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You Visit Tour. Webb Lion Fountain. June 1 2017. Photo David B. Hollingsworth

Turning a Lifelong Dream into a Filmmaking Future

By Keith Pierce

Growing up, Daniel Perez knew he loved two things -movies and computers. At a very young age, he became a huge fan of Pixar because, for the first time, he saw his passions fused together. Recently, his dreams came true when the Old Dominion University Ph.D. student landed an internship with Pixar Animation Studios, a subsidiary of Walt Disney Studios.

"I applied for an internship with several big companies, like Google, Facebook and I did have a few other interviews," said Perez, a graduate research assistant in the Department of Computational Modeling and Simulation Engineering (CMSE). "But in the end, Pixar was the only that made me an offer, and I was very happy because it's the one I really wanted. I was very excited to be a part of Disney Studios."

Part of the computer graphics research team at Pixar, Perez worked as a studio tools research intern. He worked with the tools department responsible for developing the tools animators and artists use to create popular films such as "Toy Story," "Monsters, Inc.," "Coco" and more. He even had the opportunity to catch a sneak peek of upcoming films.

"There were a lot of screenings where we were able to review sequences of what some of the animators had so far and take part in Q-and-A's," Perez said. "There were also events and activities to learn about computer graphics. I also took advantage of free classes at Pixar University and learned a lot about how movies are made and how the animation industry works. It was all very interesting and very exciting."

Born and raised in Madrid, Spain, Perez came to the United States six years ago as a college student when his father, who worked with NATO, was assigned to Norfolk Naval Station. As a CMSE graduate research assistant, his focus is deep learning and computer graphics. He hopes to work in film or for a special effects company where he can apply his computer and simulation engineering knowledge to filmmaking.

"Computer graphics has a big impact on modeling and simulation because we need high-quality graphics to make simulations more realistic. That's why doing computer graphics research is so important to film animators, because they are looking to make animations as realistic as possible," he explained. "This internship at Pixar has given me contacts and experience useful for a future dream job."

Perez has a B.S. in computer engineering with a minor in computer science from ODU.

Learn more about Perez in the video below.

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