Andrew Chalmers

After graduating Andrew Chalmers started a postdoctoral fellowship with the Computational Media Innovation Centre.

Imagine the shadow that a dinosaur would cast as it steps onto the student campus. This is all in a day’s study for Victoria University of Wellington post-doctoral researcher Dr Andrew Chalmers.

Dr Chalmers works at the University’s new Computational Media Innovation Centre, using technology to summon up imaginary creatures in scenes from normal life and real-world lighting to make the fantasy come alive.

It’s been quite a journey for the passionate video gamer, who moved to New Zealand from Australia in 2007 to join his Kiwi girlfriend and long-term partner, Juliet Mohi.

Dr Chalmers began studying at Victoria University of Wellington in 2009. He chose to do a double degree, studying for a Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy and a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science.

He found the University the perfect place to study both.

“Victoria already had the strongest humanities and science programme in the Wellington region. And now it has the best Computer Graphics [programme] in the southern hemisphere because of its unique mix of artistry and science.”

Dr Chalmers went on to do Honours in Computer Graphics, and was the first student to be selected to do practical course work at the world-leading Wellington-based visual effects company Weta Digital.

He says there is a nice collaboration between the University and Weta Digital, with the company giving Honours students practical experience and providing guest lecturers for the programme.

After finishing his Honours degree, Dr Chalmers was hired by Weta as a summer intern and asked to develop a search tool for their database of 360-degree panoramic images.

He was able to use this industry experience to develop a topic for his doctoral research.

“For my PhD, instead of searching for these images based on what they looked like, I was searching the image based on how it lights the scene.”

The technique he developed helps create realistic lighting in mixed reality. Since then, Dr Chalmers and his colleagues have formed a spinoff company, DreamFlux, to commercialise their technology.

He is now extending the work in his post-doctoral research, looking to extrapolate lighting patterns in other mediums.

Dr Chalmers has plenty of avenues for a future career, whether it be in academia, as a games designer or as an entrepreneur.

But for now, he’s enjoying the chance to mix it up, designing computer games in his spare time and doing the research he loves during the day.