Studio plans move into new-era virtual production

Keighley-based Distant Future Animation Studio is celebrating after cementing a position on the Leeds City Region’s Top 100 Digital Tech Innovators list for a third time.

Awarded to small and medium-sized businesses, the Digital Enterprise accolade recognises ‘the most digitally transformational, resilient and innovative businesses’ in the Leeds City Region.

Distant Future Animation Studio specialises in creating bespoke animation for organisations across the public, private and third sectors and was previously included on the Digital Enterprise Top 100 Digital Tech Innovators list in 2019 and 2020.

It is now planning a move into new-era virtual production, a technique seen in Disney’s The Mandalorian which replaces the traditional green screen backdrop used when filming with a virtual environment, meaning actors and directors can work in the setting as seen in the end-product.

Director of Distant Future, Bill Beaumont, said: “We’re incredibly pleased to have made the list for a third time – we’re up there with some amazing companies using their digital tech on a global scale, so to have been recognised for the work we create from our studio in Keighley feels really rewarding.”

The animation studio recently changed its 3D production software which reduced the annual software spend by 60%, and left allowance to create a new permanent, full time position.

Bill said: “We switched to a programme called Blender for our 3D production and it’s revolutionised how we work. As an open-source platform, we can install it on our workstations at the studio and on everyone’s home-working devices making hybrid working even easier.

“We’re planning to build on this by moving into a new era of virtual production which creates virtual environments on screen for use in film-sets, rather than cast and crew having to rely on green screens – not only does it give them more to react to, it can speed up the process as elements on the virtual screen can be changed while filming which really opens up the possibilities.

“We’ve found some potential production facilities to collaborate with and we can adapt the technique on a smaller scale too, for our corporate film production clients who want to explore virtual production but don’t have the need or budget for such a large facility. Visual content has never been more important to connect with audiences and we’re excited to see how both our industry and business develop.”

Distant Future recently used Blender on a project with Bradford-based David Craig Design Consultancy to create an interactive architectural visualisation of a new restaurant.

On working together, David Craig said: “I’d worked with the Distant Future team previously, so when I needed an interactive way of exploring designs for a new eatery concept, Northern Kitchen, I knew where to turn.

“I provided some existing plans, photography and mood boards and the team created an interactive 3D world, where visitors can look around and explore. It’s much more dynamic than a simple 3D render, and really helps my clients understand what they are getting before commuting to costly building works.

“The finished product really feels and looks just like the finished space. They really got the vibe of the design right first time, communicating much more than I can with my drawings and sketches alone.”

The Top 100 listing also explores how digital businesses are managing innovation and how staff are encouraged to innovate within their roles.

Bill added: “To drive innovation, I’ve been keen to create an environment where everyone feels comfortable sharing ideas, so we embrace a low resistance policy to try something new. Having a culture where new ideas are embraced easily and openly encouraged helps new ideas flow – it’s empowering for individuals and it helps drive the business forward too.”

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