Van Dusseldorp's Future of events (8)

Giant-jumbo-giga-mega-screens. Theatrum Pictorium. And snow.

Dear all 715 of you!

Lots of snow here in Amsterdam… It makes me want to share some Dutch winter specials with you (not really on topic for this newsletter, and the links go to Dutch language sites, I know, I know…)

  • you can live track all the Dutch gritter trucks at work (26.249.526 kilo of salt was put on the roads before 7 PM today).

  • the Dutch Cyclist Union has published a set of recommendations for cycling through the snow (lower the saddle, release some air from the tires)

  • and the government has put out a special set of Corona rules! Snowball fights only allowed between household members. I am not kidding!

To put it all in perspective, I also want to share this gem by photographer Thomas Schlijper (do follow him if you long for Amsterdam city life in your stream).

At 5 AM this morning, just after curfew, when people came out of their homes to admire the world: a snowball fight between some police officers and a few members of the public on Dam Square. This is the kind of event we need right now.

Ok, ok, here we go, you and me, back to our screens! As promised, in this issue some examples of video screens as used by events - to illustrate the previous issue’s thoughts. I have collected eight examples for you.

One, two, three go!

Monique van Dusseldorp

(As always - I love hearing from you. Tips, comments, suggestions… And do send me more examples of innovative use of screens!)

New visuals

Yes, the Muppets. Or paintings depicting collections of paintings (‘‘Theatrum Pictorium’’). Or the 1960 picture by photographer Ormond Gigli of models in the windows of a to-be-demolished brownstone. We have seen examples of lots of people together in a grid before.

But let’s mark the year 2020 for bringing us grids with live video feeds of people. A dispersed audience united in a grid, sharing their combined live presence.

1. Audience video wall applause - Serbian rally

What could you do with this? Well, for one, let the audience admire you! See this clip from May last year, an online rally by Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić. I thought it was a remarkable translation of the new Zoom grid aesthetic to the political domain. See for yourself! Just a few seconds will do to get an idea.

2. Audience video wall interaction - Even tot hier

Around the same time, the Dutch TV program Even tot Hier - previously recorded with a live audience - also decided to bring in the audience via a video wall.

The Zoom input was transferred to studio-quality with options to group the callers with the best video quality and a few more tricks. (Here is a picture of the studio set-up as seen from the other side).

The audience, in this case, is not here just for applause but also for interaction. The wall allows the hosts to play a weekly knock-out game with the audience - they answer multiple-choice questions by showing something blue, green, or red. They also sing along when asked, and there are small conversations with audience members. It works remarkably well!

On a smaller scale, the same screen setup was used for a professional event that combined people online and at the venue. The result was live-streamed. How we combine people on video and people in the room is an event design issue.

3. Speakers on-screen - DeZwijger

How do you show a live stream with speakers both in the room and online? Amsterdam venue Pakhuis de Zwijger puts out ‘‘live cast’’ session almost daily. The remote speakers are visible on the main screen behind the speakers present in the room. Look at the difference in scale! The video guests, towering over the people in the room, get more presence that way. Somehow that works. The design of screen presence matters.

4. Audience on iPad - Ruimte om te Raken

Let’s look at an interesting experiment. In March 2020, Nils Roemen of Experience Experts together with a.o. LiveLegends organized Ruimte om te Raken: a series of live performances - music, theatre, talks - shared online. For each show, 50 people could attend the event via an Ipad. Their faces were visible to the speaker or artist. The rest could simply watch the live stream.

I was part of the audience for one of the shows and followed both streams. The live stream was as slick as any TV show, with different camera angles, smoothly edited, highly professional.

If your online presence was through an iPad, it was a completely different experience. Your point of view was now fixed. And you were very aware that the artist could see you - so you had to keep watching! As one of 50 people in the visible audience, I felt I had to stay put.

This set up was great for the performers - they could see part of their audience in the room and interact with them. The moderator could even walk up to you and ask a question. Delegates were not just present on the screen but also in the space itself.

