UDEN’s 20th membership meeting took place on September 5th, 2018. It was held at Redman Movies & Stories, Salt Lake City, Utah USA. The following are key notes and take-aways from the evening. You can watch the event on UDEN’s YouTube channel
I'm often asked how to get into the games business, but what if you want to become a successful games producer like me? The following is a typical reply that I give in response to such inquiries in email or at talks I give; note that I reference organizations - these are in Utah, so if you have any suggestions for ones in other parts of the world that you have found useful, please do send them my way and I will add them.
Before thinking qualification, get some experience; it frankly matters more and will help you decide if you really want to do this.
First – grab the materials from my website that I reference in my talks -- http://www.guv1.com/jonblogs/handouts -- these will serve not only as a reminder but also the ‘references’ doc includes organizations, books you should read, etc.
Second -- using that material, attend meetings of the local groups and any others you can find; good for networking but in particular, you’re looking for collaborators: most universities have groups of would-be-game developers, for example. Get involved with a team and begin to practice.
Third -- read the books I listed as I found them all really useful. Perhaps start with the Game Production Handbook https://www.amazon.com/Production-Handbook-Heather-Maxwell-Chandler/dp/1449688098/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1518134665&sr=1-1&keywords=the+game+production+handbook&dpID=518Hqak6ItL&preST=_SX218_BO1,204,203,200_QL40_&dpSrc=srch -- I don’t agree with everything Heather writes, but different studios do things differently (you say tomatoes, I say tomatoes…ok, that doesn’t work when written down but you get the idea) – and this is a pretty comprehensive study guide for everything you’ll need to be familiar with to be an effective producer.
Fourth – should you get a qualification? Know that hands-on experience matters a TON for would-be employers; getting a qualification in games production doesn’t have quite the value it should, mostly because so few of the courses are actually taught by… experienced games producers (so the piece of paper isn't much of a guarantee of anything for a would-be employer). So should you decide to ratchet up student loans for such a qualification, check out the faculty that will be teaching you, especially how many commercial games they have shipped, size of teams they managed, platforms worked on… you know, experience (more than student games, titles you might have heard of). A program that offers would-be producers the chance to actually work with a live student team and publish one or more actual games before graduation is preferable (such as the University of Utah's EAE program). Noting that some of the larger game studios prefer someone with a degree, remember that because there are so few useful ones for production, in reality, they’re saying they want people who have attained a certain educational standard – as such, it doesn’t really matter what, but I would suggest a degree involving technology in some way is helpful. If you have production experience (say through smaller studios) then they won’t really care if you don’t have a degree.
Fifth – can you become a producer through another game dev discipline? Yes, of course. Many get there by starting out in a QA role and demonstrating their value to a studio through offering ideas, suggestions, organizational skills and generally a comfort level with game teams. In my experience artists sometimes become producers, programmers rarely: the reason is, I suspect (huge generalization coming up), that artists and producers prefer to focus on one thing at a time, obsessing over the detail with that one thing until it is done (which they need to and is what makes them great at what they do). Producers have to manage a wider spectrum of tasks simultaneously - think of the plate-spinning trick, running between each of them as needs be (don’t let any plates fall!), giving them all attention. Still detail oriented but adaptable and OK with multitasking. I find people are hard wired to be one or the other.
Do please share your additional thoughts and experiences!
The following are reference documents for Games Production classes that I teach or presentations that I have given about game development as well as some helpful links! They aren't intended to be stand-alone materials, more reminders of key topics discussed.
The 17th official membership meeting of the Utah Digital Entertainment Network took place on November 29th, 2017, at Silicon Slopes in Lehi, Utah. This was the first UDEN event where the RSVP list had to be closed before the event because the space would be full to capacity. However, on the night traffic in the area meant that only a one quarter of the attendees were there at the start. Even after delaying for an hour, still only half the attendees had made it - some saying it had taken them over an hour to get from Salt Lake City, so we decided to go ahead, concluding that anyone not there by then was probably going to give up and go home instead!
The focus for the evening was mainly networking, where we encourage members to seek out the other excellent talented people in the room, exchange contact info, perhaps some ideas. In addition, there were more chances to get hands on some cool VR and MR technologies, which has been UDEN's theme for 2017. I mentioned that this, being our last event of the year, we thought could be our holiday party! But quite a few people pointed out to me that it’s probably a bit too early for that as it’s still actually November. So instead we agreed that it's our ‘between the holidays party’ instead.
Before networking kicked off proper, we heard from our sponsors and exhibitors, some exciting announcements, plus a look back at where UDEN has been, and a look forward to UDEN in 2018.
I reminded everyone that UDEN is a non-profit trade group run by volunteers, that our membership and our events are free. To remain so, we rely on generous donations from sponsors – mostly space and food. So we began by recognizing tonight’s sponsors!
Food for the evening was kindly provided by J.P. Morgan, a new sponsor for UDEN. Tim Fellow and Jeff Bullock explained how they were keen to expand their support for digital entertainment and UDEN events seemed like a perfect beginning. The delicious food was catered by Argentina's Best Empanadas of Salt Lake City.
