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Odeon Theater wants to build the future of theater with augmented reality. The project is unveiled today as a new way to attract audiences to Broadway theaters and other venues using augmented reality imagery.
The pilot program to digitally enhance live theater productions is being created by Sunchaser Entertainment, Hexagramand the Shubert Organization. You could imagine how this could work. An actor on stage could see the ghost of Hamlet’s father. If you point your smartphone camera at the stage at that moment, you might see a ghost walking across the stage.
The goal is to create theatrical performances for the coming year, seen around the world, that combine virtual or augmented reality experiences with live performances at venues on Broadway.
“When I can bring these two worlds together, as it’s starting to happen, it’s amazing,” Stephanie Riggs, founder of creative consulting firm Sunchaser Entertainment, said in an interview with GamesBeat. “What we’re trying to do as we move into the metaverse, as creators and developers, is see theater as a digital place, an augmented theatrical place.”
She added: “It is moving into the digital realm where we can transcend the limitations of physical places. We can bring AR assets to the platform on the spot. We can connect to the pre-existing show controls. And we can take that and place it anywhere. It could be in a theater, it could be in Central Park, or it could be on a cruise. “
Devastated by the pandemic, Broadway theaters have just reopened and are trying to attract people to physical venues, which is a challenge with the spread of the delta variant. However, by next year, things could be different and AR technology could attract a younger and more digitally savvy audience to venues.
The images could include digital characters and immersive visuals, and could also be viewed with a variety of different technologies, including AR glasses (many still in development), smartphone screens, digital projection technologies, and other devices.
Odeon’s augmented theater venue is a physical venue freed from the constraints of the real world, Riggs said. He said it will transform any venue into a stage by seamlessly integrating traditional production elements like light, sound and sets with augmented reality content. The platform will work with a variety of existing theater software and can run on multiple audience-facing hardware platforms, including mobile devices or head-mounted displays.
This allows original or refurbished productions to find new life in existing assets, as well as create additional revenue streams within an alternative Covid-compliant location. Once its construction is complete, an Odeon program can be duplicated and installed anywhere in the world with multiple programs running at the same time. It reminds me of how Riot Games inserted a flying dragon into a crowded stadium during the 2018 League of Legends Championship Finals.
Experience actually combined
The group has a lot of experience in both theater and AR. Riggs at Sunchaser has worked for a couple of decades as a storytelling and virtual reality creator and consultant with clients including Disney Imagineering, Google and Refinery29. He has worked on projects that combine traditional storytelling and technology.
Founded by Rob Auten in 2012, Hexagram has developed immersive experiences that span the physical and digital worlds, including one that involved Netflix’s Stranger Things and an installation that brought the fiction of an ice cream company on the show into the real world. With the help of Saga, an in-house creative platform, Hexagram has developed interactive experiences for a global audience of millions.
And Shubert is providing the theatrical and back experience and access to talent. Shubert currently owns and operates seventeen Broadway theaters, six off-Broadway venues, and the Forrest Theater in Philadelphia, as well as hundreds of other theaters.
The Odeon Production Pilot Program has been launched to help existing productions explore the opportunities of the augmented theater venue. Interested partners are offered two levels of service: The first level is Consulting, where the award-winning Odeon team works directly with production to design an Odeon experience based on their intellectual property. The second level, development, expands
the consulting level to create a complete extended reality presentation that integrates with existing show control systems and includes optional ticketing and marketing support.
There are big venues like the Hollywood Bowl that have massive screens that could be used to project digital images that accompany a play, said Kyle Wright, director of digital projects for the Shubert Organization, in an interview.
“When we think about audience building and what it means for Broadway to grow, it’s not quite literal in the sense that everything we participate in, invest in, or nurture has to happen on a Broadway stage,” Wright said. “How do we transform the worlds around these theaters that have these incredible narrative worlds so they don’t start when the lights go out but in Times Square?”
The team has a pilot program with multiple shows in the works.
“A lot of what we do is try to think about how we continue to improve the experiences and methods of storytelling on Broadway,” Wright said. “The metaverse and augmented reality are just another layer we can add to make storytelling more powerful. So what we consider our core competency is creating great stories that change people’s hearts and minds. For this reason, my goal is always how we do it better, more efficiently, reach more people and increase the quality and transformative effect of what we do. “
Riggs said there are challenges, especially if not everyone has the same devices.
“How can we use those devices to make things more magical when they’re watching live performance like that?” she asked. “There are many different applications. We are excited to find out how this can be applied to all entertainment properties. “
There are about 10 people working on the initial project.
Auten worked in the animation and video game industry and founded Hexagram a decade ago to pursue immersive entertainment. The company moved to cloud rendering and custom AR content. Your company is bringing that experience to the project.
“We started to really think very broadly about what it means to be a person in a space, to have an experience mediated by technology,” Auten said. “When the opportunity to work together with partners in the world of live theater arose, especially considering everything that has happened in the last two years, we were really excited about the ability to take on these incredible worlds that people have been in. working for everyone. this time and take them outside and expose them to more people. “
This does not mean that they are ditching traditional cinemas or that everyone will have their smartphone during a show.
“It can be incredibly additive and I think even comical in a lot of ways,” Wright said. “There really are those moments of little fragments of magic that you don’t expect. And they integrate seamlessly with the program. “
Technology should be good for shows with themes like magic or fantasy, but it depends on the imagination of the creators.
“It is authentic and very realistic for the performance. But one thing to keep in mind is that with this particular partnership, what you see is the first professional attempt to bring the metaverse to Broadway, “Jamil Moledina, CEO of Hexagram, said in an interview. “This is not about taking Broadway into the metaverse. The nuance here is allowing Broadway, and any existing medium in particular, to shine on its own, allowing it to continue to exude the magic that it has had for decades. “
As for restarting the theater, that’s just beginning, Wright said.
“We have never rebooted this battleship from scratch before,” he said. “It is uncharted territory, but it seems to be going well.”
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