QUT Team Use Star Wars Film Technology To Predict Future Healthcare

The Technology Has Been Driven By Disney For Use On Its Hit Star Wars Show Mandalorian, But QUT Team Was Keen To Show It Had Applications.

By Stuart Layt

When the Jamieson Trauma Institute at Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital commissioned a short animated film about trauma care, they thought they were getting something involving stick figures. Instead, the team at Queensland University of Technology’s School of Creative Practice delivered a short film using state-of-the-art technology – already used on large productions such as the sci-fi series The Mandalorian – to showcase cutting-edge medical science.

The short film is set in 2032, when a man is injured in a car crash on a road near Goondiwindi in regional Queensland. The film follows the man’s journey from roadside care through to emergency surgery, recovery and beyond. Co-director Joe Carter, a QUT film lecturer, said the team had definitely gone beyond the brief of a short animated film, but they wanted to showcase what they were capable of.

“We were at the beginning of developing our capabilities in virtual production,” Mr Carter said. “So I said to the Trauma Institute, ‘Why don’t we do this as a commercial research project?’ “Fortunately, they agreed and we leapt into it.” The team used a massive LED wall, like a super-high-definition TV screen, to simulate environments like outback Queensland and a futuristic operating room without leaving the university campus.

Computer software Unreal, previously used for computer games, rendered the incredibly detailed backgrounds in real time, giving the filmmakers flexibility in what they could shoot. The Technology Has Been Driven By Disney For Use On Its Hit Star Wars Show The Mandalorian, But The QUT Team Was Keen To Show It Had Applications in an academic environment as well.

“We’re the only university in Australia with this capability at the moment, and we were keen to try it out and show what it can do,” Mr Carter said. “It’s exciting because we have the next generation of filmmakers coming up through these programs, and the opportunity to work on something like this is so valuable.”

Co-director Sorin Oancea, who has a background in animation, designed the futuristic look of the film’s medical scenes. He also supervised the motion capture of the various doctor characters. “This scope of work, just in terms of 3D modelling for the virtual sets and other assets, let alone animation, lighting, and effects, would have been prohibitively expensive not long ago,” he said.

“Now though, photogrammetry and ‘virtual scouting’ of customisable environments is largely replacing traditional production approaches.” The man who commissioned the film, Michael Handy – assistant nursing director of Trauma and Orthopaedics at the Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital – said they were thrilled with the result.

“It goes so far beyond what we were thinking, which was honestly something like stick figures explaining triage processes,” Mr Handy said. “Instead, it allows us to demonstrate to someone new to trauma care the complexities of the journey.” Mr Handy said his team worked closely with the QUT crew to ensure all of the technology was accurate and not simply sci-fi inventions. Although many of the processes and much of the equipment is not currently in use, the film shows an aspirational view of what regional trauma care could look like 10 years from now.

Dr Matt Masel, a general physician working at Goondiwindi Hospital, came to QUT to see the new film, which is set in his town. Dr Masel said while he and his colleagues didn’t think their hospital would look quite so futuristic by 2032, the focus on regional care was important. “It’s really exciting for rural people because the aim of the JTI [Jamieson Trauma Institute] is to make sure people in Queensland get world-class trauma care, regardless of where they are.

“All of our trauma teams are based in cities, but in Queensland we’ve got a very spaced-out population, so that’s going to be the big challenge going forward,” he said. Dr Masel said some of the techniques shown in the film were already being used, including the use of iPads to enable Brisbane trauma surgeons to assist doctors virtually while they operate on patients in Goondiwindi. But he said enhancing the capabilities of rural centres was integral to Queensland’s development.

“Rural facilities don’t get a lot of attention in terms of upgrades and things,” Dr Masel said. “All this should not be to say ‘wherever you are in Queensland, a team in Brisbane will treat you’, it should be about attracting good doctors and nurses to those regions and then supporting them using that technology.”

This news was originally published at Brisbane Time.

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