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Three key highlights on Advanced Media Production at BEYOND 2023

Posted 21 Dec 2023


BEYOND 2023 is an annual conference for thinkers, makers, investors and researchers across the creative industries, exploring the relationship between creative research and business innovation. This two-day conference was held in November 2023 the core theme shining a spotlight on the huge role UK creatives are playing in building some extraordinary ground-breaking projects as part of collaborative, international teams.

At BEYOND 2023, ​​Jessica Driscoll, Director of Immersive Technologies at Digital Catapult held a panel discussion around “Advancing Media Production: Exploring the boundaries of technology-enabled live performance” alongside panellists Dan Munslow, Executive Producer at Target3D, Ruth Gibson and Bruno Martelli, Virtual Realists at Gibson/Martelli, and Alexander Whitley, Founder and Choreographer at the Alexander Whitley Dance Company.

Fresh off the launch of the Advanced Media Production studios, the panel delved into the fascinating intersection of technology and live performance

Here are the three key highlights from the panel at BEYOND 2023:

Latency reduction in 5G networks

The impact of latency across the various phases of virtual production is a fundamental component of live performance in particular. Defined as the delay between the transmission of a signal from its source to when that signal is displayed at its destination, latency plays a pivotal role in the efficiency of virtual production workflows. The optimisation of latency within virtual production processes contributes to smoother, faster and better screen performance. 

Although a “conventional” network may proficiently render 3D environments, the potential for lag and consequent delays remains. However, when using 5G private networks such as the ones currently available at the Advanced Media Production studios in Gateshead and London, latency is reduced resulting in a seamless performance.


Bodies and movement in virtual production

Beyond the technicalities, one often overlooked aspect of production is the relationship between bodies and movement in virtual production. These aspects aren’t at the forefront of people’s minds when they are approaching virtual production for live immersive performance experiences. 

Alexander Whitley elaborated that there is so much to consider in what it means to bring a performance together in a shared virtual environment.

There’s a lack of touch and a lack of felt proximity. We often take for granted our real-world experiences of embodiment that disappear when put into a virtual environment. But when you start thinking of all the different ways that you can reinforce other elements of physical presence and relationships between people spatially it is important to be able to create compelling experiences that bring people together in virtual environments. It’s essential to have opportunities to test, experiment and reflect. Alexander Whitley
Founder and Choreographer at the Alexander Whitley Dance Company

Initially, a virtual environment may portray familiar conditions, but the shift to a virtual environment in projects can create a variety of new considerations in mimicking the body and movement. The panel urges those exploring virtual production to employ additional time, budget and experts in their timelines for these new considerations. Using extra resourcing in timelines will provide opportunities to test and adjust to achieve successful results from projects.

Accessibility and affordability in virtual production

In the 2010 decade, when the technology had a high price point, short lifespans and the risk of damage, creating virtual production environments was in many cases prohibitive and inaccessible. 

Fast forward, technological advancements have made virtual production more accessible, with low-end virtual reality (VR) headsets available for as little as £300. Although technologies like motion capture tracking systems, LED screens and virtual camera systems are still expensive, studios like Advanced Media Production have invested in high-end equipment that are available to businesses and organisations of all sizes who wish to explore research and innovation in media production. The aim in the capability is to be technology agnostic so that multiple combinations can be used and foster better interoperability.  

Democratising access to similar facilities as well as making leading-edge expertise in media production, 3D technology, motion capture, and photogrammetry more accessible is key for the UK creative industries’ growth. These studios allow the creators to access and test the technology without any commercial barriers while enabling them to enhance creativity and allows the network to continuously improve and pivot the experience for their clients.

As mentioned in the recently published Advanced Media Production: Foresighting Skills for the Future Report, overcoming the knowledge gap and effectively engaging with technology requires additional resources that are often unavailable to everyone.

Having the opportunity to try different things out and just understand the relative accordances and the benefits and challenges that you have with them is a really important part of building our product concepts. So coming to the virtual production stage to try out some ideas with a really high-end system was great to understand the difference of how that compared instead of using the inertial motion capture suits that they’ve been using in other productions. Alexander Whitley
Founder and Choreographer at the Alexander Whitley Dance Company

Looking ahead

The Advanced Media Production Network delved into a variety of topics that resonate with immersive content creators across the virtual production landscape. Accessibility was at the top of everyone’s minds at the conference, where democratising access to affordable but at the same time cutting-edge media production studios is a necessity for the UK creative industries and beyond. 

The Advanced Media Production network, developed by Target3D and Digital Catapult and funded by Innovate UK, encourages to utilise the interconnected 5G-enabled facilities for everything ranging from commercial projects, research, individual creator opportunities and much more.

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