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Creative journey

City firm produces multimedia components for new zoo exhibit

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The Assiniboine Park Zoo exhibit Journey to Churchill relies heavily on videos and interactive displays to reach visitors of all ages. Winnipeg's Centric Productions played a large role in their creations.

MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Enlarge Image

The Assiniboine Park Zoo exhibit Journey to Churchill relies heavily on videos and interactive displays to reach visitors of all ages. Winnipeg's Centric Productions played a large role in their creations. Photo Store

Considering the size and scope of the Journey to Churchill exhibit, people probably would not have quibbled if the Assiniboine Park Conservancy (APC) went out of market to produce the creative content for the videos and interactive components of the installation.

But it did not.

Instead, Centric Productions, Michael Linton's 10-year-old Winnipeg company, got the job.

Centric produced the 10-minute video loop that plays on the large Hudson Bay ecosystem wall featuring live-action footage of the animals of the region, as well as about 23 videos and all the textual content in the 55-inch interactive touch-table. It partnered with Complex Games, another Winnipeg company, to produce the Arctic Adventures video games featured on terminals in the display area.

Linton said it was the largest project his company has ever been involved with, taking more than a year to produce.

Through it all, he and his team had to become experts themselves, as all the content had to be as scientifically accurate as possible.

"It took our researcher/co-producer a whole year just sourcing the video footage," Linton said. "It was not just about finding a shot of a beluga whale. It had to be in a particular type of ice in a particular setting in Hudson Bay. It had to be very specific. It was quite a challenge to track it all down."

But it also became a labour of love for Linton and his small Centric team. The company already has an established relationship with the APC, having produced its corporate and fundraising videos for a few years.

A couple of years ago, the APC asked Centric to produce interactive installations for the International Polar Bear Conservation Centre that opened in 2012. Over this time, Linton has become fully versed on the complicated issue of climate change and the impact it has on the Hudson Bay environment.

He said producing additional content and presenting it in the uniquely interactive format for Journey to Churchill was challenging but exciting.

"It was fantastic for us to be even a small part of that," said Linton.

"For us it was more than just creating content. It was really about doing something great. They knew we would keep pushing because we wanted to make it as good as we could."

Dr. Stephen Petersen, head of conservation and research at the APC, said, "In Journey to Churchill, we wanted to use media to appeal to a generation that uses media every day. The table offers a bird's-eye view of the Arctic environment, with the ability to touch any animal to learn and watch how polar bears, ringed seals, narwhal and other Arctic and sub-Arctic species live in different kinds of sea ice."

With Centric's guidance, Complex Games produced the animated video games that operate from the perspective of a polar bear or a seal to see if you are a great polar bear that can catch enough seals to survive, or a great seal by being able to elude the polar bears.

It also produced the living, animated environment on the large, interactive table with animals moving around and squawking at each other.

Complex Games president Noah Decter-Jackson said it was a great project.

"It is really cool to be involved in something that is local," he said "Lots of what we do is for international game publishers. This is a piece of Winnipeg we are part of. It's pretty cool."

martin.cash@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 4, 2014 B5

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