MelodyVR Tries To Nail Live Music in 360

by Upload • April 1st, 2017

Since the start of the current VR wave, many people have posited that the ability to experience live music in 360 would help drive mainstream consumption of the technology. Like much else in VR, this prediction has been slower to play out than many anticipated, both for technical and content reasons. Capturing and producing high quality audio and video in VR remains expensive and labor intensive, and bandwidth issues can lead to lags when someone is streaming live in 360. Early movers in the space, like Rivet VR, which posted 360 videos from the Blue Note Jazz Club in New York, seem to have faded out — the company’s YouTube page hasn’t been updated with new content in over a year. NextVR and continue to release concerts, but they are tentpole events, not everyday occurrences.

Some of the same problems that plague other forms of VR content are also present in the live music space. Often, the camera is simply too damn high, leaving users with a feeling that they are freakishly tall, or levitating above a scene. This happens in lots of types of 360 content but is especially noticeable in the live event setting because the viewer is often placed in a crowd and it’s obvious when their viewpoint is two feet above everyone else. Many live music experiences currently on the market don’t allow for much agency in terms of where the user views the concert — they wind up jumping from place to place, including watching the show at angles that are completely unnatural, like next to the bass player. Finally, and perhaps the hardest to solve — many live music experiences are completely anti-social, while one of the biggest reasons people go to concerts is to experience the show with friends and other fans.

So can MelodyVR, a UK company with two major label deals in the bag, provide any solutions? According to co-founder Anthony Matchett, they’ve worked with over five hundred artists to shoot concert footage, and are currently building up a content library in anticipation of a launch later this year. He says that in terms of the camera height issue, it’s been a process of trial and error, but they’ve finally found a height that seems natural for most people and won’t make users feel like they’re 10 feet tall. And in terms of user agency, Melody’s app will allow viewers to select from a number of of angles and pick their vantage point, although he adds that if someone wants a completely lean-back experience, they might produce “director’s cuts” where the viewer will be moved at will.

But the social aspect remains a tough nut to crack. Matchett says that one issue is simply beyond the control of his company or any other content creator — there simply aren’t enough headsets in the market right now to make watching with friends a realistic option. He does add that MelodyVR is working with Oculus and other partners to integrate avatars into the experiences, so that once more headsets are in homes, people will be able to see each other and communicate at shows.

While MelodyVR has also taken steps in terms of solving some technical issues, it still remains to be seen if people will be drawn to watching concerts in the headset as a solitary experience, at least right now.

Cortney Harding is a contributing columnist covering the intersection of VR and media. This column is an editorial product of TVREV, produced in partnership with Vertebrae, the native VR/AR ad platform.

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