VR experience a world first for New Zealand Symphony Orchestra patrons


The New Zealand Symphony Orchestra has released a fully immersive Virtual Reality experience of the 90-member orchestra, which was produced by New Zealand content creation company Wrestler.

The VR experience is one of the first in the world that captures the orchestra in 360-degree video and sound from five different camera positions.

NZSO Marketing Manager Thomas Drent says it will revolutionise how New Zealanders can experience their national orchestra and expects that the VR experience will entice more people to see the Orchestra live.

During the performance, the viewer can move freely around the Orchestra; from the conductor’s podium beside NZSO associate conductor Hamish McKeich to the different sections as the musicians play.

“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 amongst the musicians as they play.”

According to Drent, the potential uses of VR for the NZSO are limitless, and developments in VR could mean that one day a viewer could conduct a virtual orchestra or play a virtual instrument in a VR performance.

A Holophone microphone was used to record the audio in 360 degrees so that the sound of the performance changes as the viewer moves around the Orchestra

Wrestler 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,” say Wrestler VR Developer Jeff Jones. This means that the VR video precisely follows the viewers head movements, so even if they turn away from the Orchestra, or look up or down, they will always see the interior of the Michael Fowler Centre.

“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,” says Section Principle Percussionist Laurence Reese.


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