Having pioneered performance capture technology for film and TV for 20 years, it was a logical step for the University of Surrey to build a relationship with the Guildford video games industry – an initiative which has rapidly reaped results.
In June 2015 the University of Surrey hosted the first G3 (Galvinising Guildford Games) Futures Conference which brought together games industry businesses with academic experts. The inaugural event was organised by academics from its Centre for Vision, Speech and Signal Processing (CVSSP) and Digital Media Arts programme, in partnership with trade body UKIE (UK Interactive Entertainment) and Charles Russell Speechlys.
Fast forward to 2017 and Surrey is collaborating with some of the biggest UK players in gaming, virtual reality and immersive experiences, while also working with EM3 (a group of local enterprise partnerships) in a £1.75m initiative to establish a games industry incubation hub at the University’s Surrey Research Park.
Surrey has been focused on digital content creation technologies since the 1990s when CVSSP’s Director Professor Adrian Hilton pioneered advanced performance capture techniques enabling the creation of highly realistic ‘digital doubles’. As it evolved, this research supported creative tools used in films such as Star Wars: The Force Awakens and the Harry Potter series – for which spin-out company Imagineer Systems won a Technical OSCAR in 2013. On the audio side, Surrey’s Institute of Sound Recording (IoSR) (home to the TonMeister® degree course) has similarly pushed forward the boundaries of acoustic research, winning an Academy Award for the sound mix used in the film Gravity among many other honours.
The decision to build a partnership with the gaming industry was a natural one for Surrey – not only because of its leadership in performance capture and content, but also the University’s location in Guildford. The town has been a hub for the games industry since the 1980s when Peter Molyneux founded Bullfrog Productions, and is now home to over 50 games studios including world-wide names EA, Criterion, Ubisoft, EPIC and Media Molecule.
Since its launch 18 months ago, G3 has already spawned a number of exciting research projects including ‘ALIVE’ – a collaboration with The Foundry and Figment Productions to deliver 360° experiences with the visual quality of video and the interaction of computer games. The University has also developed ‘The Turning Forest’ – a ground-breaking immersive experience featuring a spatial soundtrack – under the £6m S3A programme.
“Our proximity to the UK’s largest gaming industry hub, together with our access to enterprise support through the Surrey Research Park and Surrey Incubation (which supports tech startups), has put us in the perfect position to kickstart work in this field.” Professor Adrian Hilton, Director, CVSSP
Mr Kirk Woolford, Reader in Digital Media Arts, adds: “As people look for more immersive experiences, the way games are being designed is changing. Our aim is to develop technical artists who can provide a link between traditional artists and engineers, and help define the games and interactive experiences of the future.”