Five reasons Atlanta is the new hotbed for digital entertainment

Watch out California, Atlanta is gaining momentum in digital entertainment. From TV and film production to video games and animation, the “Hollywood of the South” is thriving with creativity and innovation.

Here are five reasons why Atlanta is a new hub for digital entertainment. 

1. Innovators are making the South their home

Georgia is one the top five states for high-tech job growth, according to the TechAmerica Foundation. By 2022, Atlanta entertainment and media jobs are projected to grow by 15 percent, according to the Georgia Department of Labor. 

“The technology is always evolving so designers have to be able to design for something that does not exist yet,” said Michael Nitsche, a digital media professor at Georgia Tech. “And so far, we have been creating the next wave, the next job, the next whatever it might be — app, game or TV show.”

Booming professions include sound engineering technicians, camera operators and producers. Audio and video equipment technicians are expected to lead the pack, with a projected 22 percent growth in jobs over the next seven years.

Digital imaging technician is one of the hottest new jobs. A DIT works with cinematographers to manage the camera settings and digital data that is being collected by each camera on the set of movies or TV shows. The demand for these technicians is high in Atlanta and so is the pay. DITs can make up to $700 a day. 

2. Movies, TV shows like our sites and studios

The Georgia film industry produced a $5.1 billion in economic impact in 2014, up from $4 billion in 2013, Gov. Nathan Deal. Hit TV shows filmed in Georgia, such as “The Walking Dead” and “Vampire Diaries,” and movies such as “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Parts 1 & 2,” “Insurgent,” “Selma” and “Taken 3,”are bringing in millions of dollars in profit and creating opportunities for workers.

Multiple production studios have announced plans to expand into Georgia. In 2014, Pinewood Studios opened in Fayetteville, with scenes for the upcoming Marvel movie, “Ant-Man” and others filmed there.

The Atlanta Media Campus is expected to open in summer 2015, turning former factory buildings into a massive studio in Gwinnett County, off Jimmy Carter Boulevard.

“There is a big growth on the studio side here in the state,” said Asante Bradford, project manager for digital entertainment and media for the Georgia Department of Economic Development. “It’s exciting because these are things we did not think would happen this fast.”

3. Gamers play (sometimes all day) here

Top-notch game development and interactive design programs are offered by schools such as SCAD in Atlanta, which was ranked in 2013 the top city for gamers by Motvo. In January 2015, Atlanta hosted the SMITE World Championship, the largest competitive online gaming event in Georgia history. Gamers from all over the world competed for prizes totaling $2.5 million prize. The winning team of the top prize — $1.3 million — included a 24-year-old Georgia gamer from Cartersville.

The industry is moving toward innovative fields of gaming, including virtual reality, or 3D gaming. 

“It’s going to be the next big thing in gaming and we are trying to be a big player in that,”  Bradford said.

4. Big bucks are available to growing companies

The biggest reason for the concentration of digital entertainment in Atlanta is the tax benefits that the state provides companies, Bradford said. TV, film, video games and animation companies can earn up to a 30 percent tax credit, which was established in 2008, if they spend more than $500,000 on production or post-production. 

Compared to most large U.S. cities, Atlanta offers a high quality of life for a low cost of living, which celebrities notice when visiting or living in the city to film a TV show or movie. Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport is another selling point for many folks jetting to Los Angeles, New York and other filming and work locations.

5. People of all ages are being trained for digital entertainment jobs

Many Georgia colleges and universities, from technical colleges to institutions such as Georgia State and Georgia Tech, are adding certificate, diploma and degree programs focused on digital entertainment careers. Since 2007, SCAD Atlanta and Savannah have offered a wide range of entertainment degree programs and professional facilities that are production ready. The Digital Media Center, in midtown, is primed for industry use. 

“Pretty much any company that I recruit wants to meet with some of our universities … to work on curriculum which will lead students to a job with their companies,” Bradford said.

Graduates are staying in Atlanta, where there are jobs and the opportunity to create start-up companies in the entertainment industry. 

Even elementary school students are learning valuable skills used in digital entertainment, such as coding. Nitsche directs the Digital World and Image Group at Georgia Tech, where he partnered the Center for Puppetry Arts to teach middle schoolers the basic electronic skills using interactive puppets. 

“We have to educate the students for the media problems that we will have in two, three years,” Nitsche said. “We have to offer a broad and deep education for these future designers and media developers, who hopefully come and stay in Atlanta.” 

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