Welcoming us to Silicon Slopes, Garrett Clark talked about their mission and how they operated, including the range of activities they provide and invited UDEN members to contact him if they would like to take advantage of any of the opportunities they provide. UDEN 17 was held at the headquarters of Silicon Slopes, which began life when several technology companies in this area decided to group together and to market the sector, not just themselves. It has been a huge success. Its mission has grown to encompass growth and education for all tech business in the state. In January this year Silicon Slopes put on a huge event, the Tech Summit, which was slick, professional and very well attended. They will be holding it again in January.
The Silicon Slopes story is of great interest to us, not only because they held out the hand of friendship to us in the digital entertainment sector, but also because of how they have worked together to grow the tech sector in the state.
UDEN will be three years old next year. I thought that tonight would be a good time to reflect on how we came to exist, where we’ve been, what we have achieved and where we are headed. The following are extracts from my talk:
DIGITAL ENTERTAINMENT IN UTAH - PAST
In the early days of Hollywood, Utah became a favorite place to make movies; it was relatively close to the studios in California, it was cheaper and there was an abundance of willing and talented workers. Plus, the locations were stunning and made for varied backdrops. That’s been the case for more than 80 years, a fact being celebrated right now by the Utah Film Commission’s “This is Utah” photography competition. Given such a long and close relationship, isn’t it surprising that Utah didn’t become a greater force in the movie business?
Something else that California dominates is the videogame industry. Yet videogaming famously has its roots at the University of Utah, back in the 60’s. So too does the first virtual reality headset. And yet… Utah never became a hub for the games industry either.
In both cases, film and games, Utah has always been a place where we have had talented creative and technical people that work for – directly or indirectly – those Californian giants.
I think it is fascinating to reflect on why Utah hasn’t been more successful in these industries that – let’s face it – we helped to build, service and then sustain. So good are we, in fact, that we have some of the best university programs in the nation in digital entertainment – but because we don’t have the jobs, every year we’re a net exporter of highly talented graduates who go on to build other states digital entertainment industries!
Film and games are creative and technical industries. Both entertainment industries. Utah clearly like its tech businesses, as we see from Silicon Slopes. But could it be that entertainment has always been too frivolous to be taken seriously in Utah – despite the huge money that it makes?
Silicon Valley is, of course, the tech powerhouse of the modern world. What we see today, is that here in Utah, we have a strong and growing tech sector, ably represented by our friends right here in Lehi (Silicon Slopes). How smart are these guys? They’re even taking California’s name and using it to market themselves! (Silicon Valley > Silicon Slopes)
DIGITAL ENTERTAINMENT IN UTAH - PRESENT
The case for collaboration
What the good folks here at Silicon Slopes show us is that technology and innovation can survive and sustain a healthy ecosystem here in Utah. That didn’t happen overnight, but it has been very deliberate. So why has it not been possible for the same to happen in film or games here? Because it has in other states and parts of the world. Austin, New York, Montreal, Vancouver, the UK – all have thriving, healthy film and game ecosystems, all competing on the global stage. These too didn’t happen overnight – they evolved over time.
In each case, the main characteristic we see is that the participants – as individuals and companies – came together for a greater good. They shared knowledge and know-how; they prioritized quality, they demonstrated innovation, they added value, they fostered a start-up culture, they planned for the long term. They collaborated. That’s what we see in Austin, New York, Montreal, Vancouver and the UK. It’s also what we saw here that led to the creation of Silicon Slopes.
That has not happened with digital entertainment in Utah. If anything, it’s been siloed and self-interested, accepting the role of servant to the Californian client rather than master of its own destiny. That’s not to say there hasn’t been success: there have been, some quite remarkable success stories. But it hasn’t been sustained because it wasn’t leveraged for the long term benefit of the community, and ultimately those jobs went away.
Digital entertainment here has a yo-yo economy in Utah - we have a few bright sparks that burn really bright… before burning out and we’re in darkness… until the next one pops up. Which really sucks when its your job that keeps going away, forcing you to consider leaving the state, uprooting your family and all that relocation entails.
Which brings us to UDEN. Those of us who work in digital entertainment and who like living in this state need to step up, collaborate, plan and make our own destiny. That was why UDEN was founded, to bring the creators of digital content and technology together, to create that startup culture, figure out how we add value and then go make it happen. Working together in a focused, deliberate way, for the greater good. We have the talent. We have the creativity. We have the technical chops.
Made In Utah
When we started, we modeled ourselves on the successful ‘Made in New York’ community of digital entrepreneurs and we were called ‘Made in Utah’. Our fresh membership very quickly came together and showed great promise, deciding overwhelmingly that MIU was a terrible name, not least because its widely used elsewhere in the state, including by cheese makers! Huge debate followed and eventually we compromised on the least offensive variant of words being proposed, and the Utah Digital Entertainment Network – UDEN - emerged.
Our goal was to bring the various, separate interests together with a common voice and shared objective – to become a community. Our primary tool for this has been our networking meetings. At these we have tried to inform, connect and grow our community.
