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Production training space keeps Manitobans on the leading edge of media

Extended reality is the combination of physical and digital production elements simultaneously during TV, film, and video game productions.

StudioLab xR in Winnipeg, is one of four training facilities for extended reality in Canada. Established by New Media Manitoba, StudioLab xR senior manager Jonathan Lé has high hopes for its applications going into the future.

“This stuff doesn’t exist anywhere else in the province right now,” explained Lé. “So by having access to all this incredible technology, and the expertise we have here in the lab. They’re [StudioLab xR clients] able to train for these positions of the future.”

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The technology works by pairing a specialty camera to a grid on the studio’s ceiling which relay’s its coordinates in real time to a computer that operates a camera within the digital space. It’ s all possible thanks to the Unreal Engine, a real-time 3D creation tool.

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Lé says the power behind the Unreal Engine helps clients can help bring ideas to life.

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“We’re able to creat environments that otherwise wouldn’t exist,” Lé said. “Those can be fantastical environments or they can be really mundane ones that are just hard to get into, so we’re able to add basically a broader range of tools to Manitoba creatives.”

Those expanded tools are valuable to clients using the space, such as UpHouse, a Winnipeg marketing agency. Recently they used the studio to shoot an upcoming promotional campaign. Its creative director Brenlee Coates was surprised when many ideas they thought would be difficult were made possible with a simple keystroke.

“It just felt like everything was achievable as we brought just a little bit of foreground to make it realistic,” said Coates. “Stuff like the fireworks, we didn’t know if that would look unrealistic, and it’s something that’s really simple for them to program.”

Being able to show clients the breadth of possibilities is extremely important to New Media Manitoba executive director Louie Ghiz, and part of that work according to Ghiz involves making it accessible.

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“This technology is so on the leading edge, that to go and get this type of training in other parts of the country, you’d have to go to larger markets where it would probably be quite expensive,” Ghiz explained.

“So we’re really trying to reduce the barriers to entry in terms of Manitobans having access to it, affordability, and just being able to do this in our backyard.”

Currently the space is used for training and production for TV, film, and videogames, but Ghiz mentions that he and his team have already begun introducing the technology to other industries in order to start the wheels turning on how it could reinvent how some traditional industries operate in the years ahead.

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