While the typical form of video documentation of an opera performance is relying on a director’s vision of how to best represent the performance that took place for future viewers who could not experience the performance live, we like to give the audience members the agency to be able to have their own impression of the piece. The VR experience allows audience members to navigate the space of the opera performance and hear the music as a spatial mix that changes in accordance with how the VR user is moving through space. Users have the opportunity to explore their very own version, as if they could go into the orchestra and walk between the musicians; they can stand next to the performers on stage and have perspectives they could never have in a theatrical performance.
The VR experience is an exploration of a sonic space, in which every instrument and singer is mic-ed separately and treated as a sound-object. As listeners navigate through the concert space the sounds are mixed according to their individual perspective — a set-up that allows listeners to either enjoy a faithful rendition of the performance or to venture into positions they could never occupy in the real performance and move in respect to the sound on their very own and imaginative journey.
The sonic experience is created with a combination of sound-field capture and individual sound object recording for every singer and instrument. It uses real-time mixing and spatialization techniques, such as the use of head-related transfer functions (HRTFs), to create a compelling spatial sound experience. The VR experience can be downloaded on VR platforms for people who own a VR headset, or visitors of the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in Los Angeles can use VR headsets exhibited in the lobby of the building.