A mini Hollywood for downtown St. Catharines
Posted By DON FRASER, Standard staff
Posted 17 days ago
A production studio to make complex live-action video.
A state-of-the-art motion capture system for tracking and analyzing movement.
These and other leading technologies will soon be available thanks to more than $3 million in federal cash for the Niagara Interactive Media Generator, a centre for interactive media projects and business developments in Niagara.
The goal — to transform nGen into a top media development hub.
Adrian Thiessen, president of FourGrounds Media, is thrilled by Thursday’s announcement.
The nGen tenant is especially pumped about the giant, full-service production studio.
“It’s going to have blue and green screening capabilities to create virtual live action film environments,” Thiessen said.
“It is going to be a mini-Hollywood.”
David Oakes, nGen’s board chair and St. Catharines economic development director, said said nGen’s current space “has rapidly exceeded capacity.”
“We have now found ourselves in need of expansion that meets the needs of this emerging cluster,” said Oakes, at Thursday’s funding announcement inside nGen’s St. Catharines facility.
There are now four nGen tenants and other projects in progress, employing about 25 people.
The community adjustment fund money will allow its One St. Paul Street offices to expand to three floors.
As many as 80 new jobs could be created through the upgrading and future technology tenants that sign on.
Construction should begin shortly, with the project likely finishing by March 31, 2010.
Speakers at the media event said many players stand to benefit from the revamped facility, including Niagara College and Brock University.
“This funding will create an environment that will attract key players from the interactive media industry all over Ontario and U.S. to come to St. Catharines and Niagara,” Oakes said.
“We’ve really positioned ourselves to be a true industry leader in interactive media.”
The expansion will support technologies like interactive design, 3-D animation, digital film and video, computer gaming and webcasting, he said.
“That’s essentially what this is all about,” Oakes said. “Trying to help students and graduates define some entrepreneurial goals and create businesses that help this industry cluster move forward.”
St. Catharines MP Rick Dykstra hailed the new development as the “type of stuff that’s going to put us on the map in North America.
“It’s going to be a cutting-edge facility that will allow nGen to push its path forward into the economy of tomorrow,” Dykstra said.
“And I think the federal government ... is going to receive a full return on its investment.”
This next phase will mean “the access to technology for (post-secondary) students will go through the roof,” said nGen executive director Jeff Chesebrough.
“From that standpoint, the schools are obviously overjoyed with the resources they’re going to have,” he said, in an interview after the event.
Chesebrough said the precise amount of the federal funding commitment is still being worked out, but it’s at least $3 million.
The 18-month-old nGen was founded by Brock, Niagara College, the City of St. Catharines, Niagara Economic Development Corp., Niagara Enterprise Agency, Ontario Media Development Corp., Interactive Ontario and Silicon Knights.
It began with an initial investment of $560,000 over two years.
Niagara College president Dan Patterson said the next phase will encourage Niagara and Brock students and faculty to work together as they use nGen’s new technologies.
“It’s a really important model for us, as we look at the growth of small and medium-sized enterprises,” Patterson said.
“It means some really exciting opportunities for our graduates to work in an emerging and important sector of our economy.”