A leading provider of products and services for the broadcast and wider television industry has announced the start of a major project for the University of Sunderland as part of a £1.4m investment.

After installing the £300,000 4K-UHD virtual production studio at the University’s David Puttnam Media Centre at the Sir Tom Cowie Campus, St Peter’s, last year, CJP Broadcast Service Solutions is now moving onto the next phase of modernising the creative and technical resources on offer to students at Sunderland.

This latest venture comprises of four elements, as CJP Broadcast founder and Managing Director, Chris Phillips, explains:  “Each element will enable the University to teach the very latest techniques in virtual production, TV production and outside broadcasting.

“The first project element will be the provision of a curved LED volume incorporating the latest Mo-Sys LED technology and Bendac InfiLED 1.9 mm LED panels. The University will use Mo-Sys’ VP Pro XR LED content server to drive the LED volume, featuring seamless Multi-Camera switching, Cinematic XR Focus for pulling focus between real and virtual objects, and Set Extensions. Tracking will be provided by Mo-Sys StarTracker.

“The second project will be the upgrade of an existing TV studio. It was important for the University to upgrade its legacy production infrastructure to full broadcast quality. We recommended and will be implementing a full Ross Video workflow, ready for 4K-UHD expansion.

“Third will be the integration of a motion capture and virtual camera system into the 4K-UHD chromakey studio, which we installed last year. This presents an opportunity to incorporate new solutions that further enhance the film and TV course modules. It will include areas such as virtual cinematography linked with the Mo-Sys VP Pro Unreal Engine plugin.

“The fourth element of this group will be a mobile production kit based on a StreamStar X4 capable of accommodating up to four camera channels plus a wireless camera link, LiveU LY300 field unit and Hollyland wireless intercom. This will enable the University students to capture live events on the fly, with integration back to studio.”

Professor Arabella Plouviez is Academic Dean for the Faculty of Arts and Creative Industries at the University of Sunderland.

She said: “It is important in the creative industries to ensure that our students get access to the technologies that are current and the technological changes that will influence the sector into the future.

“With this further investment, we will be able to ensure that our students have hands-on experience and also get to use their creative skills to challenge and push the technology. This investment provides exciting opportunities to bring together students with different skillsets – from TV, film, sound, photography, animation, performance and design as well as students from sciences such as technology and computing.”

Lee Hall, Head of School of Media and Communications at the University, said: “Not only will our media courses stand out from the crowd – but this new investment will enhance our long-standing and successful programmes where our future media professionals are supported by expert staff.

“It secures fabulous resources that will be very attractive to students from the UK and beyond, who are serious about getting into the film and TV industries.

“This is about giving Sunderland students the tools to experiment and make great content as well as gain experience with cutting edge technology.”

Craig Moore, the University’s Senior TV Technician, said: “CJP made a great job of the 4K-UHD virtual studio, so they were the logical choice for this next phase in the modernisation of our creative and technical resources.

“Chromakey has long been one of the most powerful tools available to film and television producers. We are also investing in one of the largest EDU LED stages in the UK. This will incorporate the very latest technology and workflows for virtual production, enabling our students to gain the knowledge and practical experience of new concepts that will become industry standard.

“The system CJP has recommended and is providing will equip students with a true state-of-the-art solution, which will open creative opportunities limited only by their imagination.”

Senior Lecturer in Media Production, Sue Perryman, said: “This is fantastic news for our students as it enables them to use industry-standard equipment and learn a variety of new production processes that will place them at the forefront of a number of cutting-edge technologies, which are now being used in high-profile productions such as The Mandalorian and the forthcoming series of Doctor Who.

“This additional investment also means that our students can work on live, real-time productions, both inside and outside the TV studio, such as music, sport, dance, and performance.

“These opportunities will further develop students’ creativity as they gain the vital skills needed to work with new state-of-the-art production processes that are revolutionising TV production around the world. I, for one, cannot wait!”

Nicholas Glean, Senior Lecturer in Video and New Media, added: “Through virtual production, the converging worlds of film, TV, games, animation, and VFX are changing traditional film and television practices. The new technological tools and skills needed for virtual production are also challenging traditional film and media production teaching methods.

“CJP is collaborating with us to navigate and integrate these new skills and tools into our programmes so that we can instruct a new generation of filmmakers.”

The project is expected to be completed later this year.