Last week I visited an exciting new facility on campus, The Void. This industry-standard motion capture studio is the largest of its kind in South Australia and one of the biggest in the country.
Motion capture is the process of recording a moving object with sensors and is often used in films to create animated characters. You may remember one of the most well-known examples of early motion capture in the behind-the-scenes footage of the creation of Gollum for the Lord of the Rings films.
These days motion capture technology is not only 3D, but it can also capture more precise facial movements as well as dynamic background scenes with a level of photo-realism we have never before been able to capture.
The Void gives our students and researchers a place to explore the most cutting-edge developments in digital screen production for screen projects like movies and commercials, as well as game production.
The latest additions to The Void are two large LED display walls that, when synchronised to cameras and actors via motion capture, can create virtual locations and sets that integrate seamlessly with the performers and props. From a historic city location to a far-flung alien world landscape, the walls render backgrounds and light patterns of any location a film director needs, all in real-time and able to be photographed with traditional cameras. This technique is called ‘virtual production’ and was used extensively in the Star Wars series The Mandalorian.
This technology is so new there are no text books on how to use it and there is significant demand from the industry. This means our Creative Arts students are able to learn hands on, experimenting with newest technology and through Work Integrated Learning (WIL) opportunities with industry partners. This will give our graduates a competitive edge and a career path in this booming industry.
In addition to providing an educational space for our students, The Void also provides a valuable interface with industry by providing a space to experiment at the cutting-edge of the new ‘creative economy’.
This technology also has scope for application in many of our other disciplines. For example, it could be used to simulate an archaeological dig site so our archaeology students can immerse themselves in a cyber-site while they don’t have the opportunity to travel.
Flinders University has some of the greatest minds in the country, and I look forward to seeing the many ways our creative researchers use this technology. I am also looking forward to seeing what our students come up with in this innovative space and hearing about their experiences of WIL before they launch their own careers in this exciting field.