So while almost all of the things I write about here will be related to retrocomputing, occasionally I’ll post something here that doesn’t quite meet that criteria.
So the other day, while thinking about several different topics, including “Pen’n’Paper” RPGs (Specifically Cyberpunk), Music videos I had been watching, and the impact of Covid-19, particularly in the US, where they look unlikely to ever bring it properly under control, I had an idea for a new business concept.
It was the intersection of several ideas, that coalesced into one solid vision.
The technology for this is almost all available “off the shelf”, with only one or two “new” bits that probably can be sourced with minimal effort.
What I am envisioning is virtual, distributed concerts.
The key “new” technology would be a specialised screen and optic imager.
Let me explain.
Firstly, why do we need this? Well, with interstate / international travel curtailed for a large part of the population, but with some areas “safe” due to local immunisation efforts, there will be demand for local “live” entertainment.
Artists will want income, but don’t want to expose themselves to myriad potentially localised versions of Covid.
Finally, there’s a whole bunch of live music venues lying fallow, that need a boost.
So here’s the vision:
Take a venue, rip out booths / stages from the back of the space. Fit in a specialised Display at the back of the venue plugged into a central server (See below for details, as this is one of the clever bits). Add a suitable sound system and fit lights and LED systems that can be controlled from the central server.
Meanwhile, set up “studios” that match the size of the back of the venues. These will have a virtual LED background, similar to those being used in shows like “The Mandalorian”. The front of these stages will have the optic imager I’ll describe in more detail below.
This setup is then connected to 1 or more venues as a virtual concert. The artists perform on the stage and it’s transmitted to the venue, with venue lighting being controlled by the remote Studio, so that the illusion of it being in a single location is enhanced.
Onto the technology of the screens and the imager.
These two technologies are designed to be paired. They are both dependent on each other, but work in a 1 imager to many viewers arrangement.
The imager, which we’ll cover first, consists of a wall sized grid of tiny RGB sensors arranged around lenses to capture light with directionality, so that each “pixel” on the sensor can see straight ahead, a bit to the left and a bit to the right. Embedded between each imager pixel is a small RGB LED, shielded so it doesn’t interfere with the imager.
The captured information from these is then transmitted to the Display in the Venue.
The screen is, similarly arranged with directionality, but has RGB LEDs set up to shine out the corresponding direction as the light was received by the imager. This gives a “pseudo 3D” effect that makes the stage look deeper than it really is in real life. From a few paces back, the illusion should be that of standing in the same room as the artists.
There are also simple RGB sensors in between each display element. These are sent back to the studio and displayed on the embedded LEDs. While not providing the pseudo 3D that the audience gets, it does mean the Artists aren’t performing to a black wall, as they will be able to see the output from a venue, presumably chosen by whoever is controlling the broadcast in the first place.
Some obvious advantages (Or disadvantages depending how you view things):
- A performer can perform from anywhere in the world that has a studio.
- A performer can simultaneously perform in multiple venues at once.
- A recording of the performance can be made, and played back later.
- Special effects can be overlaid either behind or in front of the performer with little to no effort.
- The producer has a great deal of control over the final appearance, as the venues are somewhat standardised.
Of course this leads to a terrible “One size fits nobody” generic feel to all the concerts, but if the alternative is no concerts at all, it’s a compromise that may have to be made.