LAMDA will become one of the first drama schools in the UK to offer virtual production technology training to students in a new state-of-the-art studio after receiving £1.9million capital grant from the Office for Students – England’s independent regulator for higher education.
With the help of the funds, LAMDA will be able to invest in virtual production (VP) and motion capture (Mocap) technology in ultra-modern studios, where there is an industry-wide skills gap.
VP merges the technique of physical and virtual filmmaking on a full training size virtual production LED wall background where production teams can create versions of scenes using computer generated imagery (CGI) footage before actors have even arrived on set.
Some of the most innovative and biggest television and film studios are using VP including in Disney+’s The Mandalorian (2019) and movies such as The Suicide Squad starring Margot Robbie and The Batman (2022) with Robert Pattinson.
Acclaimed award-winning film director Joe Russo, who made You, Me and Dupree and the Avengers movies, said: “It’s exhilarating to see LAMDA stepping into the VP space. I don’t know any other drama school that is thinking about virtual production in the way that LAMDA is.
“This is a hugely creative endeavor, and shows real forward thinking ambition. By making unaffordable technology accessible, they will open up the playing field to new storytellers. It’s an exciting time to be part of LAMDA.”
The use of VP accelerated when the Covid-19 pandemic hit as it provided new opportunities for production teams to innovate as well as save time and money in post-production. The technology also enabled teams to shoot on location without flying cast and crew across the world.
Principal and Chief Executive of LAMDA, Professor Mark O’Thomas, said: “This is a substantial investment into LAMDA’s screen skills component and future-proofs the learning environment for changing industry needs.
“It ensures our students emerge from training being ‘set ready’ in a range of technologies, and technicians enter the work arena with the right skills, knowledge, and experience to meet future demand.
“We plan to use the funds for film, TV and storytelling and provide education all round from preparing actors to act in a VP setting as well as the technical aspects for VP management.
“VP and Mocap are becoming more and more widely used by TV and film studios which is also advancing at such a pace that skilled employees are difficult to recruit.
“The investment continues to position LAMDA as a global leader in the performing arts education sector by capitalizing on its classical acting training and melding it with the newest cutting-edge screen technology.”
To deal with the skills gap in VP and Mocap, LAMDA is set to introduce a new FdA (Foundation Degree in Education) course in Creative Virtual Production Management, an MA (Master of Arts) course in Production Management for Screen, Audio & Virtual Production, and academic credit-earning evening courses, in specialised digital skills which could eventually lead to a degree.
LAMDA will also run a number of CPD (continuous professional development) courses in these emerging technologies.
Furthermore, LAMDA aims to ‘democratise’ the use of VP in the independent film industry by making the technology available for film makers to rent.
Professor O’Thomas added: “Using this technology will allow LAMDA to focus on developing the best narrative films and television while at the same time reflecting our partnership model for working hand-in-hand with the creative industries.
“LAMDA, as a commissioner, will provide a ‘testing ground’ and development space for some of the most exciting shows in the world, and the talent we have in the building along with the technology will undoubtedly fuel the fires of these partnerships.”
LAMDA also plans to use part of the funding to update their audio suite, and to replace halogen lights with environmentally-friendly LEDs as part of its overall shift to include sustainability as a fundamental principle of its production and technical art course.