By Horace Holloman

ATLANTA — Joel Mack has gone from playing video games set in virtual worlds to working with a host of big-name clients to bring their visions — and characters — to life.

When his father brought home a PlayStation 2 console and the game The Matrix, based on the 1999 sci-fi film about life inside a simulated reality, Mack fell in love with virtual reality and game design.

Through the company he co-founded, Actor Capture, he helps individuals and businesses create “digital humans” — animated 2D and 3D characters who appear lifelike.

Mack, who is graduating from Georgia State this spring with a Bachelor of Interdisciplinary Studies in Game Design and Development, said getting introduced to gaming at an early age wasn’t just about enjoying a hobby. It was a life-changing experience.

“I feel like gaming kept me out of trouble and kept me away from bad influences,” he said. “It really changed the trajectory of my life.”

Since its inception in 2020, Actor Capture has worked with high-powered firms such as Warner Bros. Studios, BET and FOX on motion capture for advanced animation projects.

Actor Capture also worked with Grammy Award-winning rap artist Cardi B for an installment of her Facebook series, “Cardi Tries.” In the episode, Cardi B is transformed into a playable game 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 technology and academic offerings at the Creative Media Industries Institute (CMII).

At CMII, students have rare access to state-of-the-art technology and instruction from faculty extensively experienced in using new technologies at the highest commercial levels. CMII’s facilities include a performance-capture studio with multicamera motion capture, volumetric and virtual production technologies, and advanced capture software systems.

“I never knew there were so many tools at Georgia State,” Mack said. “Everything started coming together, and it opened up so many ideas for me.”

Mack has worked on multiple virtual reality-based projects while at Georgia State, including a business card that allows users to view 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 plea for help beamed from a robot.

“There have been virtual business cards done before, but there haven’t been volumetric business cards like this, where you can have an exact replication of the person,” Mack said. “Every reaction I’ve heard is, ‘Wow, this is cool,’ or ‘This is amazing.’ This is the future.”

After graduation, Mack plans to join his father in the real estate industry while continuing to grow his Actor Capture business.

“I’m 23 and I’m jumping into these industries and trying to put my name out there,” he said.

Photo by Carolyn Richardson

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