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Mo-Sys — a U.K.-headquartered developer of camera tracking systems and virtual production technology — has secured a 150-year lease on a former gas and power station in south-east London, with plans to renovate and build virtual production stages and a virtual production research center.
According to Mo-Sys CEO Michael Geissler, the company — which last year won a Hollywood Professional Association Award for Engineering Excellence for its NearTime rendering workflow technology — plans to invest in the region of $7.2 million in the Plumstead Power Station in Greenwich and has secured a grant of around $5.5 million from local authorities as part of efforts to regenerate the area.
“The main goal is to get virtual production off the ground, which is finally happening,” Geissler tells THR, noting that the building, which was constructed in 1903, will house eight virtual production stages that will have various uses, including research and development, training and education.
The multiyear renovation work on the site — which has sat unused for 50 years — begins imminently, with the first stages, including the Mo-Sys offices and several commercial studios, expected to be ready by late 2022.
“The bottleneck is there are not enough skills,” Geissler says of the opportunities for virtual production, a fast-growing area of the industry that saw a surge in usage during the coronavirus pandemic, with many studios incorporating the technology into their offerings. To that end, he explains that his company recently started a program dubbed Mo-Sys Academy, designed to help universities create curriculums for virtual production, train teachers and provide training for students as well as customers. Last year, the U.K.’s renowned National Film and TV School launched an “industry first” six-month, part-time certificate course in virtual production. Geissler says the Mo-Sys Academy will have space in the London complex.
Mo-Sys plans to make the complex its new headquarters. Geissler also says he’s looking to invest in and incubate several tech startups within the building. “We’ve been growing at a rate of 100 percent, doubling every year, and are now nearly 100 people,” he says. “So we’ve completely outgrown our current building.” The new studio — with an estimated size of around 3,000 square meters — is more than enough for Mo-Sys to comfortably grow into, he adds.
The site is close to two new London studios, the vast Eastbrook Studios in Dagenham being backed by L.A.-based developer Hackman Capital Partners, and the Indie-Zero Studios, which is just 10 minutes away by foot. Geissler says this location will “complement” these new facilities, giving whatever large-scale projects they’re housing the opportunity to “de-risk” their virtual production elements, first using the technologies available at the Mo-Sys headquarters before transplanting them into their shoots.
Geissler also says his company is launching a sort of global virtual production festival at the new site, “where productions can receive one-week full access” to the London studio, including virtual production technology, plus cameras and a technician. He explains, “The aim is one hundred productions per year. One hundred awards — one week [each] with all supplies,” estimating the total worth of this prize to be in the region of $5 million-$6 million.
The company additionally maintains Mo-Sys Refinery, a virtual production stage that opened in 2021 in Los Angeles with a similar goal; it offers a stage with green screen, an LED volume and various virtual production technologies.
Leading VFX companies, such as ILM and DNEG, companies such as Epic Games (maker of the Unreal real-time game engine used in virtual production) and many others are also working to develop this evolving area of virtual production with training and technical advancement.
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