Our meetings have grown from around 50 people to over 200 at UDEN 16. We have been to some wonderful places, had some excellent sponsors, held educational panel discussions and had some truly insightful keynote speakers. We have also had community information slots in the form of our Hive Ignite feature, and this year we began to include live exhibits as well. We’ll put together video highlights for the next meeting.
While the meetings have been really important for networking and education, UDEN has also:
- advocated for the creators of digital content and technology in many venues including local and state government as well as national policy;
- we have represented our industry sector on many high-school career panels;
- career days, including Microsoft's;
- UvU’s STEM days;
- participated as part of the Governor’s 25K jobs initiative and the Governor’s Economic Summit;
- advised other groups on behalf of this community;
- represented our industry in conversations with companies considering relocating to Utah;
- helped to setup the UCDA digital summit last year and the inaugural Lightspark Digital Summit earlier this year
·We know that through these UDEN meetings, hundreds of connections have been made and dozens of collaborations have begun. So we’re proud of the start we have made, but it’s just that – a start. Effecting real change requires action, action from everyone here. UDEN's job is to focus those efforts and keep us on track. It’s a sobering thought that we have less people working in digital entertainment in the state today than we did when UDEN started almost three years ago. So – where are we headed?
DIGITAL ENTERTAINMENT IN UTAH - FUTURE
Silicon Slopes Partnership
Looking ahead to 2018, we’re excited to announce that the Utah Digital Entertainment Network will become the official Silicon Slopes Chapter for digital entertainment. Through this partnership, UDEN and Silicon Slopes will work together to identify ways in which we might leverage the respective skill sets of our communities, fostering collaboration and mutually beneficial opportunities. This will include sharing of knowledge, capabilities and services in addition to the cross-promotion of events. Joining forces with Silicon Slopes will help UDEN toward its goal of building a strong ecosystem for digital entertainment across the entire state of Utah.
CALL FOR VOLUNTEERS!
2018 needs to be about action – not just from us, but especially, from you, the community. We are a volunteer organization with, frankly, very few volunteers! So, if you can spare a few hours each month and would like to do something for UDEN, please let us know as we have some ideas that we think could be really helpful in building our ecosystem and be really useful to you! (To volunteer for UDEN please email us: info@utahDEN.org)
For example, when we setup the website, you gave us hundreds of ideas for features that you wanted. We all agreed that a jobs board was a must! Well, we have had a jobs board for two years now. No-one uses it. Truth is, it needs someone to manage it to be useful. So let’s be pro-active – have someone make a regular search for open jobs, gather the details, and post them on the jobs board. The more jobs it has, the more jobs it will attract, the more useful it becomes to job seekers and recruiters alike. Simple. And powerful. If you think this is the kind of thing you might like to manage for the community, let us know!
UPCOMING EVENTS PAGE
Similarly, we have an events page. You asked us for it – but very few people use it, including our own members! It has really powerful functionality, like EventBrite – you can post your own meetings on there, you get your own link to share and get notifications of RSVPs etc. Here, then, is another example of a central location that could be a useful resource for all of us in digital entertainment and will help us grow. Again, if someone would like to round up any events you see out there and post them – including cross-posting things like the Silicon Slopes events, or the ones from the Film Commission, or the universities, or the Games Guild etc – it’s a few hours each week. Interested? Please get in touch.
Perhaps you have ideas for resources that might be really useful to help build our community? One of our advisory board members, Corrine, had just such a great idea - what about a page that has a list of projects looking for contributors? It’s a bit like a jobs page, but more for contracting, either paid or unpaid. I think it would be super helpful in making connections – if we can find someone to manage it.
Again – if you have ideas, better yet, if you can volunteer a few hours to make those ideas a reality – let’s talk!
UDEN ADVISORY BOARD
We have had a terrific volunteer organizing committee since we started, and starting in 2018 we’re going to renew these positions on an annual basis, allowing for new people and new ideas to influence our direction. If you would like to volunteer for our advisory board for 2018 please get in touch. These are unpaid positions, requiring a few hours each quarter to attend meetings, as well as a few hours helping to arrange these meetings, finding sponsors, fund raising. (To volunteer for UDEN please email us: info@utahDEN.org)
DONATIONS TO UDEN
Asking you all to step up is hard. Who has the time? Well perhaps the answer is that UDEN needs to be funded so that we have resources to effect the kind of change and progress that we have seen Silicon Slopes achieve. What do you think? Are you ready to put your hand in your pocket? We’ll be announcing a donation strategy in 2018.
MEETINGS & FOCUS IN 2018
Making things happen needs to be our focus for 2018. Again, that means all of us. For UDEN's part, we’ll continue to do what we're doing including organizing meetings.
Right now, we’re working on two events in January during Sundance – we’ll share more details soon but they include a social mixer event in Park City, with the Utah Film Commission, much like we had this year. We’re looking for a sponsor for this – so if you know anyone that wants some prominence during Sundance, please get in touch!
The other event will be held in Salt Lake City over three nights, intended to showcase to the public the best of Utah digital entertainment. Lots of hands-on interactive activities, live VR, music, film and performance art. We’re also looking for someone to write a simple AR app for use at the event in return for exposure. Interested? Get in touch.
