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Singapore’s Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) is launching an SGD5 million ($3.6 million) Virtual Production Innovation Fund.

The fund was announced by Singapore’s Senior Minister of State for Communications and Information, Tan Kiat How, at the opening of the Asia TV Forum & Market (ATF) and Screen Singapore on Wednesday. It is designed to support the local media industry to develop capabilities needed to harness virtual production technology. The technology uses LED screens to display realistic background environments for TV or film scenes, powered by a video game engine, so that the camera is able to capture actors and visual effects in real-time. Production will no longer be dependent on location, road closures, location fees and permits as well as the weather, set construction and space rental.

The IMDA will deploy a two-pronged approach to develop these capabilities. The first prong is a partnership with the U.K.’s National Film and Television School (NFTS) to tailor the school’s certificate in virtual production course to meet the Singapore industry’s needs. Fifteen Singapore media lecturers, trainers and industry professionals will receive hands-on training at NFTS’ virtual production facilities as well as attend virtual lectures from Dec. 2022 through April 2023.

In addition, Aux Media, a company specializing in creating immersive experiences in Singapore, have a showcase at ATF to demonstrate how virtual production can add value to creative storytelling. And guest speakers from virtual production companies XON Studios, ROE Creative Display and Disguise will conduct hands-on demonstrations and cover topics ranging from best practices in virtual production workflow to creative applications of various technologies in storytelling.

The second prong is investing in production and capability development for Singapore enterprises and talent, where IMDA will support local companies to experiment with virtual production to realize their creative vision for short-form content like music videos, short films and brand commercials. Until Feb. 15, companies can submit their proposed content concepts and IMDA will fund up to 50% of the selected projects’ cost.

IMDA is also collaborating with Epic Games, creator of the real-time 3D creation tool, Unreal Engine, to run an industry challenge commencing in the first quarter of 2023. The challenge will encourage companies to experiment with and use Unreal Engine for virtual production. Teams with shortlisted projects will receive mentorship and training from Epic, and prize money from IMDA to support content production.

At the event, Tan highlighted Singapore’s “globally connected media ecosystem to tell Asian stories to the world.” “I welcome partners from around the world to collaborate with us and leverage Singapore’s connectivity to not just Asia with the rest of the world as well,” Tan said.

Justin Ang, assistant chief executive, media, innovation, communications and marketing, IMDA, said: “The development of virtual production technology in recent years now allows us to create visual effects in real-time without physical set production and with that, overcome the limitations of space, scale and complexity. The impossible can be made possible, limited only by the imagination of our filmmakers. We are excited to see more innovative and compelling stories resulting from the use of virtual production to strengthen Singapore’s position as a hub for content and IP creation.”

Dean Reinhard, evangelist and senior technical account manager, Epic Games, added: “Despite its size, there is an abundance of incredible creative talent in Singapore, and tools such as Unreal Engine are essential in helping filmmakers and production studios today reimagine storytelling and create stunning imagery in real time. We are thrilled to work with IMDA to help train and support these local talents on maximising the use of these incredibly powerful tools and resources available to them.”

The inaugural event also saw Yeh Chien-ee, president, RX Asia Pacific, who are producing ATF this year, announce a makeover of the animation pitch in 2023. In collaboration with Creative Europe and Ties That Bind, the animation pitch will have a lab component led by an experienced curator. There will also be an animation project market featuring European and Asian decision makers, with an equal number of projects from Asia and Europe with the objective to promote collaboration between the two regions.