Experts from the world of visual special effects have met the next generation of tech enthusiasts to celebrate the start of DigiFest’s week of public events. 

California-based Ben VonZastrow, technical lead of Tippett Studio, the special effects masterminds behind films such as Jurassic Park and Star Wars, met pupils from Bridge of Allan Primary who were visiting to get a taster of the experiences planned for the week’s celebration.

DigiFest is highlighting Scotland as a global leader in digital innovation in the heritage sector. The public events take place from today to Saturday 20 at The Engine Shed, Scotland’s dedicated building conservation centre in Stirling.

Aimed at families, young people and tech enthusiasts, the activities will allow visitors to explore the latest technologies in areas including 3D modelling and printing, augmented reality, virtual reality, gaming, animation, robotics and coding.

Tippett Studio are leaders in digital special effects for TV shows, films, adverts, mobile apps and VR experiences for theme park rides. VonZastrow’s work includes credits on films such as Matrix Revolutions, Cloverfield and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

“Working in the entertainment field offers many rewards,” said VonZastrow. “But one of the greatest for me has always been the marriage of entertainment, art, and history in a way that not only opens up previously hidden or long-lost worlds to new audiences, but does so in a way that may take audiences by surprise – leaving them with a little knowledge when their only intent had been to be entertained.

“It was a delight meeting with the young people of Bridge of Allan Primary and it’s great to see DigiFest giving young people access to technology which can safeguard the built environment around them.”

One of the many masterclasses on offer will see Tippett animator, David Lauer, showcase Tippett’s experience of creating Star Wars’ iconic ‘Holochess’ stop-motion monster puppets in the 1970s and then re-creating a digital version for this year’s Solo instalment of the franchise. Visitors inspired by the talk can make their own stop-motion animation films.

Dorothy Hoskins, technical outreach and education manager at the Engine Shed, said: “While advances in technology are allowing us to conserve, monitor and care for our historic sites and buildings with ever-increasing efficiency and effectiveness, these same innovations are also making heritage more accessible than ever.

“New online platforms and developments in digital technologies are enabling people to inspect historic sites and artefacts from anywhere in the world, while a combination of digital documentation and animation allows for accurate recreation of historic environments which can be explored through cinema and gaming.

“The response so far to DigiFest has been superb and we look forward to a week packed with unique experiences for families.”

DigiFest will offer a range of activities for visitors to get involved in, including demos of action-adventure video game Assassin’s Creed and the chance to hear more about the technologies behind it from the game’s historical researcher, and robot races with Sphero SPRK, a robot toy which teaches children how to code.

Launched by Historic Environment Scotland in July 2017 as a central hub for building and conservation professionals and the general public, The Engine Shed has seen a highly successful opening year, welcoming over 15,000 visitors and winning a number of awards.

The establishment of a public-facing facility, which includes a large scale interactive map allowing visitors to explore over 2000 years of Scotland’s history through the power of augmented reality, aims to engage the next generation with our historic environment and the value of protecting and preserving it.

The full programme for DigiFest, can be viewed here.