Dealing with a broken world requires magic
Something a magician knows vey well is that reality is nothing but the illusion of our senses, and the world is just what our minds wants to make of it.
Controlling this power, modern wizards create alternative realities for movies and advertisement, transporting millions of viewers into the infinite realm of imagination…
So, once my health recovered I end up gravitating into the Visual Effects arts. Perhaps as a way to alter reality beyond the things I couldn’t change. Thus starting as an assistant I quickly turned into Compositing Technical Director in the most important studio in my country.
And in 2006 our pioneering team released the first movie entirely post produced using digital technologies in Latin America. It was a great leap for all the artists and engineers involved and started a new era in the region for the digital visual effects.
The movie was so revolutionary that the Mexican Academy of Film Arts and Sciences had to create a new “Visual Effects” category to properly recognize the studio’s work. (It was a first of its kind event since the foundation of this iconic institution in 1940).
So following this tune by 2007 I was already a reference on the visual effects scene. Fellow professionals would ask for my advise in the most ambitious projects and the next natural step was to create my own studio.
I cofounded VoodooFX with my friend Ivan Villavicencio in Mexico City, and a few years later we won the Best Visual Effects award in the most important national competition “pantalla de cristal” for a wonderful videoclip we fully produce under the direction of Ivan and Raul Vazquez.
Engineering is also art.
While all this was happening I got an iPhone in my hands, and it blew my mind. I would spend hours downloading games and visual apps mesmerized by the magic of such a tiny super computer.
The limits between engineering and art has always been blurry to me.
–I frequently consider that programming is writing poetry that animates the machine’s souls — .
Around 2009 I partnered with the agency Random Interactive to build state of the art multitouch surfaces, holograms, augmented reality, video mappings, robots, Kinect installations and all sorts of bleeding edge technology.
Among those experiments in 2011 I released Kromath, the first app ever to apply the “hollywood” green-screen-effect on a realtime video coming from the Iphone 4s camera. Although I built that as a tool for myself and fellow VFX supervisors it got noticed by the US site Mashable and being an authority on tech news it spread like wildfire. It was my first successful app and it happened almost by accident.
I continued my research on mobile devices and visual effects, and the same year invented an innovative technique to augment human skin in a live video feed. This effect would make you look like a cute leopard or a giraffe for your personal amusement. The final goal was to find a way to correct skin imperfections and augment “perceptual beauty” on real time.
Once again this tech was many years ahead of its time (if we consider what the snapchat lenses does today). But still I published a draft paper somewhere to share my findings — and this would bring an unexpected outcome some time later…
There is always a bigger plan
So you see, after my visa was rejected and my road to Silicon Valley copped I felt pretty neglected to the idea of asking again the favor of “uncle sam”. It was a pretty humiliating experience and no matter the general opinion that I had to go back there I constantly neglected it.
Instead I have built a close network of brilliant developers an artists, exceptional and passionate minds from which I have learned a lot and although we always had to work on the limitations of a sub-developed economy, the pride of making things to happen no matter the adversity always had a pretty tasty flavor.
I had decided to grow with the people that truly believed in me. Together we shall show the world that innovation has no walls and no limits.
But destiny had again unexpected plans. Life conjured a series of very tragic events that forced my family and me to search for refugee outside our country. Only in those extreme circumstances is how I finally came back to play the US immigration tune.
Changing outdated laws
It wasn’t too hard to find international companies interested in my work. The biggest challenge came at the moment of qualifying for a work visa: As a self-taught professional I had no formal evidence of my knowledge and I didn’t really care about making a scrapbook of my previous achievements.
So the first thing we tried was to obtain a university degree. But the law considered I was too young to apply for it.
In Mexico education is controlled by the government and they are the only authority that certificates studies of any level. They offered a program where self-taught professionals could obtain a university certification trough a series of exams and by proving at least ten years of professional experience.
At that moment I had fully qualified with all requirements except one. The government required a minimum age of 30 years old to apply. I was shocked. Once again age was a reason to limit my personal development.
My mother, the brilliant attorney Aurora Cotne, decided to bring the case to the courts as it was a clear violation of my human rights. So sustained in the rulings of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights and after years of intense litigation we won the case.
Eventually this forced the government to remove that backward-looking requirement and more remarkably, this make easier for future applicants to certify their knowledge regardless of age.
This was a great win for our country but as many time happens with big legislation changes it came way late for the impending needs we were facing.
So long before the courts had determinate my right to be certified as a Computer Science engineer I had already started my career in the US as what I know to do best: as a learner and student.