Award-winning film producer and Academy of Interactive Entertainment (AIE) trainer Dan Sanguineti is pulling back the curtain on what makes A-list films and video games tick.
The nation-leading educator in 3D animation, game design and visual effects will allow Canberrans to learn about and get hands-on with the latest technology used in game development and filmmaking by watching a real series being shot live, making their own video game and more over a 10-day program coinciding with Uncharted Territory festival.
While this high-tech smorgasbord is set to inspire the next generation of filmmakers and game developers, Dan remembers his own interest being sparked in a more analogue era.
“My grandad gave me a VHS camera and it looked like an ’80s style kind of news camera at the time, and I was 11 or 12, so this was oversized for me,” he says.
“But the moment I got it in my hands, it was just some connection for me, at least that’s what I got told from family when they saw me with it. It was a joy.”
In the intervening years, Dan’s racked up more than 40 producing credits and also worked as a director, writer and camera operator. But he’s the first to admit a lot has changed since he picked up that VHS camera more than two decades ago.
“We didn’t have an iPhone, YouTube or the internet,” he says. “I still feel like I’m a younger person, but the truth is technology’s changed so much.”
One of AIE’s shiny new toys on display will be its virtual production set, which allows filmmakers to combine live-action footage with computer graphics in real-time.
Traditionally, green screens were placed in the background of a shot to allow visual effects to be inserted during post-production. With virtual production sets, visual effects are created before and during the shot by projecting computer graphics onto LED walls.
“So when you walk onto a virtual production stage, a lot of the visual effects have been done already,” Dan explains.
Audiences might recognise the technology from the out-of-this-world scenery achieved in blockbuster Hollywood series like Disney’s The Mandalorian. But perhaps most impressively of all, Dan says the technology is powerful enough to overcome wintry days.
“In Canberra, we look out and it’s rainy and cloudy. If we had planned to shoot a sunset today, we would be in trouble,” Dan says.
“[With virtual production sets], we can have a sunset that lasts all day. So we can film the scene at ‘sunset’ and get all the shots we need, which takes hours and hours and hours.
“This technology is something new to the toolkit for filmmakers and AIE’s goal is to be able to make this a little bit more accessible to Australian filmmakers.”
Canberrans can learn more about virtual production from a panel discussion between Dan and AIE founder John De Margheriti, where they will also discuss AIE’s plans to build a new film studio with virtual production capabilities or experience virtual production first-hand by sitting in on scenes being shot for a new supernatural-themed web series about public servants called Five Eyes.
There is lots more on offer over the 10-day program, including a two-day GameJam at AIE’s Watson campus, where teams of people aged 16 and over will work together over 32 hours to create a video game from scratch; the chance to hear from accomplished Canberra filmmakers Denai Gracie, Ché Baker and others; workshops offering a taste of what is taught at AIE; and much more.
Dan previously taught at accessible Canberra film school Bus Stop Films, and is himself autistic and has ADHD. He encourages all Canberrans to come, look and learn.
“I really want to open up what we do at AIE in the filmmaking space. We want to open it up to Canberrans so they can see what we’re doing,” Dan says.
“I want people to see that Canberra can be a filmmaking town, because it is already and there’s a lot of talented filmmakers that work here.”