5G Festival comes to life with immersive venue trials at Brighton Dome

News, 5G Festival

As part of the 5G Festival partnership we have successfully completed the second set of trials to test critical aspects of digital technology that could deliver a music collaboration toolset and a unique experience for artists, audiences and venues. The results will deliver the world’s first 5G powered hybrid immersive festival experience early next year, our Digital Cultural Associate Donna Close explains more.

The social and economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the live music industry has been severe. 5G Festival is part of efforts across the sector to create innovative platforms for musicians and artists to write, rehearse and produce music despite geographical barriers, and deliver new, uniquely engaging ways for audiences to interact with live performances. As a world first, 5G Festival is a real game-changer for the production of events across the music industry and venues, as well as the way in which audiences can experience them.

One of the things we’re leading on at Brighton Dome, together with colleagues at Wired Sussex, is the creative vision for the showcase. 5G removes distance, it’s like being in the same time and space, whether separated by thousands of miles or a few metres, it removes barriers that previous technology can’t achieve. The recent trials took place in our Concert Hall and Founders Room in June and built on the practical testing and research established during the first stage trials in March. The aim was to have artists collaborate from different locations to see how an immersive festival experience would work both in a venue and at home.

We brought together a group of experienced session musicians called “The Remotes” (the most data divided band in the UK) especially for the trial, with musical direction from Kojo Samuel who has worked with renowned artists such as Stormzy, Jess Glynne and Dave. The vocalist, bass player, lead guitarist and keyboard player were set up to play in our venue whilst 60 miles away at Metropolis Studios in London a further vocalist and drummer were located.

Kojo Samuel:

“Music is about timing and rhythm, without that it’s not in sync. It changes the whole feel of how music works so we need to be able to do this with as little latency as possible.”

The aim of this trial was to test how much audio latency (delay) can be tolerated for a group of performers to be able to play together remotely and how the use of spatial audio delivery instead of stereo helps them collaborate with each other seamlessly in-sync. Video latency was also tested to determine if the performers could take visual cues from each other remotely from two separate venues with live streams of the band’s individual performances creating an immersive in-venue experience by artist Zach Walker from Make Amplify  and videographer Nick Driftwood. For the first time in the project, spatial sound was used to trial how this new and emerging audio technology can create a “virtual festival” experience, which transports the audience member from an intimate space elsewhere in Brighton Dome to the centre of the Concert Hall auditorium. 

Vocalist Sylvia Mwenze was based in the Founders Room

The band performed using augmented reality (AR) glasses, live streaming through a 5G network-ready 360° content distribution platform and an innovative immersive audio mixing interface. This meant that even though they couldn’t perform together physically - or take cues from each other - in real life, the individual performers were able to collaborate using technology to recreate the same kind of seamless rehearsal and performance as from a band performing together on one stage. For the audience, the technology will create a more emotionally connected experience in-venue and through AR, virtual reality and 360° video will enable streaming of their favourite artists live into their own homes on their preferred viewing device, or from one venue to another.

The 5G Festival is led by Digital Catapult together with seven industry partners including Warner Music Group and Sonosphere.

Dritan Kaleshi, Director of 5G Technology at Digital Catapult:

“These trials were a major success with the network performing as expected and we were able to start pushing the boundaries of what 5G and immersive technology is able to do. It was actually quite an emotional experience for all involved - for the first time in such a long while, we’re hearing and seeing live music being performed, from an incredible band across two iconic venues. It feels real now. This collaboration of organisations is a creative and technical tour de force, and the effort which has been poured into this project is now starting to bear fruit.”

We’re looking forward to seeing how further trials progress across the year, with the introduction of a third venue for testing the spatial hybrid elements, culminating in a live public event due to take place in March 2022.

Find out more about our XR Digital projects here.