By Horace Holloman
ATLANTA – Joel Mack has evolved from playing video games set in virtual worlds to working with a variety of big-name clients to bring their visions – and characters – to life.
Mack fell in love with virtual reality and game design when his father brought home a PlayStation 2 console and The Matrix game, based on the 1999 sci-fi film about life in a simulated reality.
Through the company he co-founded, Actor Capture, he helps individuals and companies create “digital humans” – animated 2D and 3D characters that appear lifelike.
Mack, who is graduating from Georgia State University this spring with a bachelor’s degree in interdisciplinary studies in game design and development, said that becoming familiar with gaming at an early age isn’t just about enjoying a hobby is made. It was a life changing experience.
“I feel like gaming has saved me from trouble and bad influences,” he said. “It really changed the trajectory of my life.”
Since its inception in 2020, Actor Capture has worked with powerful companies such as Warner Bros. Studios, BET and FOX on motion capture for advanced animation projects.
Actor Capture also collaborated with Grammy Award-winning rap artist Cardi B for a sequel to her Facebook series Cardi Tries. As a result, Cardi B is transformed into a playable character using motion capture technology. The episode has garnered more than 5 million views.
Mack started at Georgia State as an economics major. A class project took him down the rabbit hole of the technology and academic offerings of the Creative Media Industries Institute (CMII).
At CMII, students have rare access to cutting-edge technology and instruction from faculty who have extensive experience using new technology at the highest commercial level. CMII facilities include a performance capture studio with multi-camera motion capture, volumetric and virtual production technologies, and advanced capture software systems.
“I never thought there were so many tools in the state of Georgia,” Mack said. “It all came together and opened up so many ideas for me.”
Mack has worked on several virtual reality-based projects during his time in the state of Georgia, including a business card that allows users to see a 3D display of the person or business by pointing their phone at the card. The effect is reminiscent of the scene from “Star Wars” when Princess Leia delivers a call for help beamed by a robot.
“There have been virtual business cards before, but there hasn’t been a volumetric business card like this where you can have an exact copy of the person,” Mack said. “Every reaction I heard was ‘Wow, that’s cool’ or ‘That’s amazing.’ That’s the future.”
After graduating, Mack plans to join his father in real estate while continuing to grow his actor capture business.
“I’m 23 and I’m jumping into these industries and trying to get my name out there,” he said.
Photo by Carolyn Richardson