Singapore's first National Day Parade show tapped on AR to offer a more immersive and interconnected storytelling experience. The broadcast AR showcased rain weather effects, a levitating mirror-ball, and a dance of a hummingbird, combining mass display with film and animated content. The activation was done by local multimedia company Anomalyst Studio and show production company The Show Company which collaborated to develop the system and create the various real-time augmented reality effects seen in the show.
Founder and creative director of Anomalyst Studio, Ben Kee, told MARKETING-INTERACTIVE that an estimated six-figure sum was invested in the broadcast AR. This included the software licences, hardware systems, development of the content, integration for broadcast AR, and live operations. The show received creative direction from director Boo Jun Feng and multimedia director Sally Lee, and its creative vision was to keep things "invisibly seamless".
The team produced lifelike visual illusions in an outdoor floating stage area covering more than 5,000 square metres. According to Anomalyst Studio, such a technological feat is typically achievable only in an indoor studio setting or newsroom. The process took six months to accurately replicate realistic-looking virtual content over a live background. To ensure visual fidelity and realism, a 3D one-to-one scale of the stage environment was built for shadows and “light-catching” using 360-degree video capture to accurately sample the environment and lighting conditions for reflection.
The show also used 3D design and game technology to build a highly adaptable graphics production system to keep up with adjustments from sound, performance and lighting throughout the entire show's development. Pixotope, a mixed reality platform software, was also used for the creation and playback for live broadcast AR. At the same time, robotic camera systems by XD motion was used to enable a consistent choreographed broadcast for each of the customised AR moments.
Kee explained that AR was a natural fit as the team was able to integrate virtual content on top of the in-camera shots from the live show. "The goal was not to distract viewers with the technology but to pique their curiosity on how the effects were achieved in real-time, adding a layer onto an already familiar format of NDP show," he added.
With the implementation of new technology for live events, especially one that is rooted in a strong legacy live format of this scale, Kee said it took a while for everybody to warm up about the opportunity beyond the viability of broadcast AR. "We had to conduct many tests and demos to prove the stability of the system. As the confidence built amongst the team and client, the challenge was to push for the visual quality that made the AR feature appear believable and seamless with the show, instead of it coming across as a gimmick," he explained.
According to Kee, the goal with each year's programme is to stay relevant to contemporary audience demographics by continually pushing the boundaries of event technology as well as telling better stories, making a mark of this year’s show something that would be memorable for years to come. Meanwhile, brands including Grab, Stabilo, Secret Lab, and MILO received a special mention in the animation showing how far Singaporeans have come and the Singapore spirit. It's unclear if this was paid or earned exposure.
With social distancing restrictions and limited live audiences, several recent global live events have tapped on AR tech to elevate live entertainment effects for home-based broadcast viewers. The Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games used AR for the formation of the Olympic Rings during the closing ceremony recently.