The Manitoba government is spending $1.5 million to help develop a new digital media studio and training centre.
StudioLab XR is a 5,000-square-foot virtual production studio at 201 Portage Avenue in Winnipeg.
Economic Development Minister Cliff Cullen says the money will help create well-paying jobs and attract new interactive digital media and film productions.
“Today’s announcement really speaks to the growth in the interactive digital media space here in Manitoba,” Cullen said at a news conference Monday.
He said the funding will be disbursed over the next three years and is expected to create more than 100 net new jobs and generate over $3.1 million in revenue in that time.
The studio will include production space and a classroom with new technology, and the funding will be managed by New Media Manitoba, a non-profit industry group.
Louie Ghiz, the group’s executive director, said the new initiative will position Manitoba as a leader in creating digital content — specifically in extended reality, often referred to as XR.
Training in things like location scouting, pre-visualization, performance capture driven animation and in-camera visual effects will all be offered at the new facility, Ghiz said.
“Like many new technologies, virtual production requires the development of new talent pipelines, work flows and, of course, a facility,” he said, adding the new site will encompass all three.
“By training for these leading-edge jobs, we will be helping to create a broader base of XR skills that can further enable innovation throughout Manitoba’s economy,” Ghiz said.
That could include anything from medical training, to cultural performances, to pre-visualization, to architecture and design builds, to film and television, he said.
“The possibilities are nearly endless,” Ghiz said.
Dan Blair, director of New Media Manitoba, said the XR landscape is rapidly changing and crosses sectors from construction to manufacturing to retail.
Blair, who’s also chief executive officer of Bit Space Development Ltd., said the new space will let organizations like his “access industry-leading technology and training that will allow us to gain a competitive advantage and help us scale our businesses for an ever-changing digital market.” Blair said.
The interactive studio is headquartered in Winnipeg and focuses on XR learning, does research in areas like artificial intelligence and creates tools and software to improve efficiency and safety, he said.
The new space will also help people like Rebecca Harrison, owner and founder of Flightyfelon Games.
Harrison said she’s currently leading a five-person team to make a narrative-focused video game that’s “not-so-secretly a personality test.”
That means immersion is critical, since the player has to forget they’re being tested. They also have to believe the game’s characters are real so they act naturally around them, she said.
“It’s tough when you’re small scale to really hit the level of quality required to convey the story you’re trying to tell,” Harrison said, which is why she was “ecstatic” to learn about the funding for a new training space.
“All this will take so much of the burden off my shoulders and … actually let me have the time to wrangle the rest of the game — which, let me tell you, is a big task.”
Cullen said the new digital media studio and training centre will also provide industry training to more than 250 people over three years.
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