Covid 19 prompts innovation in media production using gaming engines
During Covid 19, the learning media team was tasked with conveying the journey of a female patient coming to terms with living with Crohn’s disease, through three short films. There is already a legacy of creating medical dramas for the College’s School of Medicine, particularly for Clinical and Scientific Integration (CSI). With the onset of Covid 19 however, it was necessary to find safer solutions to create high impact learning experiences for Imperial’s undergraduate medical degree.
The restrictions imposed by Covid 19 posed serious challenges to the usual methods of filming and production. By using pre-visualisation technologies and 3D software, media staff were able to position actors in a studio, which allowed for a Covid 19 safe shooting protocol, build animated sets around characters, and lower the number of people present on set. This approach also allowed for more in depth exploration of the patient’s mindset and emotional journey whilst living with Crohn’s disease.
“The digital innovation within CSI has led to novel engaging high-impact learning experiences for Imperial’s Phase 1 medical students. Learners are taken on an immersive cinematic journey following individual patients, that allows them to observe, understand, and learn about the diagnosis, treatment, and impact of a variety of medical conditions.”
Professor Omar Usmani, Respiratory Medicine
Protecting College staff whilst creating high impact online learning experiences
To create a drama featured in the above trailer (a patient in a clinical setting), the media production team would normally work with several actors. This could either be on site in a studio, or on location in a hospital, producing footage of characters in a medical consultation.
In order to work within Covid restrictions, and ensure crew and actors could remain safe on set, numerous measures were taken. For example, by compositing images from a live feed and the 3D gaming engine, it was possible to create an 80% finalised image. Broadcasting this image via zoom meant that direction could take place from a separate room, and clinicians could guide the crew remotely, without needing to be on set.
Using animation techniques usually associated with high end productions and commercials not only solved logistical difficulties, but also opened up a world of possibilities for producing more engaging learning experiences. Animation is not limited by scope, or access to a location: characters can be put in any environment, and the limit is – theoretically – the imagination.
This means there can be greater flexibility and creativity when designing the narrative of a film. For example, in this video, the patient reflects on past events, and using animation means you can seamlessly transition between the present and past. The patient’s emotions can also be enhanced using animation by adding colours and different effects. These things can help to take the audience on an emotional journey with the patient, and give medical students an insight into the potential impact that Crohn’s disease can have on an individual.
This approach is a step towards a new way of creating narrative projects for blended educational courses, that not only allows crew, actors and collaborators to work safely through Covid 19, but that can enhance the learning experience for students.