See and hear the NZ Symphony Orchestra, in 360 degree VR

The New Zealand Symphony Orchestra has released a fully immersive VR experience of the 90-member orchestra in performance, made by New Zealand content creation company Wrestler.

The New Zealand Symphony Orchestra has released a fully immersive VR experience of the 90-member orchestra in performance, made by New Zealand content creation company Wrestler.

It enables the viewer to stand virtually on the conductor’s podium or move at any time among the different sections of the orchestra as it plays at the Michael Fowler Centre in Wellington. A Holophone microphone was used to record the music in 360 degrees so that the sound of the performance also changes, depending on where the viewers place themselves.

The experience is claimed to be one of the first in the world of an orchestra filmed in 360-degree video and sound and from five different camera positions.

According to the NZSO, “The VR video precisely follows the viewer’s head movements, so even if they turn their back on the orchestra or look up or down, they always see the interior of the Michael Fowler Centre.”

NZSO marketing manager Thomas Drent said VR would revolutionise how New Zealanders could experience their national orchestra and entice more people to see the NZSO live.

"This new VR experience allows people to immerse themselves in the orchestra in a way that would normally only be possible if they were a player or conductor,” he said. “It looks and sounds amazing and is incredibly realistic. You will believe you are actually standing among NZSO musicians as they play."

Wrestler VR developer Jeff Jones said the company had used an Omni camera array to film the orchestra in 360 degrees. "It’s made up of six cameras that all shoot simultaneously and through specialised software we can stitch those six shots together and create a piece of footage mapped to the sphere.

“At the same time the sound of the orchestra was captured with a special microphone shaped like a rugby ball. A Holophone H2-PRO 7.1 was embedded with eight microphones to capture the music in 360 degrees.

Wrestler sound engineer, Chris Ward, said: “The sound recording for this project was a really interesting challenge and also a little bit daunting. We had to come up with something that had a very small profile that was discreet, that was easy to move between set ups.

“The result is that if the viewer stands next to the first violins or moves to the conductor’s podium the sound changes in the same way it would if you moved around during a live performance.”

The NZSO VR experience can be downloaded from Google's Play Store for Android phones and Apple's App Store for iPhone. For those without a smartphone or VR headset a version of the video will be placed on the NZSO's Facebook page and YouTube, allowing the viewer to use their mouse to pan in 360 degrees while the NZSO performs. It can be played on smartphone-friendly VR headsets, including cardboard models.

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