Had it not been for the pandemic, Chyi Kei would not have had the time nor the inclination to explore the immense potential of working with an immersive studio. COVID-19 was the catalyst.
In late 2020, Aux Media Group, in partnership with UK-based creative technology company, disguise, Japanese audio-visual leaders, Yamaha and Panasonic, as well as leading manufacturer of professional digital cameras RED invested over SGD$3 million towards developing a new facility – Aux Immersive Studios. It was precisely what Chyi Kei wanted. “The Immersive Studio functions in real-time and in many ways, it blurs that line between reality and the Metaverse. You can basically see the environment you are in and be interactive, allowing the entire creative team greater versatility doing what they love in real-time instead of in post-production.”
The studio has been billed as an environment that merges physical and virtual events through Extended Reality (XR) technology with Epic Games Unreal game engine systems. The technology brings the virtual world to life with the aid of 3D creation tools and creates a fully immersive experience in a live production setting.
COVID-19 and the impact on the events industry
The pandemic hit the meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions (MICE) sector hard, and Aux Media Group was not spared. The company saw business plunge by 90% which was not surprising due to border closures. For Chyi Kei, that immediately brought worries for his team of 30 and their families. “As an entrepreneur and an owner, it is not just about us, but I need to think about the 30 families that need to be fed and what is going to happen to them if we fail. If we are to survive, we have to keep moving forward.”
Through sheer grit, Chyi Kei did more than survive and today, his staff strength has grown to 50. Despite the challenges posed by the pandemic, he kept staff morale up and addressed their concerns. He also constantly kept them up to speed on the company’s investment as part of its next big transformation. That investment led to the building of a 4,000-square-foot space (and now 10,000-square-foot combined), equipped with state-of-the-art XR equipment, motion trackers, multi-cameras, as well as modern live-streaming capabilities. The studio set-up allows for the integration of the physical environment and graphics, such as life-like animations and data overlays to be rendered in real-time around the presenter.
With the shift towards the use of XR technology in the business, this meant that the new operating model would lead to a near-term redundancy risk of nearly 40% of its existing employees. His immediate concern then was to avoid any potential retrenchments, employees needed to get up to speed on the technical know-how to implement XR technology and futureproof their careers.
WSG’s Career Conversion Programme was the key
The support from WSG in terms of reskilling and retraining was invaluable in getting staff and the company ready for the future. Training provided that common language for the managing of hybrid productions, which can often be a challenging area to learn and operate in.
Aux Media Group identified 21 employees across 3 teams for a Redeployment Career Conversion Programme (CCP). These PMETs would undergo a 6-month hands-on training with the training providers to acquire extensive knowledge in XR and other niche skillsets to operate XR technology. The staff will subsequently be redeployed into the XR business to take on new job roles within the company. The training involves learning how to set up media workflow, XR lighting and audio workflows, creative ideation and innovation, as well as the digital end-user experience. Once they complete the programme, the trainees can expect a salary increment of between 10% to 20%.
With COVID-19 changing the world, the events industry has also morphed, and the key question confronting the company is how they can remain relevant in this uncertain future. For Chyi Kei, it was clear. “We explored green screen and other technology but truly, the only one that made us sit up and take notice was XR – Extended Reality. The application of this technology is only limited by our thoughts and creativity and with that, we can cross industries and sectors and bring value to everyone.”
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Starting Aux Media Group for Chyi Kei was a dream and a passion that had its roots in his childhood. A schoolboy who loved the opportunity to fiddle with the knobs on a sound mixer, Chyi Kei grew up chasing this love of the audio-visual world until he got his degree from WKSCI. In his second year of studies, he started Aux Entertainment — ‘Aux’ being a name he adopted from the auxiliary channels which are found on all sound mixers. He has been driving the business since then even as he got bigger events and national programmes to produce.
Today, Aux Media Group is opening its second and third studios and will be hiring more employees to take on new roles. The CCP commenced on 1 October 2021 and will be ending on 31 March 2022.
For Chyi Kei, the road ahead is well mapped out. “We are training our staff to be prepared for the new future. The programme will enable us to draw on our old experience and couple that with our new skills, we will lead the change in creative storytelling. So be prepared for the future!”
WSG’s Career Conversion Programme (CCP) targets mid-career individuals to undergo skills conversion and move into future-proof jobs with good prospects and progression. WSG currently offers around 100 CCPs and these are developed in close collaboration with the relevant stakeholders such as sectoral agencies and Industry Partners. Companies may also reach out to WSG to contextualise CCPs tailored to their specific training needs. WSG can fund employers up to 90% of the monthly salary for the CCP training duration.
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