How VR Was Used To Help Produce A Full-Scale Opera

This live production was built from the ground up using immersive technology.

XR hardware manufacturer Varjo has partnered with the Finnish National Opera and Ballet (FNOB) to help produce a new opera using VR technology. According to an official release, FNOB is the first opera house to utilize Varjo immersive technology throughout the entire production process of an opera show.

According to Varjo, the “visually-stunning” show is a rendition of Giacomo Puccini’s Turandot, which tells the story of a prince who falls in love with the cold princess Turandot. Performances began on January 27th and will run until March 4th, 2023. The show itself was developed from start to finish using the Varjo Aero, a professional-grade VR headset.

Credit: Varjo, Finnish National Opera and Ballet

Immersive technology was used by the creative team to develop a design visualization tool they call “XR Stage.” Built using Unreal Engine, the tool was used from the proof-of-concept phase all the way to final production. A virtual set was developed by Finnish studio ZOAN before being built IRL, saving time and money in the process. According to Varjo, working in VR provided a number of significant benefits compared to conventional production planning.

One of the most obvious benefits is the reduced travel time. Stage production teams could meet up and collaborate remotely in VR from anywhere in the world instead of having to fly to Helsinki. There was also a noticeable reduction in material and labor costs compared to conventional stage design. The team claims that 20% of the budgeted labor costs were slashed using VR technology. Not only that but 1,500 hours were cut from production, saving approximately € 75,000 in the process.

Credit: Varjo, Finnish National Opera and Ballet

“After 20 years of modeling lights, our technical team recognized that we needed a more efficient solution to provide our artistic teams with faster and better quality results. Our artists were only open to using virtual tools if models would be photorealistic and it was an intuitive user experience,” said Timo Tuovila, production and technical director of the FNOB, in an official release. “Varjo’s VR/XR technology enables just that. We have been able to create a digital twin of our stage that actually is true to life, matching the expectations of our ambitious artistic and technical teams.”

Credit: Varjo, Finnish National Opera and Ballet

Finnish National Opera and Ballet is no stranger to immersive technology. The organization has used XR to visualize several set productions since 2020. Moving forward, FNOB plans on introducing Varjo’s XR-3 headset into its set productions.

Turandot was co-produced by the FNOB and the Malmö Opera in Sweden. For more information on Varjo’s involvement with FNOB visit here.

Feature Image Credit: Varjo, Finnish National Opera and Ballet

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Former Writer (Kyle Melnick)

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