Virtual ‘Ghost’: Utah-based company behind Justin Bieber’s Metaverse concert


PLEASANT GROVE, Utah (ABC4) – When Justin Bieber takes the stage for his first Metaverse concert this Thursday, he will deliver what is set to be one of the most breathtaking live performances of all time.

The point is, while dozens of adoring Beliebers will see a figure that looks like their idol dance and sing along to hits like “Peaches,” “Hold On” and their new single “Ghost”, they won’t actually see the real one. Bieber.

They will watch a digital avatar of the pop megastar interact with and create a fully immersive 3D digital world. The real Bieber will wear a motion capture suit in a studio in an undisclosed location in California, with his movements and voice projected onto the digital avatar.

Courtesy of Wave via Future House Studios

Adam Sidwell, owner and founder of Utah-based Future House Studios, the company commissioned by virtual concert promoter Wave to provide the art and content for the show, says what he and his team have prepared for Bieber and that his fans will enjoy the concert experience. to the next level.

“It’s kind of the exciting thing, if you go to a Justin Bieber concert, and you’re sitting in the audience, it’s fun, it’s full of energy, and you’re clapping, but here with these virtual concerts, you’re interacting with the experience, ”Sidwell explains to ABC4.com.

This isn’t Future House’s first foray into turning a real-life superstar into a living digital creation in a highly imaginative world. The group also put avatars of The Weeknd and Doja Cat on the phone screens of more than two million TikTok users for a very immersive live concert in August 2020.

The TikTok show saw The Weeknd’s digital counterpart perform songs from his album, After Hours, in a world that transformed and changed as audiences interacted with their devices.

Courtesy of the TikTok Newsroom

It could rightly be described as a fantasy of the Super Bowl halftime show in the TRON universe.

Mike Rich of Future House, who worked as a project supervisor for Bieber’s upcoming concert, explains that this week’s show, which can be accessed anywhere in the United States and Canada with an internet connection Thursday night, will be “head and shoulders above what was done for The Weeknd.”

“Things have progressed, technology has progressed, techniques have progressed,” says Rich. “Visually, I think it will be a really big step forward, even compared to just a few months ago. “

Rich would know all there is to know about awesome visual effects. With Sidwell, he worked as an artist and technical director at George Lucas’ Lucasfilm Industrial Light and Magic Studio for over 20 years. When starting his company in Utah, Sidwell, a BYU graduate, recruited the best of the best to create high-level virtual universes that will propel metaverse visions into a digital reality.

Some of Sidwell’s credits as a visual effects artist include blockbuster films like “Me, Robot”, “King Kong”, “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End” and “TRON: Legacy” (now the TRON reference above makes even more sense, eh?). Rich has been involved in almost every modern Star Wars movie, in addition to several images from the Marvel Universe.

Although Sidwell and Rich run the studio’s headquarters from a small office in a building directly across from Pleasant Grove’s iconic Purple Turtle hamburger restaurant, the talent working on Future House productions extends across the world.

“We have a small office with a few desks, but other than that everyone works from their home space,” says Sidwell. “And it’s really great because it allows us to hire talent from all over, from San Francisco and LA to Tokyo and Istanbul.”

The international team has been working for months, collaborating between Wave and Bieber himself on how to present a metaverse concert to a global audience. From a technical point of view, it is a colossal undertaking.

“The most obvious challenge is just that the level of quality has to be high, it has to look good,” Rich describes. “Technically that’s also a problem because while it looks good, realtime rendering presents challenges as well. “

Without getting too specific, rich detail that it will probably take at least a few high-end computers with high-end graphics cards to render Bieber’s movements in real time in the digital world of the Metaverse.

“The short answer is it takes a lot, a pretty heavy machine with all the bells and whistles,” he says of the technology behind the scenes. “In fact, several heavy machines performing different tasks at the same time. “

Sidwell and Rich agree that digital concerts are likely to be an important part of the entertainment industry in the future. Some of the consequences of this movement could elevate artistic expression to new heights.

“There’s these melancholy ethereal effects, and you can’t do that in real life with a person,” Sidwell says of Bieber’s avatar and the surprises in store for the concert. “And that’s part of the fun. It’s a new visual language and new visual fields that people can look at and be like, “Wow, that’s really cool. “

Part of the allure of the digital gig is also rooted in the practicality. Rich mentions that he recently saw someone comment on an article on the Bieber show Thursday, acknowledging that she could attend a show of this caliber from home. Her severe anxiety about being in a crowded space had previously prevented her from seeing a concert in person.

However, he doesn’t see this as the death of in-person live broadcasts – it will just be another exciting opportunity to create a global collective experience.

“I don’t think we’ll ever see the end of live gigs, live gigs are fantastic,” says Rich. “But I think we see an ever-growing opportunity for these to become a much bigger part of the entertainment industry, the chance to reach some sort of global audience both, in new and interactive ways that this kind of just hasn’t existed before.

How to watch:

Date: Thursday, November 18, 2021 at 7 p.m. MT

Or: wave.watch (interactive experience) and Youtube (live coverage)

No cost


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