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Southport Reporter® covering the news on Merseyside.

Date:- 12 February 2007

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A COMPUTER GENERATED FUTURE

A BAFTA award-winning visual effects team from the Northwest has been singled out for praise by the Royal Television Society, and presented with a National Royal Television Award.

Red Vision was presented with an Outstanding Achievement in Craft Award, recognising its premier position within the UK’s Film and TV industry.  In addition, the company has been named February’s Facility of The Month by North West Vision, the film, TV and digital media development agency for the Northwest.

“We’re absolutely delighted with these latest accolades,” says Dave Mousley the enigmatic Managing Director of Red Vision, who believes the use of computer generated imagery (Cgi) in film and TV is set to explode.  “Instead of employing a cast of thousands just to appear in the odd scene, production companies ask facilities like Red Vision to supply computer generated characters,” explains Dave. “It means they can apply higher resources to the front end of their film or drama, and leave us to fill in the background.”

So suddenly having an army of thousands marching majestically across a battlefield, is feasible - even for low-budget features. But it’s got to look realistic.

“Absolutely!” says Chris Lunt, Red Vision’s Manchester-based Business Development Manager. “People want to watch TV and film that looks the business, and that’s exactly what we do. We can do big and epic, even on a micro budget.”

Red Vision’s animators write software, which in turn creates characters and scenes which have captivated audiences world-wide. Remember Granada’s Titanic: Birth of a Legend and the BBC’s Unstoppable Wave programme about the Boxing Day tsunami? Red Vision can claim credit for both.  Whether its graphics or visual effects, computer generated extension or removal, the operation offers it all.

With an impressive track record of introducing Cgi to re-create historical and natural events, Red Vision’s also had considerable success with drama documentaries. “When the BBC asked us to get involved with their Ancient Voices programme, Death on the Nile, we were probably the first to use virtual characters in drama documentary,” says Chris.

It was the first of many similar commissions, leading to a burgeoning reputation and a raft of industry awards.  It is perhaps understandable that Red Vision was bought out by Inspired Gaming Group Plc in June 2006, in a reported £20 million deal. But it wasn’t just their film and TV work which attracted the attention of Inspired. It was computer generated gaming.

“If we didn’t have the virtual gaming arm to the business, we’d be faced with the same issues as many other UK based TV graphic companies, and wouldn’t have the resource to plough into the research and development that delivers the high production values and cost savings that are the hallmark of Red Visions Cgi and visual effects," says Dave.  “The virtual gaming division enables us to recruit and deploy a highly skilled team of developers who produce software tools and code that has application across both the TV and gaming areas of operation.  The revenues generated in the betting and gaming industry by our virtual gaming products over the last 5 years, has now exceeded £4 billion, and that gets people’s attention. It’s also enabled us to plan strategically for the medium and long term.”

Go into any bookmakers’ and there’ll be CGI of virtual horseracing taking place. And there’s a high probability Red Vision created the software.  “When the Cheltenham races were cancelled in 2001 because of foot-and-mouth disease, Channel 4 and Sky transmitted a virtual race in its place – and they used Red Vision’s software to do it,” says Chris proudly.

Since then, the company’s gaming arm has grown considerably, taking in virtual greyhound racing, motor sport and football. The genre will continue to develop. And so too will Red Vision’s Cgi plans for film and television.

“We started out 10 years ago, and we’ve built our client base up through sheer hard work,” says Dave, who opened a London office 5 years ago, and a Bristol base in 2004. Within the next month, the company will expand even further – to Canada.

Just as Red Vision made inroads in the gaming sector, so too will they try to venture into other areas not previous explored.  “We’ve just completed some work for Oceans 13 for Warner, so we’ll continue to do bespoke work for film and TV. But we also have other collaborative projects of our own in development, including a film, television drama and an animated series. We’ve got some exciting plans.

Manchester and the Northwest have some hugely talented production companies, and we are always looking at ways of working with like minded people to extend what we do and to collaborate to grow.  The way I see it, what we do is an important part of the mix, and although you might say that using computer generated imagery is just another colour in the palette of the producer, it’s a really important factor in delivering high production values in many cases. Some stuff doesn’t have computer graphics in it – but an awful lot does - and I’m convinced that trend will continue.” said Dave. 

NORTHWEST YOUNG MEDIA TALENT TO BENEFIT

NORTHWEST teenagers interested in the media are being urged to apply to a new multi-million pound government scheme, which aims to help them produce creative media projects.  North West Vision, the film, TV and digital media development agency for the Northwest, is co-ordinating Mediabox applications – which could see some groups being awarded up to £80,000.

“This is a fantastic new fund, which is offering 13-to-19-year-olds the chance to develop and produce creative media projects, using film, television, print, radio or online platforms,” explains Helen Bingham, North West Vision’s Head of Production Development.

