Setting the scene

NH production studio progresses video tech

Studio Lab, a video production studio in Derry, is making a big impact on the film industry, not just in New Hampshire but across the country, as a pioneer of virtual production technology. Owner Tim Messina talked about what goes on at the studio and how the technology works.

What does Studio Lab do?

We’re going after new ways for films to be shot … [with] the technology that’s changing. … We’re using gaming engine technology … called Unreal Engine, which is what’s used to make video games like Fornite and Rocket League. … You can go scan a tree, or a house, a city … or a film set that you’ve built — and recreate a 3D world of it here. … We have a wall with a bunch of panels … that’s essentially a video screen — it’s not just a projection — and with that, you can actually move inside of that world and film it in real time. When I move the camera, we can move anywhere inside this world — we aren’t just locked down to a [still] view — and everything in the perspective is correct.

How is this different from a green screen?

If you think about green screens from back in the old days, you would have actors [moving] around this wall, but they couldn’t actually see what [the scene] is; all they saw was green, and they were just told what [the scene would be]. Now we can actually put the actors in those worlds, and they can react to them and interact with them in real time.

How creative can you get with it?

Pretty much everything is controllable. … We’re not just moving in this world; we can change everything about it, down to the little details. Let’s say the director wants [the shot] to be morning or afternoon; I can change the time of day and move where the sun is in the sky … and I can even take clouds out or make it cloudier … or make some clouds thin and some clouds thick. … I can change the size of the moon, or how many stars there are. … Then, everything in the scene changes — the shadows, the reflections on the water, everything.

What makes this technology so appealing to filmmakers?

A lot of times you have to get permits to shoot in a high-density area. You have to plan it months in advance so that [the city] can shut down the area … and get cops. Then, once you shoot it, there’s no going back. If anything gets messed up, or you have a different shot in mind later, you can’t [reshoot it]; your time is up. That’s the worst part of it all — fighting for time. … This [technology] gives you the ability to take as much time as you need to shoot in the scene, without being in the way [of the community]. … It also saves a lot of time. There’s a lot of prep time up front — it takes forever to build these worlds — but once they’re built you can recall them instantly, which saves time long-term. … Instead of filming at multiple [physical] locations in the same day, which is very time-consuming and usually not even possible, you can shoot multiple locations in a matter of hours from one location.

Are there other studios doing this?

Sony Pictures, Netflix, Warner Brothers, Universal — all these big studios are building these stages right now. This is where filmmaking is going. … We’ve talked with Verizon, Facebook, Nvidia, MIT. … Sony Pictures reached out to us. … It’s pretty wild. They’re all coming to us to collaborate because we’ve done things here that they’re still trying to figure out.

What’s next for this technology?

What we’re working on now is motion capture streaming a person’s movement in real time in a digital environment. The person wears a mo-cap suit, which allows you to track their position and movement. Then you take those real movements and digitize them. … The person can make a certain gesture and pull a tree up from the ground, or punch into the air and the window behind them will break. Basically, the world is reactive to what they’re doing physically.

Featured photo: Tim Messina. Courtesy photo.

News & Notes 21/09/09

Covid-19 update As of August 30 As of Sept. 3
Total cases statewide 107,474 108,713
Total current infections statewide 2,927 3,120
Total deaths statewide 1,416 1,426
New cases 2,172 (Aug. 24 to Aug. 30) 1,239 (Aug. 31 to Sept. 3)
Current infections: Hillsborough County 780 847
Current infections: Merrimack County 246 304
Current infections: Rockingham County 680 700
Information from the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services

Covid-19 news

State health officials announced 444 new positive cases of Covid-19 in New Hampshire on Sept. 3. The state averaged 344 new cases per day over the most recent seven-day period, an increase of 21 percent over those from the previous week. As of Sept. 3 there were 3,120 active infections statewide and 129 current hospitalizations due to the virus. All 10 counties in the state remain at substantial levels of community transmission.

With a steady rise in cases fueled in part by the delta variant, more people are beginning to seek Covid-19 tests across New Hampshire. Statewide, the weekly average for people seeking tests is more than 6,300, according to a Sept. 3 report from WMUR. Mass testing sites have closed, but there are still more than 100 locations across the state to get a test. Anyone without insurance can go to to sign up for a free test, as a federal program will cover the cost.

Bleeding ulcer

Following three negative Covid tests, Gov. Chris Sununu was hospitalized on Sept. 3 because of flu-like symptoms. According to a statement from Chief of Staff Jayne Millerick, tests confirmed that his symptoms were caused by a bleeding ulcer, and he underwent a blood transfusion at Portsmouth Regional Hospital. Sununu was discharged on Sept. 4 to recover at home.

Crime reduction

The Manchester Police Department has begun some new crime reduction initiatives, including assigning foot patrols to neighborhoods throughout the city and adding investigative resources for violent crime cases. According to a press release, these new initiatives are supported through the Violent Crime Reduction Program within the American Rescue Plan funding, which includes more funding for proactive investigations targeting repeat offenders, and more resources for detectives to conduct intensive follow-ups. In addition, the Department will be holding community meetings each month; the first was held in August and was a success, according to a press release. The police department has partnered with the Manchester Fire Department for these community meetings, and there will be three more introductory meetings this month: Sept. 13 at the Central Fire House, Sept. 20 at Engine 6 on Amory Street and Sept. 27 at Engine 8 on East Industrial Park Drive. All meetings start at 6 p.m. After these initial meetings, there will be meetings every third Monday of the month, the release said, and anyone from the Manchester community is invited to attend. “We are asking for the support of the citizens and ask that residents come to these meetings,” Police Chief Allen Aldenberg said in a release. “It is a chance to talk about concerns, ask questions and report suspicious activity. Preventing and reducing crime involves everyone and if we work together, we can make a difference.”

