Gorillaz Debut AR YouTube Experience At Coachella

Always a champion for innovation, Gorillaz unsurprisingly pushed boundaries at Coachella with a seemingly real-time AR installation that leveled up their live set for at-home viewers.

While I wasn’t able to attend Coachella this year (sad face), I, like so many others, was made incredibly aware it was happening. From blowing up my social media to client out-of-office emails to texts from friends onsite asking if they might run into me there, I looked on lovingly at one of the most infamous mainstream US festivals.

What really caught my eye though was the innovation and artistry that Coachella and its partners invested in this year for both in-person and remote participants. From incredible onsite installation work by artists such as Maggie West, Güvenç Özel, and Kumkum Fernando, to massive brand plays from Coca-Cola, NYLON and 818 Tequila, and others, the festival seems to have met the expected industry post-pandemic boom for memorable experiential moments.

One of the top-tier experiences came from the beloved band, Gorillaz, fronted by fictional cartoon characters and the brainchild of Damon Albarn and Jamie Hewlett. Known for championing new technologies to build bigger the Gorillaz world franchise, it’s both unsurprising and now expected that their innovative interests will make splashes when they perform. What’s exciting is never knowing what they’ll do.

Credit: Coachella

“AR has the potential to revolutionize the way we watch and engage with TV performances,” says Niamh Byrne, founder of Gorillaz’s Eleven Management. “Gorillaz are perfectly positioned to experiment with the canvases that exist between physical and digital.”

Gorillaz’s augmented reality (AR) offering was tied to their 2023 song “Skinny Ape.” This award-worthy case study made for augmenting a YouTube livestream, layers a larger-than-life 2D (the band’s imaginary frontman) on the very top of the proscenium and syncs up perfectly with Albarn performing live on stage. 

Over the course of the song, the other three fabricated musicians appear beside him towering over the audience—respectively Russel drumming, Noodle strumming, and Murdoc, floating cross-legged, doing nothing to help. The AR experience allowed for the animated avatars to still be front and center as the face of the show while seemingly not compromising user engagement. 

Credit: Coachella

To create the AR-enabled livestream, Coachella worked with Epic Games and Eric Wagliardo, member of the festival’s innovation team and founder of &Pull, to make the Gorillaz experience happen, as well as those for Bad Bunny and BLACKPINK. Special cameras were set up at the stages to offer home viewers a unique view of select songs with no phone or headset required.

Sam Schoonover, Lead of Innovation and Emerging Technology for Coachella, said, “Bringing the Gorillaz characters to life is the best possible use case we could have imagined for Unreal Engine and AR in the Coachella YouTube livestream. We’re excited to continue enabling artists to extend their performances in new and engaging ways.”

This integration of AR works so well because it only adds to the live performance. It’s what’s next for the bands and brands willing to get risky with the future of entertainment and with support from a heavy hitter event like Coachella around logistics, artists can begin to remove specific limitations of reality to elevate the visual experience of their shows.

Feature Image Credit: Coachella

About the Scout

Darragh Dandurand

Living to tell stories and build worlds, one adventure at a time. Darragh Dandurand is a multi-disciplinary creative whose award-winning works have reached international audiences by way of photography, writing, journalism, filmmaking, new media and immersive technology. She is known for artistic and academic efforts in story development, creative direction / strategy and community engagement. When she's not working, Darragh is volunteering, traveling, dreaming up projects, or dancing the night away.

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