Dream job: Meet a guy who worked on Mad Max: Fury Road
Milton Adamou does post-production work on Hollywood blockbusters–and this year, one of them won big at the Oscars.
Milton Adamou works in the Hollywood dream factory.
As the head of post-production at visual effects company Stereo D, he turns 2-D movies into 3-D extravaganzas, and has worked on films like Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Jurassic Park and most recently Mad Max: Fury Road—which swept technical categories at the Oscars this year.
As a stereoscopic post executive and digital colorist, he’s living his dream job—but it’s not all glitz and glamor. “Everyone wants to work in this business,” he says. “But the reality is that for every cast and crew screening you’re invited to, there’s a lot of hard work and long hours that go into making a movie. Therefore you have to be persistent and patient.”
His contribution to films may be behind-the-scenes, but his detailed technical work directly contributes to a film’s overall effect, and ensures audiences have the blockbuster experience they expect.
“Every shot in every movie goes through multiple iterations to reach the perfection that people experience in the theatre,” says Adamou. “It is my job to shepherd those pictures through our pipeline and ensure that our artists are seeing their work on the big screen the way they’re intended to be seen.”
How he decided he wanted to work in entertainment
It might be hard to believe now, but Adamou’s first passion was a far cry from the cutting edge 3-D film production he’s involved with now. “I actually went to university to follow my true love of radio, but I moved over to the dark side when I discovered picture editing,” he says. “Once I decided I wanted to work in entertainment, I focused my studies toward that goal. I gained a BA in Time-Based Media and a Postgrad in Film and Television Production.
But unlike other industries, a good education is really only the first step to working in entertainment. Breaking in is the tougher part. “If you do get a job in the industry, at first it will likely be doing something way beneath your education level. But persistence pays off, and if you’re in it for the right reasons, there’s a good chance you’ll get your break sooner rather than later.”
His path to working in Hollywood
After finishing school in Cyprus and moving back to England, Adamou moved up the ranks from video duplication to corporate videos to graphics to online editing, freely moving between the role of artist and technologist.
“I have an insatiable thirst for knowledge related to the entertainment industry, and always try to look ahead at the trends shaping it,” he says.
That instinct has served him well. “Back in 2005 I sensed that stereoscopic 3-D was going to be huge,” he says. “I convinced the manufacturer I was working for at the time to develop a product that could manipulate stereo images in real-time, and in the process I became a specialist in 3-D.”
A typical day in stereo conversion
When you’re working on a Hollywood film, no day is quite like the one before it.
“Collaboration with the filmmakers is key to our success, which is why we meet with them early on in the process to discuss both the creative and technical aspects of their movie," says Adamou. "Based on these meetings we then internally decide on the setup, the team and the general approach we will take.”
“As shots get converted, we have continuous reviews with our own artists and the filmmakers themselves. It’s a gradual and methodical process. The funny thing is it never seems to matter how prepared we are - it’s always a mad dash at the end to deliver the movie on time, at the quality we’ve become known for.”
Advice for people trying to break into the business
“Pick up a camera,” says Adamou. “Shoot something. Cut it together to tell a story. Post it on YouTube!”
There’s never been a better time to be a filmmaker, he says. “The tools, the research, the stimuli, the delivery platforms that exist today could not have been imagined just ten years ago. However, the result of all of this is more competition, so make sure the passion is there, the commitment, and the desire to tell your story.”
The best thing about his job
Adamou’s favorite aspect of working in entertainment is that he gets to work on movies he grew up admiring and with the directors who made them, as when studios elect to re-release old favorites using stereoscopic technology. “I was part of the process when we converted Titanic and Jurassic Park to 3-D. It’s an honor to be entrusted with movies of this caliber,” says Adamou. “As you work with the best of the best, you hopefully rise to the occasion and become a better artist.”
Favorite film he worked on
Adamou has worked with huge directors on countless blockbuster films, but he says his favorite experience was the stereoscopic conversion of the original Jurassic Park. “It may have something to do with being invited over to Steven Spielberg’s theater to watch the movie with him. I’m not sure I could ever top that!”
As for his favorite part of working on Mad Max: Fury Road? “Watching the movie at the theatre with every other moviegoer and not believing that you were part of the process,” says Adamou.
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