Eelynn Tan, events producer for AUX Media Group, is standing in an abandoned amusement park. The scene is moody and almost apocalyptic — above, dark skies churn; behind her, an overgrown jungle sways in the wind, swallowing a dilapidated Ferris wheel. At her feet, weeds rise up between the cracks of broken pavement. A moment later, Tan has been transported to an environment evoking an entirely different mood — a sleek, modern rail station, its steely beams glowing almost purple in the funnel of light shining from above.
In reality, Tan is in the same place — on set in her company’s Singapore studio. This space is the company’s secret sauce, a digital blank canvas for producing everything from concerts and music videos (for which the above settings were recently used) to an increasing number of business events. Equipped with a 360-degree set that allows for wider camera movements and angles, AUX Media’s setup allows Tan and her team to instantaneously change a backdrop for not only dramatic effect, but also to create a setting that feels more realistic and captivating to both the speaker on stage and the viewer tuning in from home.
Since virtual events went into overdrive in early 2020, “we started to realize that clients and audiences wanted more” than the static Zoom meeting, Tan said. “The real-time visuals … can allow for the speaker or performer to be aware of their surroundings. Unlike green screens, where you have to imagine what the [finished product] looks like, with extended reality it allows for more immersive experience — even for the presenter.”
Applications of this kind of technology can be as simple as a virtual ticker that shows the number of attendees tuning in, or more immersive — like embedding a presentation directly into a speaker’s backdrop, to make it feel as though the viewer is sitting in a meeting space and watching the speaker live. For panel discussions, speakers can be beamed in, their faces hovering behind the live speaker on stage.
“This allows the live and remote speakers to address the audience in real-time,” Tan said.
Earlier this year, when AUX Media worked with International SOS for its Virtual Leaders Meeting 2021, the team designed a virtual set inspired by the company’s brand identity, using the solar system as a backdrop and a dropdown globe to unveil speakers as they appeared on stage. To amp up the energy for celebratory functions, AUX Media has even set off (virtual) fireworks.
The company works with partner disguise, whose platform, software, and hardware is the back-end foundation for creating impressive visuals in extended-reality environments for events like the Tokyo Olympics’ Closing Ceremony and Expo 2020 in Dubai (which kicked off on Friday, Oct. 1). Another example — a 2020 performance of “Daises” by Katy Perry on “America Idol” (video above).
But whether it’s xR, massive LED screens, green screens, real-time compositing — it all comes back to content, said panelist Darren Chuckry, founder, managing partner at HK Initiative, which specializes in creating digital experiences. “How are we using these tools to better tell our story, to better engage our audience?”
“Content, from our perspective, is very important,” said Nicholas Chan, regional sales manager – Southeast Asia, at disguise. “That’s why, when we plan with our clients who want to try out xR … from the very beginning we sit the whole team down and talk about, what’s the objective? What is [the audience profile]? Are there branding guidelines we should be aware of? All of this plays a part in determining [the] how,” Chan said, in terms of the visuals and the content.
To dig further into how disguise works with its clients, recent case studies, and how AUX Media and disguise are using xR to change the way business events are designed and experienced, watch the PCMA webinar Reimagine Virtual Event Storytelling through Extended Reality.
Jennifer N. Dienst is managing editor at Convene.