High-tech visual effects screens attract new NBCUniversal TV series ‘Metropolis’ to Victoria

High-tech visual effects screens attract new NBCUniversal TV series ‘Metropolis’ to Victoria

A 'LED volumes' screen was used in production of Star Wars series The Mandalorian. Image: Konyevi, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons. 

High-tech digital screens that can display realistic background environments and visual effects will be utilised in Victoria by Universal Studio Group for production of its latest TV series Metropolis.

The Victorian and Commonwealth Governments will co-invest to deliver the cutting-edge visual production infrastructure at Docklands Studios Melbourne, which has attracted NBCUniversal and will boost the state’s position as a hub for screen production.

The Victorian state government will commit $12.5 million toward the technology, while the Federal Government will back the series with $5 million to support students with training to work with the screens as part of a national upskilling program.

The infrastructure will include one of the largest permanent ‘LED volumes’ – high-tech digital screens that can display realistic background environments and visual effects – allowing imagined and real destinations to be filmed on stage.

This technology, which was used to bring worlds to life in the ground-breaking Star Wars series, The Mandalorian, will be configured for high-budget international films and television series.

A second LED volume, adapted for more contained scenes, will attract domestic as well as international productions.

In addition, the Federal Government is providing $83.8 million in Location Incentive funding for a pipeline of projects including Metropolis, alongside an additional $41.6 million from the Victorian Screen Initiative.

“With this industry-leading infrastructure capability, we’re putting Victoria at the forefront of the global screen industry. Together with the recent addition of our new super sound stage, this will make Victoria the go-to place for ambitious screen productions,” Victorian Minister for Creative Industries Danny Pearson said.

“Attracting the world’s most significant film productions to Victoria means bringing some of the most highly sought after screen jobs in the world to the state, we’re continuing to invest in creative industries to do just that.”

Commonwealth Arts Minister Paul Fletcher said the screens, which will first be used in the production of Metropolis, are at the “very forefront of global screen technology”.

“This technology will become more and more widely used in film and television production in coming years,” Fletcher said.

“The funding provided for Metropolis responds to this outstanding opportunity for the Australian screen sector, firstly to achieve a permanent installation of this world-leading technology which can be used by other productions as well; and secondly, to train Australian screen professionals in the use of this technology, helping them keep their skills at world-leading levels.”

The virtual production workforce training program on Metropolis will place a number of paid trainees with visual effects houses, games developers and other companies engaged in virtual production workflow.

Universal Studio Group and Matchbox Pictures will also establish a partnership with the Victorian College of the Arts that will enable students to develop technical skills in virtual production.

“This exciting initiative provides both students and industry professionals with unrivalled training and access to world-leading LED virtual production technologies both on-campus and at Docklands Studios Melbourne,” University of Melbourne Faculty of Fine Arts and Music Dean Professor Marie Sierra said.

“We are delighted to be partnering with Matchbox NBCUniversal to equip the next generation of storytellers.”

Metropolis is an eight-part television series inspired by the seminal Fritz Lang science fiction work, which is projected to contribute $188 million to the Australian economy alone.

Produced by UCP, a division of Universal Studio Group and Esmail Corp., Metropolis will be written and directed by Sam Esmail, who also serves as showrunner on the series, and filmed in Victoria. Esmail is well-known for creating American techno-thriller series Mr Robot which starred Rami Malek.

The series is a re-telling of Lang's cult silent film, which, at the time of its release, was one of the most expensive movies ever made, in part thanks to the extensive visual effects deployed by the director.

It is estimated that the pipeline of projects supported by the Location Incentive and the Victorian Screen Incentive could contribute up to $621 million in direct spend across a five-year production period to 2027. Over 700 cast and crew and 2,500 employees will be employed to work on Metropolis, with an estimated 700 local businesses and service providers benefiting from the local production. 

“I’m pleased to welcome these productions to Australia, creating more than 2,100 jobs for local cast and crew, more than 7,200 extras roles, and utilising an estimated 2,100 businesses across the country, supporting our ongoing national prosperity and further strengthening our creative and cultural sectors,” added Fletcher.

Matt Vitins, COO of Matchbox Pictures which will be managing production services on the project, says Metropolis comes in the context of a pipeline of premium TV drama series from across Universal Studios Group attracted to Australia including Clickbait, Young Rock, La Brea, Irreverent and Joe vs Carole.

“Australia’s strong history and reputation in visual effects and equally strong record in game development means it is well placed to take a world-leading position in the application of virtual production technology,” Vitins said.

“This latest pipeline of projects, as well as the investment in infrastructure and training,will position Australia for a decade of high-end work in virtual production driven film and television shows.” 

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