Access Salt Lake
Longer term in 2018, we plan to hold two week long events at our home at Access Salt Lake, each day having a different theme within digital entertainment. For example, Monday might be indie games events, Tuesday might be vfx related activities, Wednesday might be AR technologies, Thursday might be Education, Friday might be interactive movie focused. Each day could have keynotes or working sessions. We think a game jam or the movie equivalent might be fun as well. We’re still at the idea stage, but we would like to talk to groups that might like to ‘own’ a day as part of such a week. Interested? Please get in touch.
Raising money is always a great topic for this community, so we’re thinking about a series of ‘Shark Tank’-like events where a handful of you can pitch your ideas to a group of potential investors or other professionals, to hear their critique.
We hope that through such activities everyone can improve their pitching skills as well as broaden the mindset of potential investors into the potential that exists in this space, locally.
A longer term idea that we’re also working on is digital apprenticeships. The goal here would be for UDEN to manage a digital trade apprenticeship program in conjunction with local businesses. These are not internships, these are paid two-year positions, during which apprentices work on live digital projects 80% of the time, learning the trade and coming up with their own projects in the other 20% of their time. The idea is that such a program would fill the gap between people who know how to use the tools of the trade but perhaps aren’t ready for the workplace yet, or who with some mentoring could learn how to add value rather than simply do a job. The hope would be that after two years the apprentices will start new businesses. We will see if we can get a sector fund to invest in such businesses. If the apprentices don’t want to start new businesses, they’ll be work ready for either digital entertainment or our friends here in Silicon Slopes land.
So – that’s what we’re thinking about as we head into year 3. We’re still very excited about the prospects for digital entertainment in Utah and we hope you are too!
Let me close these thoughts by thanking you. To those that have been to all, or most of our meetings and supported us, thank you. If this is your first time, please join UDEN on our website and become a regular – social media is the best way to stay in touch with us. In either case – let’s make 2018 the year of action. Let’s Move The Needle, just like Silicon Slopes has!
At most of our events this year we have been focusing on VR, AR and MR technologies. Many of you have told us how much you liked the opportunity to get hands on with different types of these technologies. So tonight, as the last in our VR themed year, we have two more very cool technologies for you to try. The first is called Mixed Reality – or MR. As a reminder, MR applies the technologies of Virtual and Augmented reality to allow you to interact with digital objects superimposed into the real world around you. We are super excited that the Microsoft Store from downtown Salt Lake City have been kind enough to bring along some of their MR equipment for you to try tonight. Here to tell us more, please welcome Corbett and Steve!
Let’s keep talking VR for a few minutes… you might recall that we introduced you to the VOID many months ago at UDEN – as you may know, the VOID VR is brilliant - it's also huge and takes up a huge amount of space. At the opposite end of the scale are VR headsets you plug into your phone, or perhaps your home PC, like Microsoft's Mixed Reality. Inbetween these two types of VR, there is VR Arcade, which is typically larger than you get at home but small enough that you can try multiple different experiences in one location, often in a store.
Virtualities have opened a VR Arcade downtown Salt Lake City, and they have been kind enough to bring some of their VR Arcade experiences here for you to try tonight. Here to tell you more about what they do and is Ryan Burningham!
Now its time for networking, and on the rolling video behind me you'll see your checklist challenge of things to do next; but before we begin, I would to say thanks to a few people:
- to Jeff Peters for arranging tonight's meeting and to Clark Stacey for helping to run UDEN;
- to Jacquie for volunteering to help us tonight as well as Jen;
- to Silicon Slopes and JP Morgan for sponsoring tonight’s event;
- to Microsoft and to Virtualities for the hands-on VR and MR experiences;
- to our advisory board for their counsel and support;
- and of course, to you all for continuing to support UDEN
Wishing all of you the very best for the rest of 2017, and a very happy holiday! Thank you!
As part of UDEN's focus on virtual reality technologies this year, UDEN #15 gathered together some of the various virtual reality, augmented reality and mixed reality initiatives happening in our sector in our state. We planned it to be a great opportunity for our members to network, learn and find collaborators to help engage in this vital emerging technology.
No panels, no keynotes, but hands-on!
- showcase of work in progress of yet-to-be-released products!
- new software offerings
- different types of hardware
- opportunity to meet service providers
...and as always the opportunity to network with the best and brightest of Utah's digital entertainment community!
Here is a video recap of the evening:
Who was there?
