Belfast to Welcome Cutting-edge Virtual Production Studio Backed by £75 Million UK Government Investment

by | Jun 16, 2023

The UK government’s recent announcement of a £75 million investment in a new virtual production studio in Belfast marks a groundbreaking development for the creative industry. The facility, set to be developed at Studio Ulster, a virtual production campus located at Belfast Harbour Studios, is being spearheaded by a consortium that includes Ulster University, BBC Northern Ireland, Belfast Harbour, Northern Ireland Screen, and Belfast specialist animation studio Humain.

The CoSTAR network, a prestigious group of world-leading research labs in the field of virtual and real-time production, will be part of UK Research and Innovation’s Convergent Screen Technologies and performance in Realtime (CoSTAR) program. Three regional hubs, in Belfast, Dundee, and Yorkshire, are expected to contribute a combined £33 million to the economy and support 423 jobs.

Virtual production is a game-changer for the film and television industry, enabling filmmakers and theatre directors to create large-scale digitally-generated environments that performers can interact with in real-time using LED panels. The studio will offer real-time content production techniques using computer-generated imagery, augmented reality, and motion capture. The technology has already been utilized in the ABBA Voyage live concert and on Disney’s hit show The Mandalorian.

The CoSTAR network will include a national lab at Pinewood Studios and a new Insight and Foresight Unit led by Goldsmiths and the British Film Institute. Ulster University is confident that their collaboration with the CoSTAR Network will accelerate the development of new technologies and techniques, transforming the industry and providing significant economic benefits.

The UK government’s investment in the industry is part of its plans to grow the creative industries by £50 billion and create a million new jobs by 2030. The studio will help bolster the burgeoning sector in Northern Ireland, which is said to have contributed some £330 million to the local economy since 2018.

The CoSTAR network is a testament to the UK’s commitment to being at the forefront of technological innovation and recognizing the immense potential of virtual and real-time production to transform the creative industry. The consortium was selected as one of four facilities around the UK to qualify for a share in £75.6 million of government funding and £63 million of new industry investment.

The Belfast studio is not just a buzzword or fad, but rather a hub of innovation and creativity, where filmmakers, animators, and game developers can collaborate and experiment with new ideas and techniques. The CoSTAR network, involving partners such as the National Film and Television School, BT, Vodafone, Screen Yorkshire, and Disguise, as well as Royal Holloway, York, and Abertay universities, is a collaboration between academia, industry, and government, demonstrating the importance of working together to achieve groundbreaking advancements.

The UK’s creative industry is set to become a leader in the field of virtual and real-time production, and the Belfast studio is a crucial part of this vision. The potential for virtual and real-time production is enormous, and the CoSTAR network is poised to be at the forefront of this exciting and transformative field.

Overall, the UK government’s investment in the new virtual production studio in Belfast is a game-changer for the creative industry. The future of the industry is bright, and the potential for virtual and real-time production is enormous. The CoSTAR network is set to be at the forefront of this exciting and transformative field, providing new opportunities, ideas, and collaborations that will shape the future of film, TV, games, and animations. The UK is leading the way in technological innovation, demonstrating its commitment to the creative industry with bold investments that are sure to pay dividends for years to come.