Award-winning immersive media production company Mativision conducted a wide-ranging feasibility study to learn more about the way in which audiences engage with live immersive music and entertainment experiences. Mativision’s founder and chief executive Anthony Karydis and experience designer Athina Metridou explained to us what was involved and what they learned.
What’s the big idea?
Most live immersive entertainment events have to date followed broadcast television formats, using techniques like multiple camera angles to help audiences feel present within the experience. But despite making great technical leaps forward, live immersive experiences haven’t gained the big audience numbers anticipated. There is likely to be untapped potential to really enhance the audience experience of these events.
Having worked for more than a decade creating live immersive experiences for major entertainment shows (e.g. American Idol and the MTV European Music Awards), Mativision wanted to find out what users want from immersive experiences and how these needs can be met. So they created a feasibility study called Project LIME (short for live immersive music experiences) researching the ways in which live immersive performances are viewed and distributed. Project LIME also studied audience expectations, perceptions and behaviours when engaging with immersive technology.
Who was the study aimed at?
As well as informing their own immersive entertainment work, Mativision’s research aimed to find insights for creative companies and professionals working in immersive entertainment to help make more engaging content, and potentially find new revenue streams as well.
How has Audience of the Future supported the project?
Project LIME cost just over £59,000. Of that, Mativision funded 30% of the costs and Audience of the Future’s Design Foundations Challenge provided the other 70% (£41,374).
How was the study run?
After carrying out a review of existing literature on immersive technology, Mativision created an online survey supported by several immersive content prototypes. These were VR-based but watchable via other devices, such as smartphones. The prototypes showcased a variety of ways to present content to audiences. For example, one allowed viewers the option to either switch between multiple cameras at different locations, or watch an edited stream from these cameras. Another prototype offered different levels of social networking.
The team used these prototypes to evaluate the impact and preferences of those surveyed. The questionnaire tested everything from prior experience of immersive technologies to preferred viewpoints during live performances. It asked participants to rank preferences for additional features, such as performance close ups, lyrics on screen, virtual fireworks, and asked whether they wanted enhanced social interaction during the event. More than 200 people took part – some digitally, some during one-to-one meetings and informal workshops. Many participants were drawn from Mativision’s network of partners and customers.
As well as using the responses to develop a final Project LIME demo, Mativision summarised its work and findings in a report. This was shared with both the Audience of the Future Challenge team and immersive industry organisations (Immerse UK, Innovate UK, Digital Catapult). The report then formed the basis of workshop and conference presentations in the UK and internationally.
What did Mativision learn from Project LIME?
Project LIME’s key discovery was that audiences remain focused on the event itself, rather than additional features. Their ultimate goal remains to reserve the best ‘seats’ in the house and view high quality content.
Socialisation and gamifying the experience isn’t a priority. This is a key finding as the industry’s roots lie in immersive gaming where socialisation is critical. While a gamer likes to get involved and interact with others, audiences who watch an event – be it a live music performance or sporting event – do not currently feel the same way.
Audiences are keen to use immersive and interactive technologies for live events, but limited experience with immersive technologies creates a paradoxical situation, in which they are both reluctant to use the technology and yet have excessively high expectations of the experience. Design matters more than ever to help audiences adapt comfortably to the growing world of immersive experiences.
What has happened since Project LIME ended?
As a consequence of presenting the Project LIME findings to potential business partners and industry stakeholders, Mativision has started to develop new ventures. For example, working with leading UK recording facility Metropolis Studios, Mativision has built a content distribution platform that delivers specialist skills training to audio professionals and that uses immersive experiences to do so, a project guided by LIME findings. A second partnership with SNFCC, the biggest Cultural Centre in Greece, has also applied research findings in a number of projects.
Guided by the LIME work, the Mativision team have redeveloped their bespoke VR content delivery system (or ’VLIPP’). LIME findings indicated that, while happy to have the ability to select camera locations, viewers eventually prefer to ‘settle down’ and watch the show itself. The main adaptation added to VLIPP is the Director’s Cut option. This allows a viewer to watch an edited stream of any event, but, at any point, take control and start selecting cameras if they want.
Project LIME also found that musicians are interested in being able to rehearse and perform together virtually. What’s more, audiences are interested in combining performances that are happening in different places into one experience. Mativision developed these ideas and presented them to Digital Catapult, proposing a 5G Festival. This is now in development, with £3.5 million in funding from the UK’s Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport. Mativision will be using its £350,000 share of the budget to develop remote performance in an immersive, augmented reality-supported environment (for musicians), as well as looking at ways in which a physical event with a live audience can connect with artists located in other cities or countries.