Profile: John Leedham - Head of Systems Architecture


We regularly share profiles on our artists and supervisors, but we want to spread the net a bit wider and introduce the world to some of our unsung heroes; the tech, editorial and production team members who make everything possible.

We thought we’d start with John Leedham, our Head of Systems Architecture. John brings an invaluable broad variety of skills and experience to NVIZ, from his work in the creative world with Framestore and Rushes to larger scale storage projects with Pixit Media and HP. Combined with his incredible knowledge, aptitude for workflows and hardware and software solutions, this makes John really special.  Let’s face it, without John and his team, we’d be swapping drawings on post-it notes!  

Not surprisingly, he’s pretty busy, but we got him to answer a few questions about his day, and just how he got to be so clever.

What do you do? 

I have an overall view of the technical architecture of the company, in terms of hardware, networks, rendering, storage, and also touch over into the software side of things to make sure the overall combination of software+hardware works well for the company.

What did you study?

I've been a computer programmer for most of my life - I wrote my first around 40 years ago at the age of 6, and have never really stopped (although I tend to compartmentalise it more now since I have other things in my life!). I studied Computation at Oxford before deciding to branch out into the more practical side of IT by doing a Masters in Electronic Media, which is where I first experienced the joys of video editing, and made friends with some industry people.

What's your path into the industry? 

From university, I went into several smaller organisations specialising in digital workflows and data management, in areas from textual corpora to wildlife film-making. The big change I made was choosing to jump off that path more specifically into VFX, when I took a more junior job at Framestore. After a spell at a vendor, the fact that flexible and remote working in the industry is possible has meant I could return back to being closer to the end-product.

Who's your favourite filmmaker/artist and why? 

I'm a sucker for a good action movie, (and a bad one!) and Luc Besson's stuff usually works for me. 

Is there a show you are working on right now that you can talk about?

As I work across the company, I work on all shows or none depending on your perspective.  I’m not usually allowed to mention them!

Are you exploring any new workflows, production, personally and company-wide?

Always! At present I'm mostly focussed on larger company wide scale things, such as improving the project lifecycle management (from first contact through to final destruction), as well as enabling more efficiency through self-service capabilities for staff.

What do you think is the most important development in VFX recently?

I think the move to quality "beyond games" is a really interesting future - at what point does film-making no longer need ever more accurate photo-realism? Can real-time technology play a part in making better films with lower final pixel quality by allowing people to spend more time on refining the storytelling process and less time waiting for computation.

What’s your work highpoint/achievement/proudest moment?

It’s got to be going to the premier of Narnia : Prince Caspian at the O2. The screen was huge, and it was my first roller credit. "DI systems Architect" and my name was in 6 foot high letters in front of thousands.

What’s special about NVIZ?

NVIZ isn't like a traditional VFX company - we can't be, since the work we do is necessarily boutique. Where we win is in the type of person we have, and the social interactions that breeds. People have a work/life balance. They work remotely. They work part-time. They take days off! This all breeds a far nicer and more friendly atmosphere, where we get the job done together, rather than a strict hierarchy or one way management.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received, or would like to give to aspiring visual artists?

Being happy is more important than being successful. If you have the skills, success will come.