Integrating Virtual Production Technologies at StartUp Croydon

Introduction 

CJP Broadcast Service Solutions has built a virtual studio and post production facility for StartUp Croydon, a business initiative from the London Borough of Croydon. This ground-breaking decision makes state of the art virtual production facilities available to local businesses, cultural enterprises and community groups. This case study explores the strategic implementation of virtual production technologies and their impact on the broadcasting landscape. 

Background 

StartUp Croydon, supported by the South London Partnership and recognised as a Creative Enterprise Zone, aims to stimulate local economic growth and support the creative sector. The Creative Digital Lab is a crucial part of this initiative, providing state-of-the-art facilities accessible to a diverse range of users. 

Strategic Vision 

The Creative Digital Lab was conceived to engage with Croydon’s vibrant creative community and attract new creative businesses to the area. It offers businesses in various sectors the opportunity to leverage advanced virtual production techniques for marketing and content creation. The Lab provides a flexible model for its users, allowing for both dry hire for experienced professionals and full support from an internal team of experts for those needing technical guidance or complete project realisation. 

Saffron Saunders, CEO of StartUp Croydon, emphasises the facility’s inclusive approach: “We encourage people to come and look at what we have, and we are delighted to explain our facilities and to talk projects through with anyone with an idea – even if they did not have the idea before they came in!” 

By integrating the Lab into StartUp Croydon’s central premises, the facility encourages organic interest from users of other services, such as boardroom meetings or podcast recordings. This setup sparks innovative ideas and collaborations, further embedding the Lab into the local creative ecosystem. 

Early Impact 

The Lab’s versatility is demonstrated by its diverse range of projects, showcasing its ability to cater to various users and content types: 

  • High-profile promotional video for Croydon’s Borough of Culture launch, utilising all of the Lab’s facilities. 
  • YouTube content production for a local prenatal fitness instructor, demonstrating the ease of transitioning between complex virtual sets and straightforward studio environments. 
  • Creation of professional newsletters to help small businesses showcase their services and products visually. 
  • News-style video production, demonstrating the Lab’s capacity for broadcast-quality content creation. 
  • “Grab the Lab” competition, sponsored by London South Bank University, which attracted about 30 entrants and resulted in three winning projects:  
  • A short sci-fi video with serious virtual production performance 
  • A music video for an up-and-coming artist 
  • A car karaoke-style vlog using an animated backdrop 
  • Content creation for the British Business Bank, using the screen as a logo backdrop for small business advice videos. 
  • Hosting Femme Fatale TV, a female-led online channel for up-and-coming female artists from diverse backgrounds. 
  • Recording session with Miss Lafamilia, a notable artist in the industry. 

The Lab has also attracted attention from larger organisations. The London South Bank University’s sponsorship has enabled knowledge exchange, bringing in expert virtual production producers to enhance the team’s skills. 

Kieran Phillips of CJP Broadcast Service Solutions highlights the project’s flexibility: “The virtual reality space can take us anywhere; but we have a ‘standard’ studio set in the Unreal engine which means with just a couple of clicks we are ready to shoot in a professional space.” 

The Lab continues to address the talent shortage in the UK’s creative and media industries by partnering with schools, colleges, and community groups. This initiative introduces young people to the creative industries, developing talent pipelines and providing an alternative path for those for whom traditional education may not be suitable. 

As word spreads about the Lab’s capabilities, the team is focusing on promoting its services, particularly in virtual production. The facility’s smaller size makes it ideal for projects like sizzle reels and short-form content, offering an accessible entry point for businesses looking to elevate their marketing materials and video content. 

These diverse projects showcase the Lab’s ability to cater to a wide range of users, from small businesses looking to enhance their marketing materials to aspiring content creators and established production teams working on larger-scale projects. 

Technical Infrastructure 

The virtual studio features advanced technology, including: 

  • LED Wall: A 4.5m x 2.5m LED wall with Absen panels, driven by a Brompton processor. 
  • Graphics Software: Mo-Sys VP Pro software, incorporating the Unreal engine for photorealistic real-time graphics rendering. 
  • Cameras: Blackmagic Design Ursa cameras with MoSys StarTracker Max for dynamic virtual background tracking. 
  • Additional Equipment: Lighting rig, Behringer audio equipment, and Blackmagic video servers for recording. 

The post-production suites are equipped with Apple Mac Studio and Mac Mini processors, running software from Apple and Adobe for editing, colour grading, and sound. 

Conclusion 

The Creative Digital Lab at StartUp Croydon, developed by CJP Broadcast Service Solutions, exemplifies how advanced virtual production technology can drive business growth, support cultural initiatives, and foster educational opportunities. By providing flexible access and expert support, the Lab empowers a diverse range of users to harness cutting-edge virtual production techniques, contributing to Croydon’s dynamic creative economy. The success of initial projects and the strategic vision for educational outreach highlight the Lab’s potential to make a lasting impact on the community. 

Discover the studio: Creative Digital Lab