Among the individuals and companies that were showing their wares were:
- CJ Pollock and his team announced the public beta for their VR FPS for mobile, called iSlayer, and allowed some early hands-on at UDEN #15
- Using state-of-the-art VR and AR technology, Sightscapers teach museum visitors of all ages to don not just a set of VR goggles, but new, curious eyes that will stay with them long after they leave the museum exhibit
- At UDEN #15, they showed VR exhibits using their Vive setup, AR exhibits through smartphones
- Sightscapers see the world through a child's eyes. Everything is something to be discovered anew for the first time. Sightcapers are passionate about working with museums and higher education to create pre-packaged supportive content as well as specific custom-made life experiences, that all works in tandem with existing exhibits
- Thanks to AR/VR technologies, a personal interaction with lives and places previously thought gone forever is finally at hand
BULLFROG SPAS and FRINGE CONTENT
- For over 20 years the name Bullfrog Spas has been synonymous with innovation in the world of well-engineered hot tubs
- Now Bullfrog Spas is pioneering another first by bringing virtual reality to the spa retail space
- This was the “can’t miss exhibition” at the Pool & Spa Show and we are making it so you can get a little piece of the experience with our VR viewer and your smartphone
THE GApp LAB
- The GApp Lab (therapeutic games and apps) is a collaboration between the Center for Medical Innovation and the Entertainment Arts and Engineering Program at the University of Utah
- They showed some of their latest VR medical applications
- Indie game developer Greg Squire showed his new innovative VR game project, "Lord of Fire & Ice"
- Students in the intro virtual reality class at Spy Hop utilized the programs Cinema 4D and Unity to create 3D worlds that can be explored in Google Cardboard
- The students in this class range from 13 - 16 years old and they shared their first attempt at creating this type of project!
- Spy Hop is a nonprofit youth media arts organization located in Salt Lake City, Utah whose mission is to mentor young people in the digital media arts to help them find their voice, tell their stories and be empowered to affect positive change in their lives, their communities, and the world. Spy Hop is considered one of the leading youth media organizations in the country. In 2015, they won the National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award from the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities and were named one of seven global Adobe Creative Catalysts
- I represented start-up company Soliton Reach at UDEN #15 and gave live demos of their prototype real-time, drift-free motion sensors for VR, AR and MR
- The sensors allow you to interact with the virtual world the same way you do in the real world ...with your hands and body. It's only natural!
- Cosmic VR is a full service production company creating immersive experiences using virtual reality. We focus on providing cinematic stereoscopic 360° video and VR experiences. Partnering with agencies, brands, venues and artists, we work with our forward-thinking clients to make a real impression at events, exhibitions or anywhere else people get excited for the future of storytelling
UTAH VALLEY UNIVERSITY
- This AR game was created by a team of four students who are about to graduate from the Software and Game Development program at Neumont University
- Holo Defender is an arcade tower defense game for the Microsoft Hololens. The goal of this project was to create a simple grid-based tower defense that can be projected into the physical world. It plays as a standard tower defense, with robot foes moving through a predetermined path while trying to reach an end goal, and damage the player’s home base. Players must use their wits to strategically place a variety of towers onto the map to stop waves of enemies from progressing. However, once the player’s base has taken too much damage, it will all be over!
Tonight’s keynote discussion centered around post-production, a critical phase of the film making process. An expert panel kicked-off this topic off for us and then it was opened to the floor for questions and opinions. Later in the networking hour, there was a VIP tour of HUGEsound a few blocks away for those who wanted to see a world-class post-production facility.
To begin, Joel Smith spoke a few words about the Access Salt Lake facility and I talked a little about Soliton Reach and their products. Our huge thanks to our sponsors!
Then we moved into Hive Ignite, our regular spotlight on interesting people, products or companies in digital entertainment in Utah.
First up tonight was Spencer Viernes who talked us through the InPerson networking app. InPerson was created to help professionals connect face-to-face in a meaningful way that galvanizes the relationship. LinkedIn is great and an InPerson connection helps strengthen the bond beyond a virtual connection. With InPerson, you can engage with professionals that are located at the same event you are attending. You can invite and connect with people in real-time and carry those forward both those new relationships and the ability to have ongoing correspondence. UDEN14 was already live as an event that people were using to connect with live using InPerson! As Spencer said, "Online is okay, InPerson is better!"
Next up should have been Bryce Hansen, Assistant Director at the Salt Lake Small Business Development Center, Salt Lake Community College. However, he was taken ill earlier in the day and so his colleague Peter Callister stood in and walked us through the details about the upcoming Utah Crowdfunding Summit. Taking place on May 4th, it is Utah's largest training and networking event for crowdfunding, created for tech and social entrepreneurs, as well as for non-profits who are raising money. They will have some of the country's best crowdfunders, experts in Kickstarter, Indiegogo, Regulation Crowdfunding (Investment-Equity), and much more! There will also be a competition, Crowdfund Hero, an online crowd voting competition where the Top Six contestants at 11:59 on April 30th are automatically selected to pitch for cash and prizes at the Utah Crowdfunding Summit on May 4, 2017. On the online platform, contestants receive one point for each vote, social share, or dollar donated. For example, if your entry receives 10 votes, 20 social shares on Twitter and/or Facebook, and $100 in donations, your point total will equal 130. UDEN members get a 20% discount for the Summit - go to our website event page for details.
For our final Hive Ignite, we were delighted to share the time with Microsoft. Patrick, Corbett and Steve from the downtown SLC Microsoft store shared the community initiatives that they are engaged in, offering future partnerships and collaborations with the UDEN community, which was gratefully received. This included details about the upcoming Gaming as a Career event, that UDEN and the Utah Games Guild are co-sponsoring. Joel from a local high school also spoke as an example of a group very happy with their Microsoft partnership.
