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NTU launches new Future Studios Research Lab, boosting its new media research efforts further

Published on: 21-Jan-2014

Local sci-fi movie due in 2014 first to reap benefits of high tech lab, cutting production costs by 80%

Nanyang Technological University (NTU) has established a new research laboratory that will develop the next generation of technological and process breakthroughs in Singapore's entertainment and media industry and beyond.
Innovations expected from the $7 million NTU Future Studios Research Lab (NTU FSR Lab) will help design artists, producers of high-quality animation and games, and institutional industry players lower their cost of production, shorten the time to market and enable work to be executed across borders more powerfully and effectively than before. 

Prof Seah Hock Soon, Director of NTU's Multi-plAtform Game Innovation Centre (MAGIC), said, “The NTU Future Studios Research Lab represents a significant investment by the University in advanced technology and provides a test-bed for novel applications in entertainment and media. The technology and expertise available in the laboratory will not only benefit NTU faculty, researchers and students, but also create new opportunities for commercial partnerships with our industry friends in the fields of animation and gaming.”

The new lab located at MAGIC in NTU houses a suite of state-of-the-art equipment that includes a new and incredibly fast graphics processing farm that has been set up with the support of industry collaborators, HP and NVIDIA, to advance both research and industry projects. 

The farm, equipped with advanced HP servers and NVIDIA graphics cards, is being utilised by a local studio – Richmanclub Studios – in the production of the science fiction adventure feature film, The Boy and His Robot  (小弟的机器人).

This technology, combined with others, such as the Lab’s Asset Management & Production System (AMPS) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) technologies, will make the Lab the go-to place for studios looking to produce high-end productions with moderate budget within a short amount of time.

Already, the use of these technologies for The Boy and His Robot is estimated to have reduced the film’s production costs by up to 80% and reduced the team size by 30% compared to a traditional production team.  The entire film will be produced in less than 18 months, and is expected to be ready by the end of 2014.

“In the past, many film production and post-production studios like mine had to struggle  as our vision was hampered by the cost and time restrictions from traditional technology in film making,” said Mr Rich Ho, director and producer of The Boy and His Robot. “Compromise in quality always seems to be spoken about, and much time is spent on making things work rather than focusing on the artistry of creation and storytelling.”

“Now, with the advent of cloud computing and GPU (graphics processing unit) rendering specific to the creation of films, things might just change for the better,” Ho said. “I needed people ‘crazy’ enough with the technical expertise and adventurous spirit to dive in this experimental production process that will potentially revolutionize the entire visual effects industry. I am more than glad that the guys at the NTU FSR Lab are the ‘crazy ones’. And now, I have some of the best brains in the world from computer engineering to partner with, in creating the world’s first fully GPU created movie,” he added.

“Filmmakers choose NVIDIA Quadro professional graphics when they want to tell their visual stories faster and better,” said Sandeep Gupta, senior director of Product Marketing for the Quadro Professional Graphics Business at NVIDIA. “Employing our most powerful GPUs, the Quadro K6000, the NTU FSR Lab will help creative professionals like those at Richmanclub Studios realize amazing digital characters and visual effects in dramatically accelerated workflows.”

“To redefine the entertainment industry in Singapore, NTU’s MAGIC is pushing the limits of what is possible in digital animation,” said Dennis Ang, Business Development Director, HyperScale Business, Industry Standard Servers and Software, Hewlett-Packard Asia Pacific and Japan.

 “The HP ProLiant Gen8 servers being used at the FSR Lab provide the ideal platform for creating, rendering and delivering rich animations though a combination of high-performance computing, continuous availability and streamlined management capabilities.”

The NTU FSR Lab also leveraged on the University’s Computer-Assisted Cel Animation (CACANi) technology to create a promotional video for Microsoft’s Internet Explorer 11, which was released on YouTube in November last year and had attracted more than 2.6 million views.

With this innovative technology, a team of 10 artists was able to finish the whole production of the 2-minute high-quality animation within 2 months. This proves the feasibility of future studios comprising small teams working on high-quality animation projects with tight budgets and deadlines.
Looking ahead, Prof Seah Hock Soon shared that the Lab will be test-bedding AMPS for the content development of NTU online education modules. 

With increasing demand for 3D models of objects in various media applications and the rise of new 3D display and printing technologies, several new projects will also be initiated over the next three months to develop new and more effective methods to create and edit 3D models.

“By allowing more effective and intuitive manipulation and control of 3D models by design artists, we aim to build an application that will enable users to interact in real-time when performing texture painting and geometrical operations onto the 3D model. This will enable us to deliver a more enriching and better quality experience for users,” he said.
In addition, the NTU FSR Lab is also launching new media research and development projects in collaboration with China’s Tianjin University.  Professors and researchers from Tianjin University and NTU will work together in research areas including geometric modeling, non-rigid simulation and animation, movie and game content technologies. This collaboration will also allow test-bedding of the technologies across national borders.

The new lab complements the work of other teams within NTU’s MAGIC, which is poised to champion efforts in the R&D, education, and advancement of digital games in Singapore, while leveraging the rapid growth of the global game industry that is expected to top $70 billion by 2017. Funding for MAGIC was provided by NTU, National Research Foundation (NRF) and Media Development Authority (MDA).

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Media contact:

Feisal Abdul Rahman
Senior Assistant Director (Media Relations)
Corporate Communications Office
Nanyang Technological University
Tel: (65) 6790 6687 

About Nanyang Technological University

A research-intensive public university, Nanyang Technological University (NTU) has 33,500 undergraduate and postgraduate students in the colleges of Engineering, Business, Science, and Humanities, Arts, & Social Sciences, and its Interdisciplinary Graduate School. It has a new medical school, the Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine, set up jointly with Imperial College London.
NTU is also home to four world-class autonomous institutes – the National Institute of Education, S Rajaratnam School of International Studies, Earth Observatory of Singapore, and Singapore Centre on Environmental Life Sciences Engineering – and various leading research centres such as the Nanyang Environment & Water Research Institute (NEWRI), Energy Research Institute @ NTU (ERI@N) and the Institute on Asian Consumer Insight (ACI).

A fast-growing university with an international outlook, NTU is putting its global stamp on Five Peaks of Excellence: Sustainable Earth, Future Healthcare, New Media, New Silk Road, and Innovation Asia.

Besides the main Yunnan Garden campus, NTU also has a satellite campus in Singapore’s science and tech hub, one-north, and a third campus in Novena, Singapore’s medical district.
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