he says, what you need is to be able to combine your technical abilities and your creative talent. You need to look into the world of visual effects. And I thought, wow, why hadn’t that ever dawned on me before?” At about the same time, Corning, which was going through a downturn, offered Amy a seven-month severance package. “It meant I could get paid to change careers,” she recalls with glee. “And so, I sold my house, packed my stuff and off I went.”
Cut to her first gig as a PA on an HBO film. “I was really overqualified for the job, which is the story with almost every PA in Hollywood.” That was also about the time she joined First Entertainment. “I was familiar with credit unions,” Amy says, “so when HBO offered me the opportunity to sign up, I thought it was a fabulous idea. Right away, they helped me refinance my car and lower my monthly payments. It was a huge help and I’ve been with the credit union every since, going on six years.” Amy continued to pursue visual effects, and spent a year and a half at Rhythm and Hues.
Amy’s biggest break came when she interviewed at House of Moves. They recognized immediately that here was someone at the top of her game, and she was hired within two days.
Though Amy has only been with House of Moves three years, she’s risen fast. “It’s been phenomenal because I’ve gone from being a mocap (motion capture) artist to helping out on stage to learning all the programs. From having the technical director teach me to becoming his replacement to becoming a producer. From my boss deciding that he wanted to leave the company after ten years, to me taking over his position. It’s really just been an amazing ride.”
Recognized as a pioneer and innovator, House of Moves uses the most sophisticated motion capture technology in the world. Amy explains, “We do something called optical motion capture. We place highly retroreflective markers on the actor, and our cameras take the reflected light data and feed it back to the computer which takes all that data and does something very similar to cell phone technology where it triangulates the signal. At that point, that’s where my team and I come into play.”
It’s technology directors love, because at the time of shooting, they don’t have to worry about camera placement. Instead, in post, they can move the camera anywhere they want in 360º space, which is very freeing creatively.
“One of the reasons I find the industry so exciting,” Amy says, “is that it is in a constant state of change. That’s what I love about my job. It’s always going to be fascinating and I never have to worry about being bored.”
Outside of work, Amy is equally passionate about her other interests, which include historical costume making, belly dancing and modeling. Yep, it’s a long way from the engineering labs at Corning.
Amy’s passion for all things is evident, including her thoughts about her credit union. “I just want to tell everyone that First Entertainment has been fantastic, and I’m not getting paid to say this! They handle my direct deposits, they give me personal service, and when I can’t make it to the branch over at Sony, their ATM is right next to my gym. I can’t imagine ever going to a regular bank.” Those are just the kind of words we’re proud to capture. And we didn’t even have to put markers on. Thanks, Amy.