5. Business event - Denk Producties

The idea to bring delegates into a room through video - not just on a Zoom screen, but really into a room - was taken one step further by Hans Janssen of Dutch event organizer DenkProducties. (Disclosure: I am on the Advisory Board of Denk Producties).

A recent event with Duncan Wardle (ex Disney) on creativity combined a talk with small brainstorm sessions. Above, you can see an example of the setup in Central Studios in Utrecht. Wardle was in the US, and the delegates were at home. The host was on location, surrounded by screens. They saw Wardle speak, they saw each other on video for group work, and had a view of the whole setup.

Delegates were aware of each other as well as their own screen presence in the room.

6. Business event - Tony Robbins

The first virtual Unleash The Power Within event by motivational speaker Tony Robbins attracted 22,500 people from 143 countries, visualized in an immersive 360-degree virtual studio. The next one is in March, and tickets are $395-$1795 for a four day (!) program.

Let’s say, we are now way beyond just another Zoom call projected on a big screen. As described by producers Immersive Design Studio,

the studio set-up combines real-time game engine technology with video capture and playback, all kinds of cloud-based tools, and ‘‘custom AI neural networks to deliver ultra-high-resolution interactive content at a massive scale’’.

Robbins could move around freely, with the screens showing dynamic 3D environments for the audience, integrating live performers, music, lighting, and visual effects on the fly.

You can see a bit of the set up in this video. Or in other words: a whole new category of events has turned up in the last six months, and it looks like they are here to stay.

7. Mega events with screens - WWE & BTS

For some events, the excitement of the audience is a big part of the show. The World Wrestling Entertainment Network (WWE) has set up the Thunderdome, with almost 1,000 LED boards to recreate the arena experience. They also added pyrotechnics and drones to the show, something not possible with a live audience.

WWE ThunderDome will virtually bring fans into the arena via live video on massive LED boards for every Monday Night Raw, Friday Night SmackDown, and WWE pay-per-view event. 

Here a behind-the-scenes video of the Famous Group that is now selling its ‘‘virtual seat’’ technology worldwide. Special tickets are sold for fans to be in “attendance” - and see themselves on the video stream.

Another mega-scale event: the latest BTS virtual concert Map of the Soul On:e last October. BTS is a Korean boy band with dedicated fans across the world. The tickets were about $45 for a one-day pass and around $90 for the two-day pass, and according to Big Hit, BTS’s record label, 993,000 viewers tuned in from across 191 countries (Source).  For the fans, being part of the show is a dream come true.

8. Screen destinations

Spaces with really big screens had already become destinations of their own before the pandemic. Those immersive environments may become event hubs in the future, and combine live and virtual experiences.

Take The Atelier Lumieres in Paris with its giant screens, a proper tourist destination. Imagine an event in that space, with live feeds from the speakers/artists you want to be close to. Other examples are the Mori Digital Art Museum in Tokyo and the NXT Museum in Amsterdam. Or consider Universal Tongue, by artist Anouk Kruithof, a video installation with eight channels with four hours of film each.

The size and quality of the matter of the screen matter.

It’s early days, but I am sure that the most impressive visual language for screens is being developed by artists right now, experimenting with size, proximity, and interaction.

Yes, of course, screens are getting smarter as well. We should be keeping an eye on venues with ‘‘surround screens’’ - and what kind of new get-togethers may appear in this setting. Just before the pandemic, Microsoft opened a Customer Experience Center in its office at Schiphol: the Holosuite.

With immersive technology, smart technologies are used to connect the physical world with new digital developments. By using advanced, interactive 360° projections and Mixed Reality experiences, the Holosuite offers the opportunity to show specific industry scenarios in practice. This fully immersive experience completely surrounds visitors in their own environment, in their own story.

That’s it for today folks!


Van Dusseldorp’s Future of Events is a newsletter by me, Monique van Dusseldorp. I am a freelance curator and moderator of tech and media conferences (more here). I love to hear from you! Mail me or connect with me on LinkedIn and Twitter. And do tell everyone to sign up for my newsletter! :-)

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