Q&A: Hilmar Koch Joins Autodesk as Director of R&D

Hilmar Koch
Hilmar Koch

Hilmar Koch, former tech head of advanced development at ILMxLAB, has joined Autodesk as its first Director of Research & Development, The Future of Storytelling. The newly established team under Koch’s leadership is charged with reimagining Autodesk’s approach to building storytelling tools for film, TV, games and immersive content — and whatever comes next.

Koch was Technology Director of the Advanced Development Group at ILMxLAB, overseeing tech and creative teams and collaborating with partners on innovative storytelling projects, such as its first VR project, Jurassic World (with Felix & Paul). He was previously Director of Virtual Production at ILM, and his nearly two-decade stint at the company took him through posts as Head of CG, CG Dept. Supervisor, CG supe, TD and various artist roles on such films a Avatar, Star Trek and Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. Koch was also responsible for developing the Oscar-winning ambient occlusion technology used on Pearl Harbor.

A graduate of Columbia College Chicago and Technical University in Munich in Arts and Mathematics, respectively, Koch began his career at Blue Sky Studios. During his four years as a digital effects supe there, he guided the VFX team for the Oscar-winning animated short Bunny.

Below is a Q&A compiled by Autodesk for its In the Fold blog.

What drew you to Autodesk, Hilmar?

Hilmar Koch: Innovation and passion run in Autodesk’s DNA. The company’s commitment to continuously refining technology workflows for traditional and emerging storytelling mediums is admirable, and something I’m excited to be a part of. In the last year, Autodesk Media & Entertainment has made so many great choices, and their thirst for innovation is inspiring; I look forward to working with a supportive, passionate team to develop technology that will make a real difference in the years to come.

What excites you most about your new job?

Koch: We’re really surrounded by stories — major feature films, innovative architectural designs — but the way these stories are told is about to undergo a major transition thanks to AR and VR. Autodesk is investing heavily in the future of storytelling, with a new group dedicated to developing tools for immersive mediums. With my creative and technical background, and experience in immersive content, I am looking forward to working with this team as we push the limits of technology to break new ground, nurturing team spirit, contributing both creatively and technically.

Tell us about your design philosophy.

Koch: I am most satisfied when technology peels away and creatives can collaborate as a team, explore the creative space nimbly and communicate their ideas eloquently.

Who inspires you?

Koch: Discoverers and travelers like Ibn Battuta (who travelled the world in the 14th century), James Holman (the blind traveler) and Mau Piailug (the star navigator). They had the courage and curiosity to travel the world for the sheer wonder of it, listening and observing the subtlest of detail. They all emerged with stories of fantastic discoveries, which in turn inspired others. I admire that spirit immensely. Imagine the people they met on the journey!

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