Tech company turning Pipeline dreams into virtual reality

Rookie mining engineers in Peru stepping into a virtual underground world as part of their training would have little idea that everything in their field of vision was made in Lake Macquarie.

A similar story plays out every day across South America, Asia, Africa and Europe as home-grown tech company Creative Pipeline builds a global reputation for 3D animation and virtual reality.

Managing Director Tim Black explains how the company rose from humble beginnings 20 years ago making promotional videos, 3D animations and computer programs for commercial clients.

Back then, programs were delivered on CD-ROM and, compared to today’s technology, were laughably basic.

As virtual technology improved, Black’s company carved a niche making videos for engineering and scientific companies, deploying 3D animation to go places conventional cameras couldn’t, and to explain complicated concepts where pictures spoke a thousand words.

“We’ve done a lot of work with biotechnology companies for instance, showing how a new drug interacts at a microscopic level with cells in the body,” Black says.

“At the other end of the scale, we can take a mine that’s 300m underground, make a cross-section of the whole thing and zoom the camera through rock and show how they do everything.”

“It’s the kind of thing that is very hard to show without using animation.”

Black and his team initially thought they would have to outsource much of their work, either to a capital city or offshore, but after further investigation and planning, the company decided it had everything it needed where it was.

“For us, there is absolutely no restriction to what can be done by being based here in Lake Macquarie,” Black says.

Creative Pipeline now operates from the Dashworks (Dantia Smart Hub) shared workspace in Lake Mac’s urban hub of Charlestown.

It rents out nearby rooms to film motion-capture sequences used to create immersive digital worlds, such as that underground mine in Peru.

“When I moved here to Dashworks, I met a lot of inspirational people doing interesting things, and it really changed my view of what was possible with my own business,” Black says.

“It really helped me shift from that mindset of keeping it small to believing we could build a bigger business and give people jobs.”

The company now boasts major multinationals among its stable of clients, including Orica and Bradken.

Black says the opportunities for what he calls interactive 3D – virtual reality, augmented reality and similar technology – continue to grow.

“There is all this wonderful stuff coming, so it’s a very exciting time to be in this industry,” he says.

“But we also need to look at what’s available here and now, what’s on offer at this moment in time and confidently back ourselves to make something that’s going to work.”