From Marvel to medical: the entertainment techies moving to medtech
Australia has been experiencing a surge in illustrators and developers moving into the medical industry in recent years. Chloe Kent speaks to Vantari VR senior technical artist Antonio Covelo to find out more about the trend.
t Australian virtual reality (VR) firm Vantari VR, several employees have joined the team after moving over from the entertainment industry. In the past two years alone, the Vantari VR team has been joined by senior technical artist Antonio Covelo and project manager Montgomery Guilhaus.
The recent hires both transitioned from the entertainment industry, having previously worked on Marvel and Disney films. This stands in stark contrast to 2015 when only four medical illustrators were working throughout the entire country.
Vantari VR delivers medical training through a VR headset synced up with a laptop, where clinicians can practice and perfect different medical procedures. The platform covers 90% of the procedures doctors need to learn about as part of their training, and users learn best practice by following college accredited steps in VR. It is used now as a digital logbook, but the firm has plans for future use as an accreditation platform too.
For Covelo, who is responsible for the artistic needs of the company, each day consists of tasks like asset generation, shader authoring, lighting and FX. All of this allows him to produce the visuals Vantari VR needs for its application and promotional material.
We caught up with him to learn more about why employees might move from entertainment technology to medtech and how they can apply their skills to the field.
Can you tell me a bit more about your background in the entertainment industry before moving to medtech?
Growing up I was always interested in working in film. When I went to university, I studied 3D animation and then started working in London in a VFX studio called Framestore. That was basically my dream come true, getting the opportunity to work in amazing movies.
I was an effects technical director, which meant I was involved with all of the visual effects that you see – like explosions, destructions, crowds moving. I did that for nearly nine years.
I’ve worked in quite a few films. Guardians of the Galaxy was a highlight. Early in my career I got to work on Gravity, which we won an Oscar for. Some other action films include John Wick and Spiderman, and I’ve worked on smaller movies that had more subtle visual effects like The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.
How did the skills you acquired in the entertainment industry help you when you moved into medtech?
At the end of the day, it’s a very similar line of work. We’re just trying to create a vision, a concept, and make it a reality. The main difference I guess is the output. When you’re working in the entertainment industry the output is shown on a big screen in a cinema. In our case, it might be in a medical paper, in a piece of marketing or particularly at Vantari it’s a virtual reality headset, but the skills are pretty much the same.
The main difference for me right now is that what we’re trying to do is in a real-time environment, which means that we need to be able to show these images in a video game-like environment as opposed to offline rendered, which is what we usually do in film. But we’re still trying to aim for the best quality of work and the best visuals to try and make the most appealing images.
What kind of work are you doing at Vantari VR at the moment?
At Vantari I’m one of the artists involved in the visual side of the application. Our main application is our VR headset designed to train students and clinicians in several procedures. When you put the headset on, you’re transported into a surgery room, you see a patient, all of the medical instruments, the shadows, the illumination everything you see, we create that.
I think one of the biggest highlights has been hearing the feedback from hospitals and other clinicians. The fact that the people who are using our application feel like this is helping them and contributing to their education is quite satisfying, knowing that to work you do is helping people who try to save other’s lives.
Vantari VR delivers medical training through a VR headset. Credit: Vantari VR
Can you talk me through the development process of a typical project at Ventari VR?
We usually start by looking at a particular procedure, then sit down with clinicians and ask what we need to see and how the procedure looks in real life. Then we go through all of the visual elements and break them down to the smaller factors.
One of the most important parts is having very close communication with the developers. At the end of the day, they’re the ones doing an incredible job putting everything together. While we make things look pretty, we need to make sure that our work is compliant with the standards that they’re trying to create.
We slowly go through every step of the process to make sure everything is working perfectly and slowly polish it to make sure that at the end we achieve the visual and practical fidelity that you would expect in a real-life scenario.
Why do you think there’s been a movement of people from the entertainment industry moving to medtech?
Part of it is the social impact. As you grow older, you start getting a bit outside of that whole shiny ‘working in movies’ spectrum. You realise that your skills can actually be used in a very positive way.
Beyond that, I think a lot of people are finding it allows for a lot of creativity that you might not find in the entertainment industry. Usually, it’s populated by big studios where you learn and grow a lot, but it has a very well-defined structure. Working in a separate field like medical, since it doesn’t have these big studios, artists can usually be more flexible trying out new skills and using their creativity in a much more satisfying way, knowing that the outcome is also positive.
The pandemic has definitely changed the way the industry sees working from home. People are a lot more comfortable knowing that you can do your job from home and it’s allowing people to look at opportunities in different ways. You don’t need to just work in movies, there’s a lot of companies doing other kinds of work that still need our skills and it’s become a lot more obvious during the past two years.
Do you think you’ll stay in healthcare for the foreseeable future?
I don’t see myself changing anytime soon. I’m very emotionally attached to the work that we do and I would like to see this go further and further. Personally, it probably helps that my family has a history of working in healthcare and it’s always been close to me, so being able to use my skills in this field is quite satisfying on a personal level.
What would you say to someone in the entertainment industry who might be considering a move into medtech?
Medtech is a huge area, there’s so much you can explore. It’s a growing environment and if anyone is curious about it, I would definitely say give it a go.
Main image: Vantari VR senior technical artist Antonio Covelo. Credit: Vantari VR