Wednesday, 25 September 2013 06:08

It’s virtually an orchestra

By

I’m not easily impressed. But what I saw yesterday morning blew me away.

The Australian Chamber Orchestra (ACO), one of our country’s cultural icons, released ACO Virtual, an ‘interactive and mobile virtual orchestra’, at Sydney's Museum of Contemporary Art.

ACO Virtual features 2D and 3D projections of 13 of the ACO’s musicians, each recorded separately on Fox Studio’s sound stage, but simultaneously playing the same piece. Each musician has their own image and their own soundtrack.

The ACO’s Musical Director Richard Tognetti is of course one of these musicians. He mingled with the crowd at the launch. I asked him what it was like to see himself in a virtual orchestra. “It’s not me – it’s the audience.

"It's immersive.You feel as though you're in an orchestra. And every kid, every human being, who's attended an orchestral concert for the first time, what you want to do is go and sit in the orchestra and touch that beast of a double bass and really understand how the bassoon works. And this offers you this opportunity.

Audience members can watch, conduct and play alongside the orchestra. Via a touch screen ‘music stand’ the audience controls what musicians they see and hear via the projections, and can select to listen to the musicians individually or collectively.

ACO Virtual was produced by Mod Productions and is sponsored by the Commonwealth Bank, which was a founding member and is a strong financial supporter of the ACO.

Each ACO Virtual session runs for 30 minutes and features JS Bach, Edvard Grieg, Australian composer Roger Smalley and Argentinian tango composer Astor Piazolla. The eclectic group were chosen to ‘maximise the audience experience’.

There’s also an augmented reality smartphone app that provides detailed information about the music, musicians and instruments.

The digital media production was built using 13 stereoscopic camera rigs to capture and bring to life the audio and three-dimensional images of the ACO musicians performing on a sound stage. The performance capture technique allows the images of individual performers to be isolated and manipulated, which in turn, lets the audience control the performance of the entire orchestra.

ACO General Manager, Timothy Calnin said at the launch: “This world-first digital installation enables visitors to get inside the orchestra and play music along with musicians. It is rich in educational content, while simultaneously being immensely enjoyable as a musical event.

“Even after spending my whole career working with professional orchestras, I had never had the experience of being completely surrounded by the musicians in performance, and this is something which ACO Virtual achieves with remarkable realism.

Audiences can experience ACO Virtual at the Sydney Opera House Studio from 21-23 October 2013 and 27-29 October 2013 as part of the building’s 40th anniversary celebrations.

Next year ACO Virtual will tour a number of regional centres, including Port Macquarie in January and February, Bathurst in March and Yarra Ranges in June and July. For tour dates and venues visit www.aco.com.au/acovirtual

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Graeme Philipson

Graeme Philipson sadly passed away in Jan 2021 and he was always a valued senior associate editor at iTWire. He was one of Australia’s longest serving and most experienced IT journalists. He is the author of the only definitive history of the Australian IT industry, ‘A Vision Splendid: The History of Australian Computing.’He was in the high tech industry for more than 30 years, most of that time as a market researcher, analyst and journalist. He was founding editor of MIS magazine, and is a former editor of Computerworld Australia. He was a research director for Gartner Asia Pacific and research manager for the Yankee Group Australia. He was a long time weekly IT columnist in The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald, and is a recipient of the Kester Award for lifetime achievement in IT journalism. Graeme will be sadly missed by the iTWire Family, Readers, Customers and PR firms.

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