A new ‘movie magic’ lab in Dundee will help keep the UK at the “cutting edge” of visual effects technologies that are transforming the modern cinematic experience.

The lab in the city’s Water’s Edge facility will allow pioneering digital creation techniques such as those that brought Abba back to life through virtual avatars to be explored and harnessed.

The facility will be part of a coordinated UK Government-backed effort to revolutionise the UK’s film, TV and performing arts industries.

The state-of-the-art lab is part of the Creative Industries Sector Vision, published this week, which sets out the government’s ambition to maximise the growth of the creative industries by an extra £50bn by 2030, creating one million extra jobs and delivering a creative careers promise that builds a pipeline of future talent.

A consortium led by Abertay University was selected by the UK Government as a preferred bidder to host one of four new labs specialising in the future of virtual production – a new range of real-time content production techniques using computer-generated imagery (CGI), augmented reality and motion capture to create virtual sets, world and experiences.

Culture secretary Lucy Frazer said: “Scotland’s talented creatives have helped produce unforgettable productions including Tetris, The Traitors and even Succession. The region is known for its magical, cinematic scenery and is renowned for people with cutting-edge skills.

“We want to put Scotland at the forefront of new technologies which will power the future of  filming and live events. Working in tandem with a network of experts, this new lab will play a vital role in making sure the UK stays ahead of the latest developments transforming our screens and stages.”

Secretary of state for Scotland Alister Jack said: “This is a huge boost for Scotland’s world-class creative sector. This new facility in Dundee, funded by the UK Government, will help to build on the visual effects expertise we already have. Working together across the UK will ensure we remain on the cutting edge of this exciting industry, helping to create highly-skilled jobs and grow our economy.”

Instead of adding visual effects and CGI in post-production, virtual production allows filmmakers and theatre directors to create large-scale digitally-generated environments using LED panels that performers can interact with in real-time, as a faster and less expensive alternative to green screens.

The technology has been used to great success in the ABBA Voyage live concert at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in London and on Disney’s hit show The Mandalorian. The research facilities will study how the latest developments can be used to ensure the UK has the skills and infrastructure to stay on the cutting edge of new virtual production techniques in film, TV and live events.

Located at Water’s Edge Studios, the Dundee facility will bring together expertise from Edinburgh and Abertay universities, 4J Studios, tech incubator Codebase and Interface, an organisation dedicated to connecting businesses with academia.

Professor Gregor White, Dean of the School of Design and Informatics at Abertay University said: “Virtual production is one of the most exciting emerging applications of media technologies in the world right now. There is enormous potential for virtual film production to be the next major tech success story for the UK. Abertay’s academic expertise in the technologies used to create the real-time media, alongside University of Edinburgh’s expertise in generative AI is second to none. Our intention will be to use our research expertise to drive innovation, and the entrepreneurial and investment experience of the broader partnership to deliver economic growth and jobs of the future for the UK creative industries sector.”

The lab is part of UKRI’s Convergent Screen Technologies and performance in Realtime (CoSTAR) programme, supported by £75.6m of government funding and £63m of new industry investment, which will form the largest virtual production research and development network in Europe, putting the UK at the forefront of advancements in visual effects, motion-capture technology and AI for the screen industries and live performance.