Finnish National Opera
& Ballet

With Zoan and Var­jo, cre­ative teams across the globe can come togeth­er in a pho­to­re­al­is­tic vir­tu­al or mixed real­i­ty space where new con­cepts can be show­cased, dis­cussed and iter­at­ed in real time.

Imag­ine build­ing a pho­to­re­al­is­tic vir­tu­al set based on a cre­ative vision and then invit­ing col­leagues and part­ners to expe­ri­ence it with their own eyes, wher­ev­er they hap­pen to be. They can walk freely around an immer­sive 3D stage set­ting as if they were there in per­son. They feel the expe­ri­ence exact­ly how it was intend­ed, with­out a set being built yet or hav­ing to be in the same phys­i­cal space.

Those tak­ing part will become immersed in this vision with aug­ment­ed objects appear­ing in front of them as if by mag­ic. Zoan’s vir­tu­al cre­ations and Varjo’s head­sets offer an expe­ri­ence so real and with incred­i­ble clar­i­ty – to the point where you won’t be able to tell what’s real and what’s not. Blur­ring the vir­tu­al and real worlds like nev­er before.

A Unique Collaboration Between Zoan, Varjo, And The Finnish National Opera And Ballet

VR stu­dio Zoan and Var­jo are part­ner­ing with the Finnish Nation­al Opera and Bal­let on their ground-break­ing Opera Beyond project – explor­ing how pio­neer­ing tech­nol­o­gy can break cre­ative bar­ri­ers to reimag­ine how per­form­ing and stage arts are craft­ed and expe­ri­enced. It rep­re­sents a giant leap for­ward for the cre­ative event indus­try with con­sid­er­able artis­tic and prac­ti­cal benefits.

The FNOB is an esteemed nation­al art insti­tu­tion that per­forms tra­di­tion­al opera and bal­let as well as con­tem­po­rary works. They hon­or the clas­sics but are also will­ing to bold­ly chal­lenge the sta­tus quo. Their vision for Opera Beyond is to “explore, break bound­aries, and cre­ate extra­or­di­nary immer­sive expe­ri­ences” – apply­ing not only to the expe­ri­ences them­selves, but also to the way art is cre­at­ed in the first place.

“For opera to pros­per in the mod­ern era we need to respect its tra­di­tions while show­ing a will­ing­ness to evolve – reflect­ing the inter­ests and expec­ta­tions of new audi­ences. Today, that also means keep­ing up with the fast devel­op­ment of tech­nol­o­gy”, says Annas­ti­na Haa­pasaari, project man­ag­er of Opera Beyond. “Then again, the oppor­tu­ni­ties aren’t lim­it­ed to con­tent and per­for­mances. Our work­flows can also be great­ly enhanced with the avail­abil­i­ty of new tech­no­log­i­cal inno­va­tions. That’s cer­tain­ly the case with what we’re cur­rent­ly work­ing on – a plat­form that enables high­ly effi­cient and col­lab­o­ra­tive stage design process­es in vir­tu­al and mixed reality.”

A New Approach to Creative Development

The new plat­form will already allow cre­ative teams in the plan­ning phase to explore the lim­its of their imag­i­na­tion with­out yet hav­ing to invest in expen­sive set designs or rely­ing on 2D images that don’t tru­ly cap­ture their orig­i­nal vision. A ful­ly immer­sive 3D space cre­ates the right feel­ing and con­text for a new design con­cept, giv­ing those par­tic­i­pat­ing the chance to reach out and almost touch each per­fect­ly ren­dered object.

“Stage time is expen­sive and always requires a large and skilled tech­ni­cal team to be present when­ev­er the stage is being used. The idea is that in the vir­tu­al pre-pro­duc­tion phase we could sim­u­late the pro­duc­tion in an immer­sive set­ting before the sets are phys­i­cal­ly built. This way we can already point out any issues with the vir­tu­al mod­els, mean­ing that we avoid prob­lems lat­er on in the process. We save stage time and make the process­es more effec­tive. And obvi­ous­ly it also has an effect on the artis­tic qual­i­ty”, explains Timo Tuovi­la, pro­duc­tion and tech­ni­cal direc­tor of the FNOB.

Cre­ative teams and key stake­hold­ers can then share vital feed­back at the ear­li­est pos­si­ble stage – test­ing and val­i­dat­ing cre­ative con­cepts, set design pro­pos­als, light­ing and video pro­jec­tions and more. Poten­tial issues can then be detect­ed ear­ly and devel­oped fur­ther through a more hands-on col­lab­o­ra­tive process. It will trans­form opera, bal­let and oth­er artis­tic pro­duc­tions in pro­found and sig­nif­i­cant ways.

Deeper Creative Collaborations – Now This Is State Of The Art

FNOB’s pro­duc­tions often have very inter­na­tion­al teams work­ing on them: cre­ative team mem­bers can be based on oppo­site sides of the world. Dur­ing a glob­al pan­dem­ic it is dif­fi­cult to col­lab­o­rate when con­sid­er­ing social dis­tanc­ing guide­lines and trav­el restric­tions. Video con­fer­enc­ing allows peo­ple to talk but it has lim­i­ta­tions when it comes to enabling deep­er cre­ative col­lab­o­ra­tions – espe­cial­ly with high lev­el stage pro­duc­tions that require com­plex design con­cepts to be prop­er­ly reviewed and validated.

The team­ing up of Zoan and Var­jo has opened up new pos­si­bil­i­ties to col­lab­o­rate in a mean­ing­ful way. Teams across the globe can come togeth­er in a pho­to­re­al­is­tic vir­tu­al or mixed real­i­ty space where new con­cepts can be show­cased, dis­cussed and iter­at­ed in real time. Our first Opera Beyond col­lab­o­ra­tion fea­tures immer­sive tools for the Helsin­ki Opera House. Zoan has done a 3D vir­tu­al mod­el of the stage for pre-visu­al­iza­tions of the upcom­ing opera and bal­let pro­duc­tions. The ulti­mate ambi­tion is to cre­ate extra­or­di­nary art while offer­ing new immer­sive expe­ri­ences that cap­ti­vate peo­ple and stir their emo­tions. As we take this leap for­ward with our part­ners, we are only lim­it­ed by our own imaginations.