A recovery strategy grounded in the creative industries and a new virtual learning school system makes “Virtual Production” (VP) a pivot-in-action. VP offers a chance for a real time surround live production where visual effects have no barriers, resulting in both occurring simultaneously. It blends video game technology with film techniques into the pre-production and production process. This shift will help us to leave behind the Byzantine models of film for TV and cinema, and our Lord Harris plantation economy school system with subject silos and pupils grouped in classes labelled with badges like “Standard 2” or “Grade 5” akin to the tags used by a Bureau of Standards in manufacturing.
If we are taking the long view, then it is not unknown that the growth in high-value jobs is in the creative industries. A recovery strategy tethered to the creative industries spanning the fields of film, sound technology, gaming, fashion communication and digital printing on textiles and leather will need government support. Design studios and engineering labs at universities will be vital to this recovery pathway. To grow the film industry as part of a recovery strategy, government may need to support the building of a string of VP TV studios in conurbations like Scarborough, Couva, Sangre Grande and La Romain – not just Port of Spain – to accelerate production of content without loss of quality or artistic control.
Here universities must outfit laboratories for computer scientists to work with VP and film industry aficionados to make further advances in this technology and its commercial applications. Encouraging engineers and scientists to mingle with artists and designers to create a “crucible” of ideas is necessary. VP that uses powerful video game technology and vast LED screens to place actors directly in live virtual sets gets rid of green screens and the need for CGI in post-production. Faculty at universities and schools will also have to be retooled to build Knowledge Objects that lift the immobile content off the 2D surface of the textbook page onto the screen allowing visualization of abstract models in chemistry or mathematics. The “Screen” is the “New Page”. A page dominated by “Assets” – not text. One look is worth a thousand words. Nurturing the skills to design learning objects and videos for schools, for use on platforms like VidGrid, needs investment and support.
Where is the virtual interactive textbook of the distinct geomorphology of each West Indian island? Where is the Vudu of West Indian film? Waiting for Hoopla to serialize “The Lonely Londoners” is no longer an option. The need for a University “for” Trinidad and Tobago that puts “Design” at the heart of the tertiary enterprise is overdue. A national institution focusing on distinct development opportunities in Tobago for marine archaeology, underwater photography and videography, and operational mapping of live coral cover within and across reef ecosystems, and the challenges of relevance in Trinidad in manufacturing, finance, the creative industries, energy, and violent crime. GATE can no longer carry the weight of degrees duplicated across institutions and programmes of study that have little employment prospects and nothing to do with jobs of the future.
Articulation Agreements that map programme-to-programme progression of learners across providers and transfer pathways remains outstanding. All we have now is competition and duplication in a small sector with declining student enrollment. The tertiary sector desperately needs a transformation of its approach to funding, teaching and research. Vlad Tenev and Baiju Bhatt were classmates at Stanford. They were developing superfast software for ultrafast trading firms during the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations. With a Stanford mind-set they were inspired by the protesters to design a smartphone app that would expand access to financial services beyond the well-heeled. They used Silicone Valley philosophies of user engagement and word of mouth publicizing that animated the thinking of Robinhood. The app borrowed visual cues from gaming apps, such a confetti streaming across the screen to celebrate new trades. Users could virtually scratch off a mystery card to win a free stock. During recent school closures, parents set up custodial accounts for their children, allowing them to invest with a few smartphone swipes. Following their friends and the hype on Reddit’s notorious WallStreetBets forum, Twitter and Discord children relished the wild ride of investing in GameStop. Others invested in Square Inc. using Trading 212. They learned more than they ever did at the old school.
Robinhood changed an industry. Stanford created the mind-set to change the world. Robinhood earned US$687 million in 2020. On January 28, 2021, Robinhood came up against a well-funded financial colossus with myriad sources of cash and sprawling compliance teams. The next few months will test Robinhood like no other time since its formation. Vlad and Bhatt built the Airbnb of finance. They made mistakes and some we may even copy. Jimi Hendrix remarked that, “I’ve been imitated so well I’ve heard people copy my mistakes.” But despite the challenges – what is before us, is a chance to rebuild the education system, to create a new mind-set, and to make the creative industries a strand needing development funding along the recovery path.