November 2022

dock10 tackles the skills gap in virtual studios production

dock10 tackles the skills gap in virtual studios production

dock10 has expanded its virtual studios team with the appointment of two junior virtual studio developers.

Recent graduates Aya Al-bayati and Katie Bayman have both joined dock10 on a full-time basis to learn the ropes of virtual studios production.

Aya has a degree in computer games art from the University of Teesside, while Katie studied animation at Salford University.

The two hires represent an extension of our inhouse training scheme for TV studio craft talent which aims to train up the next generation of experienced crews and to address a widely acknowledged skills gap in TV production. As part of this initiative, we are currently training two camera assistants and two sound assistants.

The skills gap in virtual studios is particularly acute in the UK. dock10 is enjoying growing demand from creatives who want to incorporate virtual elements in entertainment, sports, children’s and factual TV, and in esports events. Yet very few people have experience of working in this highly technical area of production which is underpinned by games industry technology such as Unreal Engine.

Unsurprisingly, we have found it challenging to recruit experienced virtual studios staff. So, we are training up virtual studio talent inhouse at dock10 where they can gather hands-on, practical experience of working on virtual productions.

dock10 head of production innovation Richard Wormwell stresses that there is a "huge lack of skills" in the virtual studios sector. "It's such a new, fast-growing market that the kind of employees we are looking simply don't exist, which is why we have recruited Aya and Katie to learn their craft in the studios. They have been hands-on from day one, working directly on productions so they understand everything that is needed for a successful virtual studio show."

Aya and Katie both started in September, and their training will last for two years. In their first three months at dock10, Aya and Katie are designing and building their own virtual set which will be used for a demo productions that will film in the studios. This project will give them experience of working on all stages of a virtual production pipeline, helping them to learn on the job with guidance from our virtual studios team. Aya and Katie are also assisting the virtual studios team on other virtual projects that come in to dock10.

Katie, who specialised in 3D modelling and environments during her animation degree, says: "Each day is very different. I am still very much at the training stage, learning about how everything works here. We've already had multiple productions through the door, and we've seen lots of different shows being filmed."

Recently, she contributed to virtual production that has just filmed in the studios. "It was really rewarding to see the final, completed set when they filmed in the big green screen studio," says Katie.

dock10 is a pioneer in the field of virtual studios, helping creative teams to produce many TV programmes and esports events that rely on virtual technology including Channel 5's upcoming Dinosaur - with Stephen Fry, UEFA EURO 2020, 2021 Gran Turismo Sport FIA Online Championship, Match of the Day and BBC Bitesize.

Although she graduated with a degree in computer games art, Aya says she was keen to explore her options outside the games industry. "I came across this job opening at dock10, applied and got an interview, and they were so accommodating. I took a leap of faith, and I am so glad that I did!"

Aya says she is getting lots of support from the virtual studios team: "If I don't understand anything or if I need help with something, I can ask lots of questions – the team will explain and help me work through things."

Richard says that dock10 recognises it has a responsibility to train new entrants like Aya and Kate in virtual studios production. "It's a fast-growing sector. Every week, you can read in the press about the opening of a new virtual facility or virtual stage. But you don't read so much about the shortage of people with the right technical skills to work in all these spaces. That is why we are investing in training up the virtual studios talent of the future."