As digital forms of multimedia entertainment gain in popularity around the world, a whole new industry is starting to take off in Hong Kong. It is already competing with Taiwan and Singapore for market leadership within the region and, as the business grows, demand will also increase for professionals who have a breadth of expertise, the latest technical skills and undoubted creativity. Recognising this need, the Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU) has introduced a Master of Science degree in Multimedia and Entertainment Technology.
The programme is intended to provide training for leaders in the next generation of digital entertainment and covers both theoretical and practical aspects. These include such topics as embedded device development for human/machine interfacing, digital video and television production, and Internet and broadband-based online entertainment. "We offer a one-year full-time programme and a three-year part-time course, which give all students the chance to develop different products and get involved in interdisciplinary projects," says Henry Ma, assistant professor for the Multimedia Innovation Centre (MIC) at PolyU's School of Design.
To keep pace with industry changes, the content of the programme is reviewed each academic year. MIC also invests substantial resources in high-tech teaching equipment and now has a hardware and software development lab, a games and animation lab, and a multimedia services section with complete post-production facilities. "We have also developed our own technology, such as a motion capture system and platforms for video game production," Mr Ma adds.
On completing the programme, students will have had extensive exposure to many kinds of multimedia and entertainment technology and will be well equipped for jobs in anything from animation to digital video or the management of cross-media productions. Mr Ma notes there are good employment opportunities with local animation companies, but emphasises that the nature of the programme is to develop skills for lifelong learning rather than a form of vocational training.
In view of the increasing number of overseas companies opening offices in Hong Kong and China, Mr Ma believes that a pool of creative talent will be essential for the success of the industry locally. "Most of these foreign investors are looking for creative talent in Hong Kong and labour for production in China," he says. "Our graduates have a definite advantage in terms of creativity and exposure, but to maintain our competitive advantage, they must cultivate a broader industry perspective and make fuller use of available technologies."
He predicts that the expansion of the multimedia entertainment business, in particular, will create many new openings. "Mainland companies in the video games business will be looking for our graduates to fill managerial positions, since there is a more established business model for this sector in Hong Kong," he says.