Then we moved into the keynote discussion for the evening - sustainable post production; it's that phase of making a movie which happens after the actors and camera people have done their bit; it’s where CG gets added, special effects, audio dubbing, soundtrack, editing and so much more. It’s really important and can make or break a movie. While movies may be the best known example of post, it also applies to TV, gaming, VR and just about all facets of digital entertainment.
Here in Utah, we don’t get much post production work, despite quite a few movies being shot here, so it would be good to figure out how to get more of it as part of building our digital film industry here. Why now? In these days of cloud connectivity we can offer more efficient workflows and remote access – so, for example, a director doesn’t need to fly in from Hollywood to review work in progress.
To give us some deeper insights into these and related post production issues, we asked a panel of experts to give us their thoughts. Chance Thomas, one of Utah’s most famous composers was our moderator. He's won an Oscar and an Emmy for his work, with a repertoire spanning film, TV, games and even the Mormon Tabernacle Choir; including Marvel, Lord of the Rings, James Cameron’s Avatar, and DOTA 2! Chance founded HUGEsound, the world-class post production facility that could be toured right after UDEN 14. Chance then introduced the panelists.
Michael Fox is a storyteller and picture editor with over twenty years of experience in film and television. He began his editing career on the CBS family drama Touched by an Angel. That set him on a path that would eventually see him working with JJ Abrams (Almost Human, Believe), Michael Bay (The Last Ship), Stephen King (11.22.63., Mr. Mercedes) and many others. Michael is fiercely talented, lightning fast and a consummate perfectionist. After years of living and cutting in LA, he returned to his Utah home and love of all things outdoors.
Brittani Goodman is a VFX Supervisor who described herself as a full-time Mom that also works at the LDS Motion Picture Studio. At weekends she also runs a healthy freelance business. Her innovative design work over more than 15 years has helped HP, Deseret Book, General Electric, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Hitachi, and many more.
Jeff Meacham is a sound designer. He graduated from Full Sail University in their Recording Arts program in 2005. He went on to work with Electronic Arts for 7½ years, working on everything audio before making a switch to film for 4 years. He has experience in both production and post production audio. He is now incredibly fortunate to be re-united with many of his former EA Salt Lake team members directing audio and helping pioneer virtual reality experiences at THE VOID in Lindon, Utah.
The panel discussed the scope of post production, the challenges it faces and some ideas as to how it might be grown as an industry sector in Utah. Michael made the point that it is highly competitive and it's tough to compete against locations that offer big incentives to go there, so instead we have to think about how to add enough value that it's not a race to the bottom of costs. Chance noted that most people in the field are freelance and Brittani shared that the key to success for freelancers was networking: don't be afraid to go meet, introduce yourself and your services. These days she doesn't need to chase work; thanks to her reputation, clients finds her and she says it pays well. But that didn't happen overnight, so be patient and keep networking. Jeff talked through his career path and talked about how working in virtual reality experiences at the VOID presented new opportunities and challenges, both of which you need to be prepared to embrace if you want to progress in your career. The panel concluded that the only way post can be healthy and viable in Utah is if those involved come together, share and collaborate for mutual benefit, suggesting that UDEN is a great starting place for this.
I concluded the formal part of the evening with some closing comments, and for the next hour we networked before going to checkout the HUGEsound post production facility.
Huge thanks to:
- Our panelists
- ("ESPN's") AJ Dimick for setting up the mics, filming and setup
- Lisa Matsukawa and Antonio for help setting up
- Jeff Peters for helping organize UDEN meetings, fiming and setup!
- Utah Valley University and Bryan Kessinger for loan of the extra mics!
In addition to networking meetings with all of you, we meet with lots of different groups about how to build a better ecosystem for the creators of digitalentertainment in Utah. Among the big events UDEN has been a major collaborator for include the UCDA Digital Summit last December and also the Lightspark Media Summit last week.
Marc Stephens from UCDA spoke about the progress that had been made to progress the Summit outcomes; he told the meeting that Salt Lake County mayor Ben McAdams was fully supportive of the 'collective impact' plan and would be assigning some of his staff to help oversee it. This is huge as it means funds are being set aside to help get a plan moving for economic growth in digital entertainment, which will have public sector support. Joel Smith added that progress had also been made with the STEM Action Center who were also going to be supportive of our efforts.
Many insights and ideas came up during the summit – here are a few:
• We can’t build a sustainable industry based on handouts. Instead let’s figure out how we build an industry sector that is not built on incentives but meeting commercial demands.