Texting 911

New Hampshire has implemented a new solution to overcome previous limitations for texting 911 in emergencies. According to a press release, “Texty” by INdigital offers improved information and better location data compared to the first “text-to-911” program that New Hampshire started using in 2015, which gave people the ability to text 911 in cases where speaking may not be possible, like in domestic violence emergencies or with intruders. That first iteration, according to the release, didn’t allow the 911 operator to text back if the first session was disconnected, and it did not have an integrated mapping solution. “Texty” became available to 911 telecommunicators on Aug. 31 and allows them the ability to send outbound texts. It also includes Rapid SOS, which provides integrated mapping based on the exact location of the phone and provides the texter’s cell phone carrier and the latitude and longitude of the phone handset.

Learn everywhere

Three new Learn Everywhere programs — at First Robotics, The Boys & Girls Club of Souhegan Valley and the Seacoast United Sports Club — have been approved by the New Hampshire State Board of Education, meaning that students can earn high school credit while doing the things they love. “The magic of Learn Everywhere is that it connects with students, where they are already engaged, and captures the learning that is taking place,” Frank Edelblut, Commissioner of Education, said in a press release. “We recognize that learning happens in lots of different places and contexts, and we can reward students for this learning.” According to the release, Learn Everywhere is unique to New Hampshire in allowing students to earn credit for learning outside the classroom.

The North Manchester Hooksett 11/12 All-Stars advanced to the final eight of this year’s Little League World Series, according to a press release. The team became the first New Hampshire team to reach the Little League World Series in 15 years, clinching a trip to Williamsport, Pennsylvania, with a 5-0 win over Peabody, Mass., and advancing to the final eight after defeating Nolensville, Tennessee, and Lake Oswego, Oregon.

The first of the Manchester Police Community Affairs Division’s 2021 Fall Senior Walks is scheduled for Monday, Sept. 13, at Manchester River Walk – East, meeting at 9 a.m. at the Hilton Garden Inn Hotel parking lot at 101 S. Commercial St. According to a press release, these walks allow seniors to spend time with Manchester Police Officers while exercising, socializing and exploring different parts of the city. The walks are about 2 to 3 miles and take about an hour. Most walks are held Monday mornings starting at 9 a.m.; the second walk will be Monday, Sept. 20, at Rock Rimmon, meeting behind 327 Kimball St. Visit for a full list of walk dates and locations.

Second Chance Ranch Rescue in New Boston is hosting its first annual Pitbull Poker Run on Sunday, Sept. 12, a fundraiser to help the nonprofit provide medical care, training, safety and support to dogs who have been lost, forgotten or misunderstood. According to a press release, the event invites cars and motorcycles to visit five checkpoints, draw a playing card at each one and hope to have the best poker hand at the end of the run. Participants can check in at any of the five southern New Hampshire stops after 9:30 a.m. and will need to “show their hand” at Molly Stark Tavern in New Boston by 1 p.m. The cost is $30 per driver and includes lunch at the tavern. Non-riders and passengers can enjoy the lunch for $10. Visit

Summer bookends

Memorial Day and Labor Day are our unofficial bookends of summer and both offer spaces for reflecting and honoring their roles in U.S. history.

I remember, vividly, the Memorial Day school concerts and parades throughout my childhood but I cannot say the same is true for Labor Day.

On June 28, 1894, Grover Cleveland made Labor Day a federal holiday. At their height in 1954, 34.8 percent of all U.S. wage and salary workers, public and private, belonged to a union; today that number is 10.8 percent.

The private sector is where most of the losses have come, which saw membership slide from 16.8 percent in 1985 to 6.7 percent in 2015. Who is protecting our most vulnerable workers, often low-wage earners, if unionization is not allowed? That’s a reality that has been facing our nation for several decades now. The stagnant wages, lack of access to health care and retirement benefits, and disintegration of the middle class over my lifetime cannot simply be coincidences.

Although some may argue that there is no longer a need for these protections, I would beg to differ. I think of Amazon and Walmart employees who have, for years, worked to try and unionize only to have their efforts thwarted through political tactics. Unions have consistently worked to put the power in the hands of the people and that can be threatening to many in executive-level positions.

Right to Work bills are presented each legislative session in New Hampshire and across the country. Although it hasn’t yet passed in the Granite State, I worry that it’s inevitable that it will eventually become law.

Much like most of our systems, labor unions are not perfect. They have their own dark history of racism, sexism, political manipulation and many other tools of oppression. But, at their essence, the organized labor movement is what helped to create safe and healthy places for people to work. They helped to build the United States and we cannot forget that as we enjoy our annual long weekend.

I cannot imagine a world today where a woman with an eighth-grade education and for whom English was a second language would find a job that not only paid a living wage but also helped to save for retirement, reasonable hours and good health insurance benefits. Yet that’s exactly the story of my Nan, who worked for a private manufacturer in Nashua for her entire life. She was able to appreciate class mobility and, in turn, so have I.

I hope we can find the space to move out of the political polarization of unions and appreciate their role in giving our most vulnerable populations a space to survive and thrive.

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