Star Wars spin-off inspires new Sunderland University development

Sunderland University’s newest addition will have its rivals virtually green with envy.

Tuesday, 17th August 2021, 5:00 am

A new 4K-UHD virtual studio has been installed at the University’s David Puttnam Media Centre to give students the opportunity to gain practical experience in latest-generation virtual studio production techniques.

The £300,000 system includes a Mo-Sys StarTracker Studio with a camera tracking unit, wireless-linked handheld StarTracker Viewfinder and high-grade green-screen walls and flooring.

The StarTracker camera tracking system was recently used on the BBC coverage of the Tokyo Olympics and in its Match of the Day programmes.

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The virtual studio

Craig Moore, Senior TV Technician at the University of Sunderland, said the developemnt had been inspired by the latest Star Wars TV spin-off: “We wanted to be able to offer something other universities currently can’t. The success of The Mandalorian television series, and the publicity about how it was created, opened our eyes to the process of live virtual production.

“Our hope was to replicate a similar type of setup which would position our university at the forefront of this new production method within the higher education sector. With this new system we can create large sets at no cost and turn our studios into anything our students can think of.

“This investment will also help us forge new relationships with external companies, whether it be production companies, football clubs and the local council. The main aim is to give our students every advantage possible for when they graduate and help them gain employment in their chosen field.”

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The Startracker viewfinder

Kieran Phillips is project manager at CJP Broadcast, the company behind the installation.

“StarTracker is an exceptionally stable tracking technology based on small reflective stars which are randomly applied to the studio ceiling,” he explained.

“The stars are hardly visible to the naked eye. An unobtrusive LED element on the camera shines light on the stars, defining the star map which allows StarTracker to report position, rotation and lens data accurately and in real-time.

"Once calibrated, the system is fully automatic and starts tracking after being powered on. Because StarTracker is always referencing itself to its star map, its position is absolute and drift-free.”

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