• I think of incentives like gasoline: it you put gasoline on a fire, it will go boom! But if you put them on a dry pile of sticks, you just end up with a damp pile of sticks. We, industry, have to create the flames of business before we can really justify the gasoline of incentives
• We know we need investment and at UDEN meetings last year, we discussed the difficulties of doing this. One of the ideas that came up was a sector investment fund, which will help fund initiatives that help us meet our collective impact goals
• We create great talent for this sector through our educational establishments – but there aren’t enough jobs here to keep our annual graduates. So we need to figure out better career pathing to create maximum opportunity for the students as well as better ways to help those students find jobs in the industry we have here already
One idea proposed at the Summit that could help focus all of these insights and to provide those ‘flames’ would be a common platform for our entertainment industry -- ideally one that has a future and that could leverage all of the creativity and technical talent we have here already. The proposal was that VR and AR could be that platform. And that’s why we’ll be discussing it here tonight. The idea is not be to stop you from doing anything else – but investment would be focused in the areas of the common platform.
• Imagine if we all became expert in this field? The film makers could help us understand story telling in this medium. The game makers could help us understand interactivity and user interface. The artists could help us use the tools of visual effects and audio.
• Once proficient, we could lend these skills to the wider tech and medical community in Utah, all of whom will be looking to VR and AR in the coming years
• And so through our educational programs we could deliver the ideal workforce through career pathing, such that skilled students would have the option of a vast array of jobs locally, not just in entertainment
• Thus we build business and jobs. We can then brand our collective skills to the global audience. And so we achieve economic growth.
Crazy? Perhaps? Worth trying? We would love to hear your thoughts. We’re discussing this topic here tonight. It’s a direct follow-up from the UCDA summit.
Call for Volunteers
Whatever we choose to do, it’s going to take effort. While Marc and the UCDA continue to set the ground work for long-term collective impact, UDEN plans to continue pushing to make progress in the short term.
If you’re interested in being part of a volunteer team to work on areas you feel strongly about and collaborate with the other UDEN teams, please let us know. email@example.com
Communication for Community
How best can you stay connected with this community? There is the website, social media, slack channel – sure. But here is another option, created by a local developer Spencer Viernes - an app called InPerson - why not go to your app store right now and download it? Great way to stay connected with this community! It uses your LinkedIn account, so if you have one, then this is a great connection tool for us.
It’s now time for Hive Ignite, our regular spotlight on interesting people, products or companies in digital entertainment in Utah. To keep it simple we do it like a speed date – 3 minutes to give us all the elevator pitch.
Before we begin, let me say that we always have Hive Ignite spaces open in our future meetings, so if you have something you would like to share, or perhaps you would like to ask for help – just come see me after the meeting (or email) and we’ll get you signed up. First come, first served.
Entrepreneur Learning Pad - Krista Groll
Aurora Awards - Krista Groll
Soliton Reach - Jon Dean
Panel: VR or Bust
On to tonight’s keynote discussion! As mentioned earlier, one of the ideas that came up during the UCDA summit was that – perhaps – the best way to build future economic impact would be for us all to specialize in the same area. The area suggested was virtual reality.
Tonight we would like to consider whether it makes sense for all sectors of Utah’s entertainment community to embrace VR – film, games, education etc. The reason we might want to is that – perhaps – by all being great at the same thing, we are collectively better and can become known internationally (getting that respect we deserve!), so boosting our ability to bring jobs and economic growth. That’s not to say people can’t do anything else – of course they could – but that we focus investment around this one area. But perhaps it’s a bad idea too.
Tonight we want to know what you think. What ideas you might have as to how we go about doing something like this. Or is it crazy? To get some initial ideas surfaced, we have a panel here to give us their insights. We’ll hear from them first and then open the discussion to you on the floor.
Our panelists volunteered tonight in order that they could help others in this community and for that, we’re extremely grateful that they have given up their time to be with us tonight.
Rich Reagan moderated the panel discussion and opened the conversation to the floor for comments and questions.
Overall, the panel and the room were in favor of adopting one core technology to be the unifying force. VR seemed the obvious choice, no-one proposed an alternative that could achieve the same objective.
- Lanie was concerned about whether the tech was really ready for mass market yet, especially with usability concerns - she mentioned motion sickness and the speed at which people became physically ill if the frame rate was not 120 or higher
- Chris mentioned that the high-end systems such as Oculus Rift or Vive were performing at that high-end, believing that the social potential is huge for improving the quality of life for people
- Price was mentioned as a concern: today you need a high-end PC as well as the head-mount display and some controllers, easily $3000 to begin. This is a barrier.
- Roger was very much in favor of VR as a unifying platform, mentioning how it is being adopted in a big way at the GApp Lab at the University of Utah for healthcare purposes, and that increasingly students on the Master Games Program are creating virtual and augmented reality applications. He pointed out that you don't need high-end technology to use VR - Google Cardboard costs around $10, works with mobile phones and is more than adequate; indeed he believes mobile is where the future market is
- Jarom talked about the potential VR has to bring innovation to film and marketing activities, noting that the creative and technical talent we already have in the state would be well suited to unify behind VR technologies
The meeting concluded with networking. This is an important facet of our meetings
Maybe you want to ask more questions of our panelists 1:1? Perhaps most importantly, you can find other people here that are also interested in starting up, so you don’t have to do it alone.
If you’re wondering how you might go up to a stranger an start a conversation, I’m going to give you an ice breaker to use:
• Approach that person and say: “No! This is not my VR avatar, I really look like this!”
