© Universal Everything
30 years ago, in the wake of the collapse of both the coal mining and steel making industries, Sheffield took a bold strategic decision to invest in the creative and cultural industries, designating part of the city close to the train station as the Cultural Industries Quarter (CIQ) and building production capabilities in music, film, theatre, arts and crafts.
As these disciplines have digitised, so has much of the activity in the CIQ, alongside a substantial video game industry born from the 8-bit microcomputer era and the legacy of companies such as Gremlin Graphics and Particle Systems.
Alternate Realities is the Sheffield Documentary Film Festival’s programme of interactive and immersive works of non-fiction. Doc/Fest (or simply “Sheffield” as it is known within the global documentary and factual programming industry) attracts thousands of film makers, commissioners and producers to the city every year, and has become the third largest factual film festival in the world since its start in 1994. The Alternate Realities exhibition and accompanying Summit conference, now showcases world-leading projects at the very cutting edge of digital experience design. That said, AR@Doc/Fest is just one of several major international events in the city that celebrate digital creativity, alongside the Children’s Media Conference, Sensoria and Algomech.
Universal Everything (UE) is a digital arts studio founded by ex-Designers Republic senior designer Matt Pyke in 2004. It has since then worked with a huge range of major brands, including Chanel, Intel, Nike, Hyundai, Microsoft, Samsung and Apple, to create interactive and visually astounding experiences, as well as collaborations with international arts institutions such as the Sundance Film Festival, Sydney Opera House and Radiohead.
UE created the launch animation for the largest screen ever built, the mega-screen in Times Square, in 2014. Based out of a studio in Site Gallery, itself a major institution at the intersection of art and technology, UE’s work is characterised by fluid organic movement and the interaction of procedurally generated virtual life forms.
Multi-award winning creative agency Joi Polloi specialise in producing high quality, interactive experiences and platforms for the broadcast, media and cultural industries. They have worked with Channel 4 and the BBC for many years, acting as digital partners for flagship drama and reality series including Live from Space, Humans, BBC Glastonbury, The Great British Bake Off and The Circle. Their award credits include two Baftas, six Royal Television Society Awards and a Webby, among a host of nominations from all over the world.
Sumo Digital can trace its lineage directly back to Gremlin Graphics, the quintessential British video game maker from the 8-bit era of the 1980s. Today, it is one of the largest and most successful video game companies in the UK, employing over 500 staff and with studios in 6 British cities as well as a development facility in Pune, India. With the main operation still firmly here in Sheffield, and with strong ties to the local talent base via Sheffield Hallam University, Sumo has been responsible for an array of major ‘triple A’ video games since its founding in 2003, including Little Big Planet 3, Dead Island 2, Snake Pass and Team Sonic Racing, and was instrumental in paving the way for the National Videogame Museum to relocate to Sheffield in 2018.
ZOO Digital epitomises Sheffield’s creative technology sector, as a software company that provides foundational services to the international content industry. The ZOOstudio platform provides comprehensive localisation and distribution tools to content owners and distribution partners across the world, and the firm now has offices in Los Angeles and Dubai from which it is able to serve clients such as Disney, Warner Brothers and Netflix who operate globally. The data volumes and ultra-tight security requirements demanded by modern cinema and TV releases mean that ZOO has long been a pioneer in cloud infrastructure, and is continually innovating new use cases that leverage their core technologies.