‘We can shoot any world we want’: New $95m film studio planned for Christchurch
A planned $95 million education and studio facility at the University of Canterbury’s Christchurch campus will create a screen hub for big-budget commercial films, as well as independent productions and games, according to the supporters.
The digital screen campus will be completed in phases through 2025 and will include film studio space, editing and visual effects suites, recording spaces, a green screen facility and a film studio. motion capture.
The plan comes as three Christchurch companies collaborated to create short films using a revolutionary new visual effects technique on the university campus this week.
Campus program director Andy Phelps said the new facility could attract major feature film productions to Canterbury.
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“It will have quite a big impact on the region,” he said.
“The university is funding it and will recoup the investment over time with tuition and use of commercial spaces.”
The university’s acting executive dean of arts, Kevin Watson, said the facility will be used for a new four-year digital screen production degree that will accommodate around 60 students when it begins in February 2023.
Christchurch has been identified as an ideal location for new studio space in New Zealand to meet the high demand for production facilities. Several investors have sought to develop new film studios in the area.
A recent government report highlighted the need for more studio space, but warned that investing in the screen business could be risky.
Phelps said screen campus risk was mitigated by appealing to a wide range of potential private clients.
“It’s not completely risk-free, but there are things that mitigate that risk,” he said.
“It will be a screen center not only for big-budget commercial films, but also for indie productions and games. The risk is diluted in several sectors.
Screen CanterburyNZ, the city’s film unit for tourism and investment agency ChristchurchNZ, hopes to attract more film productions to the area. The unit has a $1.5 million screen incentive fund to attract productions.
Two short films were made on campus this week using a bespoke virtual production space that uses gaming software and a large LED screen to convincingly simulate studio filming.
The Christchurch production, which was partly funded by the university, used the groundbreaking technique to evoke an Auckland meeting hall, Antarctica, a beach in Fiji and the surface of Mars.
The technique has been used to create spectacular alien landscapes within the confines of a studio for the star wars series The Mandalorian.
On Tuesday, the 4.5 meter high curved LED screen, which has a diameter of 12 meters, was used to transport four actors to a snowy colony of Antarctic penguins.
Director Simon Waterhouse, of production company Resonate, said the technique gave the crew complete control over the location.
“Yesterday we shot the Auckland Meeting Room, this morning we shot Antarctica, this afternoon we’re going to Fiji and tomorrow we’re going to Mars,” he said.
“We can build a 3D representation of Antarctica and film there. Places like this would normally be off limits, but now we can shoot it in a studio in Christchurch. It’s very exciting.
“The principle is that in this space we can film any world we want.”
The large LED screen displays an artificial, photorealistic backdrop created by designers using game software. The screen then reacts in real time to the position of the camera to create the illusion of a true three-dimensional space in the final movie.
Waterhouse said that when shooting around the Auckland Meeting Room, they could even move the Sky Tower with the click of a mouse to help compose a better shot.
“It’s pretty mind-blowing to be able to have total control over these elements.
“There are many reasons why virtual production appears to be here to stay and will have massive implications for the film industry.”
Both films are a collaboration between film production company Resonate, LED display company Pixel, and game company Cerebral Fix. The films were shot over five days with funding of $120,000 from the university and ChristchurchNZ.
Waterhouse said a permanent virtual production facility in Christchurch would be expensive.
“I would like to have a permanent version of this. The investment in the next step is significant, but we can deploy this version in a week anywhere.
“We have proven that it works.”