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AVIXA InsightsRedeploying live designs in a virtual context

Vita Motus created sculptural seating with integrated lighting elements for a socially-distant live event in China. Photo courtesy Vita Motus.

Kirsten Nelson reports on how an innovative production design company was able to make the most of its back catalogue when it was forced to pivot to creating virtual events.

Innovation on virtual events began early in the pandemic for Vita Motus, which felt the earliest effects of the shutdown when work paused on the televised concert productions it produces in China. A rapid refocus toward digital capabilities revealed a vast cache of virtual offerings that Vita Motus had already produced. As part of its R&D process, the multidisciplinary firm’s designs are built in the video game creation tool Unreal Engine, which allows clients to explore possible stage and production designs in an interactive pre-visualization model.

For each project, several design ideas are generated, and once artists make their selection for a live production, the unused models remain in Vita Motus’ archives. When in-person events were suddenly not an option anymore, this vast cache of carefully researched and cultivated scenic concepts became a valuable catalog of options for artists and festivals looking to go virtual. “We had a Google Drive chock full of all these assets in the gaming engine already,” recalls Heather Shaw, Founder, CEO and Chief Designer of Vita Motus, so the immediate question was, “How we can pull some of that material into what could be the next living-room livestream?”

But this was more than an exercise in creating fancy backdrops for virtual shows — Vita Motus’s designs would be activated by a dynamic integration with live-streaming. By early March, when the shutdown was just becoming real in the U.S., Shaw and her team had already created a tool for allowing DJs to play live in a virtual equivalent of the bassPOD created by Vita Motus every year at the real-life Electric Daisy Carnival. The virtual setup also allowed the Mumbai-based VJs who create content for the bassPOD to live-stream content on various surfaces in the online venue.

Vita Motus took it a step further and also created a tool for live streaming the lighting into the scene. “It’s a full lighting rig that mimics the physical lights in the actual world,” Shaw explains, “and we had a lighting designer triggering those lights from his living room with a grandMA lighting console in real time. So, it’s just all happening live.”

From there, Vita Motus evolved its offerings for live music, so bands could play sets in elaborately designed virtual spaces. The cost of producing live music, which requires FOH engineers and a full crew, was a bit much for some artists in the early days of the pandemic, so more economical pre-recorded options were developed. But even that factor is evolving rapidly, as artists settle in for an indefinite reduction of in-person event options. Investments in virtual and hybrid solutions will likely see an uptick as musicians and DJs seek ways to connect with fans.

To read the full article, go to the AVIXA website.