The Mediabox initiative hopes to encourage young people across England to access new skills, be creative, and to get their voices heard. Disadvantaged young people from different locations, abilities and backgrounds are being encouraged to apply for 3 different types of grants, ranging from £100 to £80,000.  The My Mediabox grant is open to individuals or groups applying for up to £1,000 to make their project work. The Mid Mediabox grant offers up to £20,000 for group projects, and the Big Mediabox grant will invest up to £80,000 in youth or media focused organisations.  The Department for Education and Skills has invested £6 million in Mediabox, which is run by First Light Movies, Media Trust, Skillset and the UK Film Council.

“North West Vision exists to grow the film, TV and digital media industry in our region, and so encouraging grass root young talent to invest in and explore the industry, is an important part of our work,” explains Helen.  “I’m confident the Mediabox project will provide numerous opportunities for Northwest young people to develop not only their creative ideas, but also lifelong skills in media production.”

Applications for Mediabox grants are now open, with the next round of awards due to close March 27.

“We’re looking for a range of creative projects - from making a film, exhibiting a project or running a festival, to attending a media event or creating a comic. We’re open to all ideas,” adds Helen.

Once an application has been approved, the Mediabox team will offer advice and guidance, and upon completion of the project, distribution and exhibition of the work will be encouraged.

“We want all the Mediabox projects to have a lasting effect on the young people who take part in them,” says Helen.  “Not only will the grants help young people learn more about the media, but we’ll also be encouraging people to stay involved, even after their proposal has finished.”

For more information about the Mediabox scheme, and to complete an on-line application form, go to www.media-box.co.uk.

NSPCC CALLS FOR INTERNET SAFETY

A CHILDREN'S charity is calling for parents to encourage their children to practice safe surfing as European International Safety Day clicks into action.  Today – like any other day – young people across the region will be logging on the internet to play games, chat to peers and socialise. The NSPCC is encouraging parents to talk with their children about the possible dangers online.

Tracy Beresford, NSPCC children services manager for There4me.com – an on-line information and support service for 12-16 year olds – said:- “The internet is an amazing resource, and chat rooms and messaging are very popular with young people. But behind the fun lies a serious warning that you never really know who you are talking to online. Once contact is made in a chat room, it can escalate very quickly to a mobile phone, text messaging, and eventually face to face contact – and this is where the danger lies.”  Tracy added:- “Just as children are taught the Green Cross Code, they need to learn the importance of safe internet chat.”

The NSPCC is offering parents some sound advice to give to their children on surfing safely:-

• Never use your real name in chat rooms – pick a special online nickname

• Never ever tell anyone personal things about yourself or your family – like your address or telephone number or the school or clubs you go to

• Don’t send photographs of yourself

• Remember people online might not be who they say they are

• Never respond to nasty or rude messages

• If you feel suspicious or uncomfortable about the way a conversation is going, or it is getting really personal, stop the conversation there and then

• Be careful with any email attachments or links that people send you, they might contain nasty images. If they don’t know who it’s from, definitely don’t open it.

• Avoid sites that are meant for adults.

Liverpool FC deal welcomed by city council

LIVERPOOL city council is welcoming the takeover of Liverpool Football Club as a major step forward for the regeneration of the area.  The new stadium is part of a major regeneration project for the Anfield and Breckfield areas of north Liverpool.  It includes a community partnership centre with facilities for education, sport and community activities, along with a fully restored Stanley Park.

Liverpool City Council leader Warren Bradley said:- "This is absolutely fantastic news for the people of Anfield and Breckfield.  For too long the area has been in decline and I am hopeful that it is now full steam ahead for this amazing project which will give local people a much better life.  The club will get a brand new state-of-the-art stadium, Stanley Park will be restored to its former glory with new community facilities and the area will be completely regenerated with new homes and businesses.  The investment will create jobs and enable Anfield to capitalise on its tourism potential as a mecca for football fans from across the world.  I look forward to meeting the new owners in the not too distant future to discuss their vision for Liverpool FC and share with them our hopes and aspirations for the area."

Colin Hilton, Chief Executive of Liverpool City Council, said:- "This is very welcome news.  The new Anfield scheme is absolutely key to transforming the fortunes of north Liverpool. It is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to improve Anfield and Breckfield beyond recognition and give it a sustainable future.  We are already underway with some of the preparatory work which needs to be carried out and will be in continued discussions with the club as the project moves forward."

The existing stadium will be redeveloped to become Anfield Plaza, with retail, offices, residential, community and hotel uses, plus new public open space.  The overall cost of the 1st phase of the project will be £215 million, of which £26 million will come from the public sector.  It's estimated that the project will create 766 permanent jobs, 260 construction jobs, boost tourism numbers by nearly half a million visitors a year and increase visitor spending by £18m a year.  The new stadium is due to open at the start of the 2009/10 Premiership season.

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