The Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) has launched a SG$5 million virtual production innovation fund to support the local media industry to develop the capabilities needed to harness virtual production technology.
IMDA will undertake a two-pronged approach to build capabilities in virtual production, enabling media companies and talent to keep up with global production practices to remain competitive. They are developing talent skilled in virtual production and investing in production and capability development for Singapore enterprises and talent.
According to IMDA, virtual production technology uses LED screens to display realistic background environments for TV or movie scenes powered by video game engine. This enables the camera to capture actors and visual effects in real-time. Production will no longer need to be dependent on location, road closures, location fees and permits as well as the weather, set construction and space rental.
This technology presents a unique opportunity for Singapore to overcome its physical limitations such as limited sites for on-location shooting and space to build extensive sets. Virtual production is also said to be able to transform the creative process of storytelling as local storytellers can recreate locations from the past or any imaginable environment, allowing us to produce content that Singapore was not able to before.
IMDA added that there is also a strong signal from global media players that virtual production technology will be widely used in film and television production and will become the industry norm in the coming years, which adds impetus for our media industry to adopt virtual production.
First prong: Developing talent skilled in virtual production
To train media professionals to use this technology, IMDA has partnered with the National Film and Television School (NFTS) in the UK to tailor the school’s certificate in virtual production course to meet the local industry’s needs.
According to IMDA, 15 Singapore media lecturers, trainers and industry professionals will receive hands-on training at NFTS’s virtual production facilities as well as attend lectures conducted virtually from December 2022 to April 2023. A series of industry-led master classes and workshops, conducted by international virtual production experts, will be rolled out over the next 12 months.
Guest speakers from virtual production front-runners XON Studios, ROE Creative Display, and Disguise will conduct hands-on demonstrations and cover topics ranging from best practices in virtual production workflow to creative applications of various technologies in storytelling.
For a start, Aux Media, a company specialising in creating immersive experiences in Singapore, held a showcase at the Asia TV Forum and Market recently to demonstrate how virtual production can add value to creative storytelling.
Second prong: Investing in production and capability development for Singapore enterprises and talent
IMDA will also support local companies to experiment with virtual production to realise their creative vision for short-form content, such as music videos, short films, brand commercials, amongst others.
From now until 15 February 2023, companies can submit their proposed content concepts. Proposals will be evaluated based on their creative appeal and ability to best use virtual production technology to bring their project’s creative vision to fruition.
IMDA will fund up to 50% of the project’s cost for selected proposals. By supporting these projects, the local industry will deepen their understanding of how virtual production can help them lift their creativity to the next level and produce even more interesting content.
In addition, IMDA is collaborating with Epic Games, creator of the advanced real-time 3D creation tool, Unreal Engine, which powers games such as Fortnite, to run an industry challenge.
Commencing in the first quarter of 2023, the challenge will encourage companies to experiment with and use Unreal Engine for virtual production. Teams with shortlisted projects will receive direct mentorship and training from Epic, while also receiving prize money from IMDA to support content production.
Justin Ang, assistant chief executive, media, innovation, communications and marketing, IMDA, said that the development of virtual production technology in recent years now allows the industry to create visual effects in real-time without physical set production and with that, overcome the limitations of space, scale and complexity.
Ang added: “The impossible can be made possible, limited only by the imagination of our filmmakers. We are excited to see more innovative and compelling stories resulting from the use of virtual production to strengthen Singapore’s position as a hub for content and IP creation.”
Despite its size, there is an abundance of incredible creative talent in Singapore, and tools such as Unreal Engine are essential in helping filmmakers and production studios today reimagine storytelling and create stunning imagery in real time, said Dean Reinhard, evangelist and senior technical account manager, Epic Games.
“We are thrilled to work with IMDA to help train and support these local talents on maximising the use of these incredibly powerful tools and resources available to them,” Reinhard said.
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