£100m studio makes Belfast global hub for virtual production | Science & Tech News

It is a popular location for box office movies and television drama, but Northern Ireland is set to become a global hub for virtual production.

A £100m virtual production studio in Belfast will incorporate a research and development lab, helping revolutionise the UK’s film, television and performing arts industries.

Professor Declan Keaney, interim chief executive at Studio Ulster, said: “This is a new chapter for Northern Ireland, but it’s a new chapter for the whole industry right across the UK and Ireland.

“It gives access to technologies under one roof that are currently unavailable almost anywhere else in the world.

“We’ve 2,000 crew here in Northern Ireland that can deliver that, but we need to make sure that they’re ready for the future and that they have the tools that they need to be able to play in that global market.”

From Barbie to Batman and House Of The Dragon, filmmakers and television producers are using groundbreaking technology to generate virtually the most realistic of environments.

Ulster University led the consortium behind the research and development facility, driving the next generation of visual effects technologies.

The £100m virtual production studio in Belfast

It is part of a UK government plan to create one million jobs in the creative industries by 2030, generating £50bn for the economy.

Frank Lyons, dean of research and innovation at Ulster University, said: “The talent pipeline of young graduates that’s required to feed this vast growing industry is the priority of the university.

“We’ve invested heavily in a virtual production stage in our Belfast campus but also across the region. We’ve cinematic arts degrees, screen production degrees, we’ve got animation degrees and these all take big investment.”

Laura Livingstone, visual effects executive at Netflix in LA, has high hopes for this project in her native Northern Ireland.

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“I see a world where there’s going to be lots of blockbusters still going to Belfast, as usual, lots of TV shows, but also an industry that might benefit is commercials,” she said.

“We all know that there’s a lull between big productions, you know when Game Of Thrones went away, we were waiting on the next big thing, but commercials could keep crews busy in between.”

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The film and television industry has contributed £330m to Northern Ireland’s economy in the last five years, thanks to shows such as Game Of Thrones.

It is building on that success by offering producers any backdrop in the world and the cost-effective option to move location without moving location.

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