Thunderbirds are go: WelTec negotiating with Pukeko Pictures to give students commercial movie experience

Wellington creative technologies students get opportunities to work in the real – and the virtual – world

Wellington Institute of Technology (WelTec) wants to expand the opportunities for its creative technologies students to work on real life projects.

As seven students graduated from WelTec’s Bachelor of Creative Technologies programme this week, the institute reinforced its commitment to ensure students emerge from the course with practical skills and experience.

And it announced Sir Richard Taylor’s Pukeko Pictures (Thunderbirds are Go!) is in negotiation to join its internship programme.

Last year WelTec teamed up with Kapiti-based digital content producers Creative Coast to give students six-week practical experience on commercial digital projects. These included film, visual affects and virtual reality projects.

Creative Coast director Brendon King says the challenge for academia in the past has been to recognise theoretical skills were not enough.

“Students got a degree, but you had people like Peter Jackson coming along and saying: ‘You need to be able to do XYZ and to demonstrate you can do it’. But students didn’t have the experience, so Peter went overseas to find talent and students went overseas to get that experience.”

Brendon King (L), Oculus Rift CEO Palmer Lucky (M), and Reel FX co-owner Dale Carman

The pioneer internship project began in August 2014, and was the brainchild of WelTec Creative Technologies head of school Teriu Lemon. Students worked on real-life commercial projects in the fields of sound design, 3D modelling, and animation. The first of these projects, a six-minute virutal reality “edutainment experience” built completely using computer graphics, is set for release in August.

Two other projects – a full length feature movie in association with film director Alex Galvin, and a Maori documentary made by Hiona Henare – are ongoing.

King says he and Lemon are now actively looking for other projects for the students to work on, and another virtual reality project is on the cards.

“For the students, to be able to say they have worked on real-world virtual reality projects is a great thing for them to have on their CV.”

The WelTec Bachelor of Creative Technologies graduate exhibition was held at Matchbox studios this week and celebrates the work of graduates going into the fields of film, animation and web design.

Student journalist Amber-Leigh Woolf cast her eye over some of the student work.

Braeden Thomas designed and built Quiver, an interactive surfing app and website, allowing customers to look for information about surfing, get up-to-date surfing guides, and find surfing spots using a map within the app.

“I started in my first year as a student at WelTec and we were asked to make a Zine and then it developed into a website and then into a web application,” Thomas says.

“I’ve been working on this for six to eight months, twenty hours a week.”

Ian Macfarlane developed a creature named Grug into a web video game.

“The idea started as a little character in my notebooks at high school. In my second year at WelTec one of my pieces was to make a character for a video game. So I started thinking about what world he would live in and what he would do in this world.

Victoria Croads’ work reverses traditional gender roles, using “a short video I made for a game concept. About a robot called Luna, who starts a scrap yard business.

“In the video we explore the environment of the scrapyard. It’s a concept with a character as a mechanic, which is unusual. So I wanted to give her an occupation usually given to a man.

“I’ve always wanted to do a game with a character in an unusual role, wanted to do a female character with a male role.”

Croad says that she’s been working on the character and her environment for a the whole year, and spent three months over the summer learning coding.

“I’ve always loved fantasy worlds and wanted to go into that,” says Croad, who explored other games for ideas. “The specific game that I got inspiration was called Mass Effect. It’s about space exploration”.

Francesca Scott’s multimedia work, The Travellers Tableux, tracks her travels, including scenes from England, New York and Amsterdam.

The works are “Little bits of things that mean something to me,” Scott says.

Head of school Teriu Lemon says the 2015 students’ work is exciting because of the introduction of films. This year overseas producers have come to New Zealand to visit the Weltec students and look at their films, including a group from Los Angeles.

“We want them to sign us to produce a film… They’re here for a week. We want to globalise what we’re doing. It’s driven by industry and we want our students to have real experience.”

“There are also two female producers, so we’ll be talking to them about how they survive in the LA film industry.”

Lemon says the students plan the graduation exhibition themselves, which teaches them entrepreneurship skills. “The students facilitated the exhibition process, and as part of it they have to raise the money. This year they raised the money for the whole show”.