We love crafting experiences that utilize emerging technologies – Augmented Reality, Virtual Reality, and 360º video are our current favorite technologies to use. We’ve created a few experiences for each of these technologies and have shown demos at various events. Time and time again, people are genuinely excited to see the way we’re working to blend the world of theatre with the world of tech, but every single time we show one of these demos someone always asks something along the lines of:
“This is great and all, but you don’t really think this is going to replace the current theatre experience – do you?”
The quick answer to this question: “Of course not!” The way we see it, rather than replacing the ways we currently experience theatre, AR, VR and 360º video are instead expanding and enhancing the ways we currently experience theatre. AR, VR, and 360º video enable entirely new ways for people to experience content and to connect with shows, along with opening up a whole new world of opportunity for creatives involved with content creation.
Rather than looking at AR, VR, and 360º video as a threat to the industry, we see these technologies as a new horizon for the world of theatre. Through this expansion of the current theatre experience, all kinds of new and exciting jobs will emerge. Looking to the past for examples of similar technologies, the invention of recording technologies drastically changed the way people experienced stories and had an effect on the world of theatre.
Prior to the advent of recording technologies, directors meticulously planned how to tell a story through the singular viewpoint of a stage from the seats of a theatre, set designers designed stages that took advantage of this viewpoint as well, and actors practiced voice projection for performances in unmic’ed stage. When the camera was created, directors had a whole new world of opportunity at their fingertips (literally!) – the view they could offer audiences was no longer locked to a stationary place in the physical world. Set designers built out more realistic sets, with the intention of creating a deeper immersion with the environments present on the stage. Microphones enabled actors to be heard without having to constantly project – a whisper could be heard by people in the back of the audience.
In a similar fashion to AR, VR, and 360º video – people in that day and age didn’t want to believe that video recordings, audio recordings, etc. could replace the theatre experience that they loved. Looking at where we are today, recording technologies haven’t erased theatre – they’ve actually enhanced the theatre. From modern basics like microphones to elaborate projections to the ability to share content from the stage in the form of a recorded video, all of these things enhance the theatre-goers experience.
AR, VR, and 360º video will have a similar impact on the world of theatre – not one of replacement, but instead one of enhancement. Augmented Reality has already found a place in the world of theatre through technologies like projection mapping – digitally mapping images and pre-recorded video onto physical objects on a stage, resulting in beautiful scenes and sets that enable technological feats people might have thought impossible in the early days of theatre. The Royal Shakespeare company, which no one can say lacks in traditional theatre cred, put on a remarkable production of The Tempest this year using real-time motion capture.
360º Video has found a prominent spot in the world of theatre too – through experiences like The Lion King 360, School of Rock 360, and Hamilton 360. These are all different experiences that used varying levels of production – The Lion King 360 was a recording of a full blown Broadway production, School of Rock takes place in a custom built set, and Hamilton has the cast standing, out of costume, on a stage singing. These are three hit Broadway musicals all using the same technology in different ways to enhance their audiences’ experiences.
While all of these beginnings are exciting, VR, AR, and even 360 video are still newer technologies, developing rapidly and finding the best ways to support creative visions for live performance. Change is fast, but Apples and Oranges Arts makes a habit of diving into the newest technologies. We’re currently producing a new VR experience specifically for lovers of Broadway – you can keep up to date with news around that piece by subscribing to our newsletter below or following us on social media!
All three of these technologies bring new challenges to actors and directors alike – how do you act when an audience member can look anywhere at any second? How do you guide a viewer’s attention to an important piece of action when they are immersed in virtual reality? How do you organically intertwine digital set pieces with real ones?
All of these questions are new opportunities in the world of the arts and theatre. Each one of these requires a solution. The solutions that are created will shape the future of theatre experiences similarly to how the advent of recording technologies helped shape the current theatre experience.
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