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Wrestler showcases the full force of the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra

The fully immersive experience shows the 90-member orchestra performing at Wellington’s Michael Fowler Centre from five different camera positions. Users can stand on the conductor’s podium next to NZSO associate conductor Hamish McKeich or move through the different sections including first violins, cellos, horns and percussion.

Not only does it revolutionise the way New Zealanders can experience their national orchestra, but marketing manager Thomas Drent hopes it will entice more people to see it live.

“The NZSO is always exploring new ways to expand its audience and bring the Orchestra to all New Zealanders,” says Drent. “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. It looks and sounds amazing and is incredibly realistic. You will believe you are actually standing among NZSO musicians as they play.”

To view the NZSO in VR, the public can download the free NZSO VR Experience app for their smartphone via the Google Play Store or Apple App Store, and play it through smartphone-friendly VR headsets, including inexpensive cardboard models.

There’s also been a video shared on the orchestra’s Facebook page explaining how the experience was created. It shows the Omni camera array that captured the 360-degree footage with six cameras that all shoot simultaneously. The six shots were then stitched together through specialised software to 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, allowing the sound to change according to where the user is positioned on the stage. It’s one of the first times an orchestra has been filmed in 360-degrees with the inclusion of sound.

Wrestler head of VR/AR Kat Lintott says the company was stoked that the NZSO wanted to experiment with VR.

“To be able to walk around the stage while so many musicians play around you is just breathtaking.”

Principal percussionist Laurence Reese added: “It’s a fantastic opportunity to actually get on stage and go ‘I can sit next to the timpani or next to the trumpet or next to the harp’. It’s one more way to share our music-making experience. I think it’s fabulous.”

This story first appeared at StopPress.

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