Adventures of Immersive Technology Performance Makers
By Lou Doye
The magic and wonder of combining artistic expression and technology is becoming more widespread. As an executive producer for QXR Studios and the RSC who specialises in bringing artists and technologists together I was delighted to see the acceleration of innovation and immersive storytelling which relies on the skills of theatre makers during the pandemic. Will this trend continue and will we see more opportunities for artists and theatre makers to collaborate with large technology companies?
Before the pandemic technology companies were taking baby steps towards collaborations with live performance artists, hoping to entice audiences and consumers of cultural products towards hardware sales such as virtual reality headsets and headphones. In September 2019 Apple launched their [AR]T enterprise, offering existing customers the opportunity to experience immersive art in public spaces on their Apple devices, taking them on location-based journeys in augmented reality by artists such as Nick Cave. February 2019 Epic Games opened their gaming platform into live performance briefly turning the third-person shooter game Fortnite into a music venue. The concert by Marshmello was entirely in virtual reality with record viewing numbers of over 10 million. Epic repeated this experience with Travis Scott which saw 12.3 million viewers. In 2018 Magic Leap collaborated with artists to explore creative opportunities with mixed reality, working with avant-rock band Sigur Rós to create Tonandi which uses interactive spatial computing, this is the next level up from augmented reality.
This year has seen performance artists pivot their work with technology as a response to the pandemic.
Using live streamed motion capture in VR or taking their theatre performances to zoom and film and resourcing new collaborators. A small theatre company Little Angle Theatre streamed a specially devised children puppetry performance of I Want My Hat Back by theatre artists rather than television and film makers. The live puppetry design and performance technique has a simple but effective outcome reminiscent of Fingerbobs a 1970’s children’s TV show in the UK that had limited editing, slow storylines and comprised of one actor and his finger puppet creatures. In July 2020 The Under Presents released a live virtual reality performance with live motion capture of The Tempest, a ticketed event with limited audience numbers, demonstrating theatre can convert to a different technology platforms. We have come a long way from the 1970’s view-finder. There is no denying that current new immersive technology benefits from the expertise of live performance technical knowledge and the magic of storytelling.
Live performances producers have quickly responded to these new technical collaborative possibilities over the last year with the artists they represent, finding new ways of working, new partnerships and exploring possible business models.
With the increasing development of technology companies creating experiences with artists and AR location-based entertainment, producers will be required to adapt practice and toolkits with each technology: this constant change will affect working models and language, creating tailored creative journeys for each individual project.
So what next? Will this trend continue? There is no denying that technology has kept communication alive between loved ones in this last year, and live entertainment has been amplified on our screens and headsets.
Future stats on interaction sales and viewing will determine future business models in this growing industry. Will audiences continue to grow once live performance re-emerges? With the onset of 5G enabled smart cities, and the release of Apple and Facebooks AR glasses, the creative possibilities of location based immersive entertainment adds another level for audiences; on their personal devices. As a producer, artistic director and writer working in this industry I am obviously biased. I believe the future possibilities of live entertainment with immersive technology is like exploring our cosmos, it makes me curious, it’s exciting and more importantly it is an adventure.
Written by Lou Doye
Executive Producer for QXR Studios and Director of Doye Mosse Productions.
Lou Doye is an executive producer with international production experience in the entertainment and music industry. In 2019 she became a digital fellow to the Royal Shakespeare Company and Magic Leap. Trained at London Contemporary Dance School, she has performed in Matthew Bourne productions and in the West End CATS . She has been an artistic director of a UK NPO theatre and now explores imaginative territories with artists and technologists. Leading sessions for CannesXR Film Festival, TIFF Norway, VRTL Belgium, this year becoming chair of the board for Kaleidoscope Transformations grant USA. A collaborator on this years Royal Shakespeare Company Dream project.