Queen’s University announces £2.5m investment in virtual production lab

  • Queen's University Belfast has announced a major investment in a new interdisciplinary research facility focusing on virtual production for the screen industries.

    If you've been captivated recently by the hit TV show The Mandalorian, you've already seen some of the impressive results that can be obtained from a world-class virtual production facility. What you might not know is that Northern Ireland is set to get its own virtual production research lab thanks to some major investments and new tech.

    Named MediaLab, the new facility will focus on R&D in virtual production and helping train people in the skills required for virtual production roles. The lab aims to take advantage of Northern Ireland's existing film industry and arts sector in addition to its significant tech sector and local computer science expertise.

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    Virtual production tech takes advantage of recent advances in video game engine technology to deliver realistic graphics in realtime. Rather than recording footage in front of a green screen and then having to process the video afterward, for example, a virtual production set would apply the greenscreen in realtime so that directors can make changes on the fly.

    A virtual production setup can also involve rendering scenes to massive LED screens behind or surrounding the actors, providing accurate lighting and reflections for the scene. A real camera can even be synchronised with a virtual camera inside a scene in a game engine such as Unreal Engine or Unity so that the perspective moves correctly as the actor walks across the set.

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    While virtual production was already taking off before the pandemic, it's become even more important as many people are now working remotely. These studios have begun popping up all over the world and require a lot of new technical skills that people will need to be trained in, which is one of MediaLab's goals.

    Professor Ian Greer, President and Vice-Chancellor of Queen’s University Belfast, said: "The MediaLab at Queen’s will create a unique multidisciplinary project that will harness creativity, science and technology in support of new research pathways, while offering innovative skills provision and industry-led R&D that will feed directly into the screen industries in Northern Ireland.

    "This investment in research and upskilling will be crucial as we emerge from these challenging times and look towards recovery and regeneration. Critically it delivers key investment now in R&D that complements the City Deal initiatives in Screen and Media."

    Source: Written based on press release

    About the author

    Brendan is a Sync NI writer with a special interest in the gaming sector, programming, emerging technology, and physics. To connect with Brendan, feel free to send him an email or follow him on Twitter.

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