Some people find solutions to work-related problems by sleeping on them or taking long walks. Software and visual effects designer Peter Litwinowicz goes to dance class.
"Dance is a full brain-body activity. You have to think about every part of your body moving, so you don't have time to think about anything else," explains Litwinowicz, whose San Francisco-area company RE:Vision Effects won an Engineering Emmy Award last year for its VFX and video processing software.
"I actually call it my meditation. I'll call my business partner and say, 'I've solved the problem while at class, in the back of my mind somewhere.' Working on one thing gives you the information to solve the other."
Litwinowicz has loved both computers and dance from childhood. He discovered modern dance in college, gravitating to its individualized, emotional feel over more formalized ballet, and became a dancer, teacher and choreographer. He cofounded and served as coartistic director of the troupe Dance Continuum SF, which performed from 2007 to 2012.
Meanwhile, his tech career was also taking flight. Having worked at various companies — including Apple, where he developed and patented products for designers and animators — Litwinowicz cofounded RE:Vision with Pierre Jasmin in 1998. In 2004, the miniseries Dreamkeeper, which used their software, won an Emmy for special visual effects and in 2007, the two won a Technical Achievement Award from the Motion Picture Academy for their software products.
"We try to provide mostly fix-it tools, such as to slow down something," he says. Conversely, motion blur is also a popular offering.
Software and dance are more alike than one might think, Litwinowicz notes; the inspirational spark needed to create a software program is similar to that required for choreographing. And foremost, he says, is "motion and timing of motion — it's just that one is with the body, and one is with pixels moving on a screen."
During the pandemic, RE:Vision's business rebounded once production resumed. And Litwinowicz, whose 2019 short film Daydreaming had played dance film festivals, spent time directing and creating effects for San Francisco choreographer Lizz Roman's Shelter in Place series of short films shot in dancers' homes.
"Not very many people have two loves of what they want to do in their life, and are able to do both of them," he reflects. "I feel very blessed."
This article originall appeared in emmy magazine, Issue No. 7, 2021