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RIT alumni foreshadow how technology, arts and design will change the future

Among its many lessons, the pandemic has opened the eyes of many industries to the future, according to Aaron Gordon ’13 (film and animation), CEO of Optic Sky, an advertising and digital experience production company he founded in 2014.

“I manage 87 directors working with technology everywhere,” said Gordon, a serial entrepreneur and executive producer whose business has evolved to offer commercial television production, social video, animation, augmented reality (AR ), virtual reality (VR), virtual production and interactive experiences for clients such as Google, Wegmans and Zillow, among others.

Discover Imagine RIT

After going virtual for 2021, thousands of people descended on the Rochester Institute of Technology campus Saturday for an in-person Imagine RIT: Creativity and Innovation Festival, which featured more than 250 exhibits across campus from more than 1 800 students and teachers. Read more.

Gordon joined Franklyn Athias ’85 (IT), CTO and Senior Vice President of Xfinity Mobile Retail Convergence, and Erin Sarofsky ’98 (Graphic Design), ’00 MFA (Infographic Design), an award-winning creative visionary who creates storytelling projects for leading brands and entertainment, at the Futurists Symposium at this year’s Imagine RIT Festival: Creativity and Innovation.

Hosted by RIT President David Munson and moderated by WXXI “Connections” host Evan Dawson, the event was held at the Wegmans Theater inside the RIT MAGIC Center. It was also available to watch live on the Imagine RIT website.

Gordon wowed audiences with a video created for RIT’s electric vehicle team. Produced two years ago using the latest advancements in virtual production (VP) within MAGIC Spell Studios, RIT’s world-class digital media research and production facility, VP combines filmmaking, 3D graphics, computer photography and real-time game engine rendering to produce in-camera visual effects similar to those seen in groundbreaking work on Disney’s The Mandalorian and Marvel’s Avenger films.

“At any given time, we can work with between 50 and 200 freelancers,” noted Gordon, whose “digital experience” division is full of projects. A jazz drummer who finds rhythm in all things and bases both his business and creative ethos on syncopated beats and flow, he referenced a Snapchat partnership that will deliver never-before-seen immersive AR, VR and web social experiences previously.

“When you’re a creative nerd, it helps you predict what the world will look like in 20, 30, 40 years,” he said. “Prepare for this.”

Athias, who leads his division’s overall technology strategy and helps ensure alignment of the architecture and product portfolio for the next era of wireless communication, said “thanks to COVID, I no longer need jump on a plane, and I’ve never been more productive.

“It was easy for me to adapt, because in the 80s I was already experimenting with innovative technologies here at RIT,” said Athias, who during his more than 25-year career at Comcast, has Managed numerous IP architecture programs and initiatives for cable modem broadband services.

“Everything with technology has always been about going faster,” Athias added.

“Connectivity is going to be four times faster than you do today,” he predicted. “It’s all about speed and bandwidth and people are going to be amazed at what they’re going to see and experience in a few years.”

Since launching her design and production services company in Chicago, Sarofsky has become well known for creating innovative title sequences and credits for film and television, including Captain America: The Winter Soldier, guardians of the galaxy, The Suicide Squadand strange doctor, among others. She was featured in a CBS Sunday morning report on creative title sequences.

“My works embody technology, art and design, so I think it’s great that RIT has adapted these pillars across the university,” Sarofsky said.

His acclaimed work also includes writing and directing an original short film that showcases the possibilities of Apple’s iMac Pro.

Sarofsky uses many different technologies, venturing into the AR and VR space, but design guides everything the company does.

“These larger projects require expertise and infrastructure beyond anything you can imagine today, from security to the VFX (visual effects) pipeline for color space, resolution and stereoscopic 3D,” said she declared.