Pictures from the event:
UDEN's first meeting of 2017 was held during the Sundance Film Festival on January 25th. We were graciously hosted by our terrific partners the Utah Film Commission at their event space in Park City, UT. Despite the snow and the cold (well, Park City in January - it's what you expect!) , more than 200 people came to network, share ideas, share a beverage and partake in some delicious snacks, courtesy of our other sponsor, ChAIR Entertainment. KCPR broadcast live during the event and interviewed many of the luminaries gathered, including UDEN co-founder Clark Stacey. Plus we showed some of the new signage that was donated to us and some cool info cards demonstrating a more professional image for the group.
UDEN was a sponsor of the UCDA Digital Summit held at the superb Park City Film Studios on Dec 1st and 2nd 2016; this is my recap of what happened there which I want to share with the wider community. If anyone, attendees or otherwise has additional insights or comments, please do add them below.
The purpose of the summit was to invite a handful of leaders from the film, TV, media, gaming, educational, finance and government to come together and discuss digital entertainment in Utah. I know, I know, feels like we’ve been here before, right? What was different about this Summit was the focus: how might we prepare ourselves for the future – to be ready for where the industry is going, as opposed to playing catch-up with where it is today? Plus, the Summit was interactive, with the participants working together in groups to problem solve, as well as in the larger group for discussions. Overall I came away re-energized about the potential of this sector and truly impressed by the quality and talent of the people we have here in the state. Unfortunately, there was no time for my karaoke session!
Here are the outcomes:
· The highest-level goal would be a sustainable community across the entire state of the creators of content and technology, known for the expertise of the people here, delivering industry-leading quality output for global audiences.
· The community, along with external stakeholders, need to agree a road-map with some key objectives and commit to moving that plan forward; this is a way of working known as ‘collective impact’ and has been championed by organizations such as United Way of Utah (who we heard from at the Summit) and is being used to address the difficult homelessness challenges in the State (from which we gained insights into the steps and process of collective impact)
· It was agreed that the outcomes of the Summit would be written up by the UCDA as a report for the Utah government to consider;
· The collective impact process will take time to work through and deliver results, not least we – the community – will need to figure out the ‘how’ and the ‘who’ of managing the process;
· Rather than be seen as an industry sector constantly with its hand out for tax dollars, we, as the industry, need to figure out a way to build a sector investment fund, which could help finance initiatives that help us meet our collective goals;
· Potentially have all sectors align around one future technology and become renown for our expertise in this area; the idea is not to exclude other areas, but use it as a focus, branding and alignment tool. VR/AR was discussed as such a possibility, as it applies not only to gaming or film, but also TV, simulation, education, medical etc – with a wider connection to the existing tech strengths here in Utah
· Figure out how to make Utah a more attractive location for creative talent; it was recognized that the state is especially attractive for young families, but could be more vibrant for single people in the way that, say, Austin is
The Summit wrapped up with a list of the wins that we had already achieved during the two days, which we can use as a starting point while collective impact gets figured out:
· We self-identified as creators of content and technology, which we should all begin to refer to ourselves as;
· Connections have been made to the wider technology sector, including Silicon Slopes, which we need to now embrace as a stakeholder for mutual benefit;
· UDEN offered itself as a possible foundation for the wider community to embrace now, open to reconstituting for success as may be required; www.utahden.org
· Cosmic Pictures offered anyone that was interested to join with them in putting together compelling promotional material to help promote our collective efforts in digital entertainment firstname.lastname@example.org
· Access SLC offered the use of its premises downtown SLC to the community for meetings or gatherings as needed www.accesssaltlake.com
· The VOID offered that, once it has its first virtual entertainment center live in Utah, they would make it available to educators for field trips during daytime hours
· Shaleane Gee, Special Assistant to Mayor Ben McAdams, advised the Summit that the plans we had discussed made a good fit for collective impact
· Joe Gabriel from the VOID setup a SLACK channel for discussion and communication about furthering the goals www.theutahcollective.slcak.com
· There were several meeting opportunities offered by way of further networking, these included:
o A meeting at Access Sale Lake on January 17th (with a party next day!). Details from email@example.com
o Invite to the 3rd Annual Innovation Summit on January 25th – details at http://www.innovationsummit2017.com
o UDEN invited the entire community to network together and continue the conversation at its event during Sundance www.utahden.org/sundance17
Let me close by offering the services of the UDEN social channels to you as a means to share information to our fellow community of creators and technologists!
- At www.utahden.org we have an EVENTS listing, where you can post your upcoming events free, allowing people to RSVP to you
- There is also a JOBS BOARD, MEMBER DIRECTORY, place for BLOGS and resources for STARTUPS
- You can share your news via our Facebook and Twitter communities too!
I'm very excited. I hope you can join with us to make the future of entertainment bright for us all!
Panel discussion with solutions for launching and funding your digital entertainment startup, innovation and creative project.
A special UDEN meeting with a panel of experts discussing how to startup a digital business in Utah!
Highlights and photos from UDEN #9 including our 1 year anniversary and YouTube panel
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