New Zealand’s University of Canterbury to build $90.6m Digital Screen Campus

Artist impression of the new campus.

The University of Canterbury, based in Christchurch, New Zealand, has unveiled plans for a $90.6 million ($NZ97 million) campus dedicated to training in film production, game development and cross reality.

The university is redeveloping some 14 hectares of land for the facility, to be known as the Digital Screen Campus (DSC), with the expectation it will welcome students from 2023.

The campus will be designed in collaboration with studio architect Roger D’Arcy, and feature full-service commercial-standard production facilities, for use by local and international projects, as well as in the university’s own teaching and research.

With the campus to be located less than 20 minutes from Christchurch International Airport, there is hope that the DSC will further incentivise projects to locate in NZ’s South Island.

Proposed facilities for the DSC.

Serving as DSC programme director is Professor Andrew Phelps, also a professor in the film and media arts division at American University in Washington, DC, and president of the Higher Education Video Game Alliance.

“Following the success of productions such as Disney’s The Mandalorian, the acquisition of Weta Digital [now WetaFX] by Unity, Netflix moving into game development, Microsoft’s acquisition of Activision|Blizzard, and the versatility of platforms such as the Unreal Engine, it’s clear that digital screen convergence is happening, and we will need fresh talent in these areas,” he said.

“I’m tremendously excited about the DSC effort. This programme will help New Zealand push the limits of games, film, virtual reality, interactive media, commercial production and education in many new ways, and will be transformative for both the university and for Christchurch. I’m also excited about establishing and extending several international partnerships as a part of this work.”

The university has stated it intends to work in partnership with industry on its educational offering, with work-integrated learning at the centre of the proposed curriculum.

NZ Film Commission CEO David Strong said: “New Zealand is renowned for pushing boundaries, challenging industry norms, and redefining technology in the screen industry. The DSC will provide the skills, connections and knowledge needed for a new generation of innovative, creative storytelling by New Zealanders for New Zealanders, and continue our country’s reputation for excellence and a strong screen production industry that can compete globally.”