New 'movie magic' lab in Belfast aims to keep UK on cutting edge of visual effects technology

The technology has helped Abba reunite on stage. Credit: PA Media

A new 'movie magic' lab in Belfast, used on Disney's The Mandalorian, will help revolutionise the local film and TV scene, it has been claimed.

The technology, also used in the ABBA Voyage live concert at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in London, is an advanced screen and performance technology research lab.

It is one of the four new labs in the UK which will specialise in the future of virtual production.

The lab will use new techniques in CGI on the cutting edge of movie production.

This will allow filmmakers and theatre directors to create large scale digitally-generated environments in a faster and less expensive alternative to green screens.

It's hoped the project will prepare the film and TV industry in Northern Ireland to thrive in the future, and help to stay on the cutting edge of new virtual production techniques in TV, film and live events.

It follows an investment of almost £140million from government and industry to boost the skills and infrastructure in this industry across the UK.

The new studio at Ulster University is also expected to create new jobs in line with the government's plan to support a million more jobs by 2030 across the UK alongside growing the creative industries.

Professor Declan Keeney, Ulster University, said they are "thrilled" to be joining the CoSTAR Network and “a prestigious group of world-leading research labs in the exciting and transformative field of virtual and real-time production.

"This is a wonderful endorsement of our research leadership in the sector and our investment in the infrastructure needed to level up the screen industries here in Northern Ireland.

“Our CoSTAR Experience Lab will be located at Studio Ulster, a £75million, state-of-the-art virtual production facility that is set to become a global hub for the creative industries.

"Studio Ulster will support the growth of this fast growing sector in Northern Ireland and will now be underpinned by a world-class research facility.

“We are confident that our collaboration with the CoSTAR Network will accelerate the development of new technologies and techniques that will revolutionise the way films, TV, games and animations are made.

"We are excited to see what the future holds for virtual production, and we are proud to be playing a leading role in its development.”

Minister of State for Northern Ireland Steve Baker said over £1billion had already been contributed to the NI Economy by creative industrieies, "creating tens of thousands of local jobs and attracting world-renowned companies such as Universal Pictures, Disney and BBC.

“Having previously visited Studio Ulster and witnessed first hand its innovative work, I’m hugely excited at the announcement of this new state-of-the-art lab and the additional opportunities it will open up for Northern Ireland’s thriving TV and film industry.

"The network will include a national lab and a new Insight and Foresight Unit led by Goldsmiths and the British Film Institute.

"Three regional hubs, in Dundee, Yorkshire and Belfast, are expected to contribute a combined £33 million to the economy and support 423 jobs. Partners involved across the programme include the National Film and Television School, BT, Screen Yorkshire and Vodafone as well as Royal Holloway, York and Abertay universities.

"Screen productions in Northern Ireland have directly contributed more than £330 million to the local economy since 2018 and boosted the tourism industry by attracting hundreds of thousands of visitors to the region.

"The project announced today will help prepare Northern Ireland’s film and TV industry to thrive in the future. "

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