Speaker 1 00:00:08 This is the workflow show media production, technology stories, discussions about development, deployment, and maintenance of secure media solutions. And of course, workflow therapy to keep the creativity flowing. I'm Jason Whetstone, senior workflow, engineer and developer for Chesa and I'm Ben Kilburg senior solutions architect at Chesapeake systems. Today, we'll be talking about immersive experiences, our guest Lucas Wilson, a long time media technology, evangelist and enthusiast is the founder and executive producer for supers fear. Super spheres mission is connecting fans to the things they love through the medium of immersive entertainment, Lucas and his team use technology to deliver high quality and affordable immersive virtual reality experiences to artists and their super fans. What kind of technology is involved in these experiences and how does it fit into the media and entertainment landscape? We're about to learn more, but first, a quick reminder to immerse yourself in some workflow therapy, subscribe to the workflow show podcast.
Speaker 1 00:01:10 So, you know, when we creative tech nerds at Chesa have produced some more therapeutic content for your delicate ears, and please suggest guests and feedback by tweeting at the workflow show and do the same on LinkedIn. And please suggest guests and feedback by firstname.lastname@example.org is our email address. And now let's get to our discussion with Lucas Wilson, Lucas Wilson. Thank you for joining us today. You're welcome. Glad to be here. Yeah. Great. So let's start a little bit with how you got into where you are today, working with super sphere, or I should say leading super sphere, you started your sort of maybe foray into this business and this industry probably very early on in your life, but I'm from LinkedIn. I see that you graduated from the Berkeley college of music with a dual major in music production and music synthesis, which is something that you and I kind of have in common. I went to the Cleveland Institute of music and have a major in audio recording. So we have a similar path there. Similar start, I would say, what was the program like at Berkeley back in the nineties?
Speaker 2 00:02:33 Oh God, I didn't know we were going bad. Okay. As you mentioned, I went to Berkeley college of music and studied music, production and engineering. That was one major in music synthesis, which was my other major music synthesis. I have to tell you, it's about as useful, a major as Eastern philosophy. You know, you go, you go to people and you say, Hey, I have a music synthesis degree. And they're like, great. Here's a job right here for you. Yeah, that doesn't really happen very often. But honestly, my, my two loves growing up were always music and technology. And that's just how I ended up in college was going to Berkeley. Initially I wanted to be a film scoring major, but film scoring was too hard and I was in college and I was concerned with having fun. I wanted to study and do stuff that film scoring was like really hard.
Speaker 2 00:03:16 And I was like, oh, I have to work for this. That's that's not, no, that's somebody didn't get the memo. Yeah. So I went into music production and had a fun career. There was a recording engineer for quite a while and was the front of house engineer for awhile. Um, that was a fun, a fun gig for a guy in his twenties. And so it was at the time it was a great place to be. And, and one of the only places that you could go in a university setting to study sort of the intersection of technology and music. Now, those programs are everywhere, including online, but in the late eighties, early nineties, it was one of the few places to go where
Speaker 1 00:03:54 I remember during my education at CIM, it was a very small portion of the program that sort of studying digital music and synthesis, which was fascinating to me. It was something that I didn't know you could study. I just kind of at the time, as a teenager, assumed that people just kind of figured this stuff out. And you know, all of the electronic artists that I like were just, you know, pioneers and doing it on their own, which they are and they were, but it was just really interesting to be able to like sit in a classroom and learn about something that I was passionate about and not something that somebody put in front of me and said, you must learn this for your major. Yeah. So then you worked for avid talk about that a little bit. What was that like,
Speaker 2 00:04:30 There was a system a long time ago called the avid DS. And I was actually working at a company called Intergraph in Huntsville, Alabama. And just one of those weird coincidences of fate that Intergraph was the hardware company that made the first hardware. It certified hardware for the, at the time, what was the softer module DS? So in Huntsville, Alabama of all places, I was one of the earliest alpha users of what was at the time, a revolutionary new content platform. And after working on DS for a while in Huntsville, I decided I wanted to go into video editing. I was an audio engineer at the time and I was working on a machine called the Studer diaphoresis and the guy in the room next to me was working on an early version of an avid media composer. And I thought, well, he's just moving widgets around on a timeline.
