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Creative differences

Looking round a packed conference room as we launched our Creative Industries Strategy last month, I found myself reflecting on its relevance for me as an engineer. While there is a huge amount of creativity in engineering, the sector is often more publicly associated with precision than flights of fancy.

Yet look more carefully at Lucasfilm or Pinewood Studios and the engineering component is pretty evident. The support the Technology Strategy Board is giving to professionals in the creative sector can be expected to benefit mainstream engineering in a number of ways. At BAFTA we talked about a £15 million initiative for ‘cross-platform digital production’. This is directly aimed at the digital special effects industry. A sequence prepared for a major film release will often be needed for a video game and possibly a music video as well. Yet sometimes these have to be re-created separately for the standard technology platforms used by these different areas.

“Bringing data from different applications and workstreams to create something new will enable specialists from different backgrounds to work more closely together.

Industry could achieve significant savings if these creations could be more easily repurposed for use across all the different platforms without having to be reconstructed each time.


Computer games technology has been used to help model the wakes of wind turbines

Digital production techniques involve the exploitation and manipulation of large amounts of data. The application to engineering is obvious: visualisation of engineering data, whether for design or diagnostics, can simplify and speed up decision-making. It can help to make complex processes intelligible to non-specialists. Bringing data from different applications and workstreams to create something new – and for the result to be available on different technical platforms – will enable specialists from different backgrounds to work more closely together.

Convergence, bringing different digital technologies closer together, is one of the three priority themes within the Creative Industries Strategy. Another is concerned with getting more value out of data. This can result in quite specific ways of adding, and maintaining, value from assets. For example, a small UK software company called Zoo Digital recognised a need among film and video producers for a secure system that tracked media files across the production process. It put together a consortium of academic and production industry partners which built a prototype system. That approach to digital asset tracking clearly has much wider application.

The third priority area is concerned with the need to facilitate online transactions. More and more business is carried out online and improving these systems will provide a major benefit to business, consumers and the public sector.

One of the aspects of the Technology Strategy Board’s work which I find quite compelling is the way sectors and industries can learn from each other and contribute to success in areas very different from their main business. The Creative Industries have much to offer. For example, micro-enterprise Zenotech collaborated with GL Garrad Hassan and the University of Bristol in adapting video gaming technology to develop a cheaper, quicker method of CFD-based turbine-wake modelling. This process is used to optimise windfarm layout and so maximise power generation.

The Creative Industries, whether in visual arts, advertising or design, are already deeply embedded in wider industry and commerce. Our hope is that through this Strategy, focussing support on key areas where these industries can grow, their influence will spread still further with benefits to the wider economy in the years to come.

Readers' comments (7)

  • Why are you just 'dipping your feet in the pond'? Get stuck in and make a difference. The word Strategy means something!

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  • CP Snow's view -the Two Cultures, Arts and Sciences intimately linked-is surely relevant to this debate. My constant concern is that whilst we Engineers have and do and will take an interest in learning about artistic matters and applying them to our work, our 'creative' brothers and sisters for the most part appear to look upon 'our' efforts as well below the salt!

    I wonder how many media and digital 'artists' have the slightest idea what is going on within the electronics 'driving' the screens on which they create?
    Not many, I would believe.

    Some years ago, after a degree and career which had been almost totally technical in content and context, I did sign up for the Open University 'Introduction to the Arts' course. I likened it to walking around a stately home (known to traditional career and interests) and finding a door which opened into a completely new 'wing' of the house: in which the artistic and creative aspects of life were to be found. A revelation. What I found less acceptable was the concept, in artistic assignments from our tutors, that there was a correct, proper answer to every question. Theirs! I had always accepted that in dealing(s) with technical mathematical questions, there is indeed a single and right answer, but in an analysis of a book, painting, piece of music, my view (suitably backed up by research) is surely as relevant as anyone elses. Apparently not!

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  • I seem to remember that scientists and engineers like to be creative -- indeed the root word for engineers means ingeneously creative!
    The "creative industries" is obviously jargin usage. It would be good, however, if the "strategy" encouraged and supported creative ideas and that scientists would like support for their creativity.

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  • "I had always accepted that in dealing(s) with technical mathematical questions, there is indeed a single and right answer,"

    Absolutely NOT. We knock that perception out of first year BEng/CEng students when we require, normally six competing developments of every design concept.

    In engineering, the solution chosen is almost invariably an optimization, that includes cost and political influences, and which is obtained through iteration.

    And, I thought engineers were creative designers! Both concepts have been hi-jacked by the "Creative Industries"!

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  • Sorry it has taken 6 months to read Anon's reply.

    My point was that the solution to a mathematical equation (which invariably relates to some technically described activity) has one right answer. Yes of course in design there will be many alternative ways of skinning the cat (is that an analogy or a simile, I am but a simple Engineer) and economic, political, social ie the full range of 'artistic' criteria- can apply to whatever decision is taken. I believe we are on the same side of this 'equation/argument!' Though do I not recall that taking a term onto the 'other' side reverses its 'sign'-

    Mike B

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  • That's a metaphor, Mike. And what about quadratic equations (two answers) and cubics (three)?

  • Dear Editor,
    VMT for correction(s)
    Yes, I agree that a quadratic and a cubic have several solutions but am I not right in saying that there will always be an obvious (to those well trained in the art!) correct one. Here we are putting different interpretations upon (a word I use/slip-in whenever I can as my 'hero, Nevil Shute Norway the Engineer turner author did the same -I was tapped upon the head as a 6 month old baby when my father brought NSN to our house for supper one evening -they both worked for HM Weezers & Dodgers -the Special weapons Development aspect of the Navy) words -something our learned friends and many in the meja and arts do all the time, because we can: whilst mathematical descriptions of events and episodes are so much more precise.

    Best wishes
    Mike B

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  • It is good that this is amongst the popular threads; STILL!
    I wonder if Mr Gray has any comments, in response.
    I would be instructive to see if the TSB has any ideas about creativity in manufacturing (not design) industries - and any ideas about initiating support and guidance to such SMEs.
    Solution lead innovation is the most common (and cheapest) manufacturing - giving rise to radical innovation.
    Hope this thread continues - and its popularity -- which I would have though worthy of a response from such.

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