The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

Sophomore LHP Shane Sdao (38) reacts after a strikeout during Texas A&Ms game against Texas at Disch-Falk Field on Tuesday, March 5, 2024. (CJ Smith/The Battalion)
A Sunday salvage
May 12, 2024
The Northgate district right adjacent to the Texas A&M campus houses a street of bars and other restaurants.  
Programs look to combat drunk driving
Alexia Serrata, JOUR 203 contributor • May 10, 2024
Junior Mary Stoiana reacts during Texas A&M’s match against Oklahoma at the NCAA Women’s Tennis Regional at Mitchell Tennis Center on Sunday, May 5, 2024. (CJ Smith/The Battalion)
No. 13 A&M upsets No. 5 Virginia in dominant fashion, 4-1
Roman Arteaga, Sports Writer • May 17, 2024

No. 13 Texas A&M women’s tennis met Virginia in the quarterfinal of the NCAA Tournament on Friday, May 17 at the Greenwood Tennis Center...

Beekeeper Shelby Dittman scoops bees back into their hive during a visit on Friday, April 5, 2024. (Kyle Heise/The Battalion)
Bee-hind the scenes
Shalina Sabih, Sports Writer • May 1, 2024

The speakers turn on. Static clicks. And a voice reads “Your starting lineup for the Texas A&M Aggies is …” Spectators hear that...

Kennedy White, 19, sits for a portrait in the sweats she wore the night of her alleged assault inside the Y.M.C.A building that holds Texas A&M’s Title IX offices in College Station, Texas on Feb. 16, 2024 (Ishika Samant/The Battalion).
'I was terrified'
April 25, 2024
Scenes from 74
Scenes from '74
April 25, 2024
Farewell from the graduating Battalion staff of 2024
Farewell from the graduating Battalion staff of 2024
The Battalion May 4, 2024

The invisible artist


Tyson Voelkel is the president of the Texas A&M Foundation.

Howdy Ags,
Admittedly, I’m not what you would call “up-to-date” when it comes to TV shows. Between fulfilling my duties at the Texas A&M Foundation and at home, there’s just not enough time in the day to binge-watch all the pop culture I’ve fallen behind on. Which is a shame, because even I know how anticipated this last season of “Game of Thrones” is for those avid watchers around me. I find myself intrigued and amazed by how so many different people are drawn into the series’ big, fantastic, fictional world. But what’s even more fascinating is how those worlds are built in the first place.
Few know more about that than Derek Spears ’91. Spears is a visual effects artist who has more than 25 production credits on major studio films and TV shows. Some of the most notable include “Superman Returns,” “The Walking Dead,” “X-Men: Days of Future Past” and, yes, even “Game of Thrones.” Before he found himself in Hollywood, Spears was a second-generation Aggie from Spring, Texas, who studied electrical engineering. After graduation, he began a career in software development, but switched gears when he discovered the huge potential for digital effects in the entertainment industry.
In creating visual effects, Spears mentions the importance of getting “out of the way” and letting his team’s effects tell a story, rather than making stories that show off his team’s effects. When he and his team are doing their job well, he says, their work is practically invisible to the common viewer.
For example, one of the biggest problems his team encountered while working on “Game of Thrones” was digitally placing a real actress, Emilia Clarke, on a virtual flying dragon. Through problem solving and teamwork, they created stunning yet functional scenes that allow the audience to focus on what is happening with the characters. Their ability in these scenes to sustain the audience’s suspension of disbelief, or their willingness to accept the impossible for the sake of enjoyment, earned Spears and his team three Emmy awards for Outstanding Special Visual Effects on “Game of Thrones” in 2015, 2016 and 2018.
That virtue of putting the big picture before one’s own interests is a lesson we could all stand to remember from time to time. Oftentimes, the leadership that happens behind the scenes is what makes the finished product shine. Even though Spears and his team don’t get their names on posters or receive invitations to appear on late-night talk shows, their hard work allows fans everywhere to escape into a world as vast as imagination itself.
Thanks and Gig ’em,
Tyson Voelkel ’96
President, Texas A&M Foundation

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