Speaker 2 00:05:22 I'm just moving the widgets around on a timeline. How hard can it be? So I took my shot at video editing, got good at the DS, spent a little bit of time at an ad agency in Birmingham, Alabama, and then decided I wanted to make it into the bigs and wanted to move to LA. And the way that I moved to LA was there is just good timing, the right place at the right time. There was an opening in LA for a demo artist, specifically for the DS system. And I was big in the DS community at the time. And I reached out and got the gig, moved to LA. And so avid moved me to LA. And my first couple of years, you know, I worked for avid my first couple of years in LA. I honestly don't know if the software world is still built this way, but at the time being a demo artist is the absolute best way to get into any kind of a community because you're the expert on a particular product and you get an entree into every single shop in the city. So here I was a kid from Alabama that had just moved to LA and all of a sudden I was walking into the post group, complete post photo cam level three pop as the expert on this new system, avid was a great company for me to work for. And at the time they were, it was a good group of people and it was a great way for me to learn LA and also to hone my skills.
Speaker 1 00:06:39 Fantastic. And then you sort of worked in the LA area and I love, you know, I'm taking a few lines from your LinkedIn profile because they're fascinating to me creating a mid tier market in LA for HD post-production business development. I mean, that sounds like no small task, especially back at the time. And we're talking like two thousands early, two thousands.
Speaker 2 00:06:58 That is the first time that I've ever heard the words fascinating and LinkedIn profile using the same sentence. So thank you. I think it was an interesting time because there's always in production and post-production, there's always some new shiny objects.
Speaker 1 00:07:15 We are familiar with the concept.
Speaker 2 00:07:18 Yeah. And I've, I've actually made a career in LA of chasing the new shiny object. So at the time the new shiny object was HD. It was right in the middle of the transition from standard Def to high definition across the major networks and across production and post-production. And although it might be hard to imagine now when HD first came out, when it was in its infancy, it was really weird and it was hard and the formats were non-standard. Everybody was trying to figure out what was going on the networks kind of didn't know. So being able to be a guy that could navigate how to move things from SD to HD and how to navigate HD post production was a valuable commodity. So I was, that's what I did at avid for a little while. And then when I left avid, I just went into the LA market as a freelancer for a long time. And was one of the, for a short period of time was one of the HD guys in LA. And I was one of the few people in the LA market that as an online editor really understood the workflow processes for HD and how to successfully deliver shows.
Speaker 1 00:08:24 Right, right. That's great. And then it kind of went on from there to the 3d and the, and the stereoscopic, you know, again, another sort of interesting quote, I'm just going to read it here to supervise complex relationships and negotiations with competitors who are also customers. Again, this is something that, you know, it it's a little mind blowing, but like we understand it because we do the same thing from time to time that sort of interaction with competitors who are also customers and vice versa.
Speaker 2 00:08:50 Well, now that world, now that's almost standard. A lot of businesses have such a Venn diagram of overlap that it's now not unusual to be in that kind of relationship with the company. And the question is how big is that Ben overlap right. In my current role at superstar, I deal with a lot of companies where maybe 10% of the time we're in competition, but 90% of the time we're in cooperation, which is an acceptable ratio. I'm fine with that. But at the time it was interesting reality was a technology provider that was also bidding for jobs. So a lot of times there would be situations where there would be people that would be bidding into a job to do the stereoscopic work. But honestly, we could see that they weren't technically at the level we had to sort of step in because it was one of those things that we could see the train wreck happening from a long way away.
Speaker 2 00:09:45 And we had to step in and sort of bid on it and take control of the job. And it was unusual and it was uncomfortable at times, but it was a hell of an education in negotiation and managing large egos because the directors and the people that reality dealt with, and that Cameron pace after three reality, the egos and the level of the industry that people are at world's significant, I can imagine. And stereoscopy in, in theatrical was yet another chasing the dragon kind of thing. It was an interesting market and it was a fun market. It was great technology in reality to this day. I mean, the box that they made 12, 13 years ago, a long time ago is still an incredible piece of technology. But ultimately stereoscopy proved to be something that for feature film release was a nice to have, but it wasn't a central that meant that it had its window in the industry and then it went away
Speaker 3 00:10:36 And it seems like it got better as time went on as kind of a fledgling technology, like ghosting was bad when it first started. And then it got crisper and crisper until it was kind of actually pretty awesome. And then, you know, well, that's not like we're going to see movies these days for the most part. Anyway,
Speaker 1 00:10:52 It seems like something for myself, you know, going to the movies to see a movie in 3d was like, there were certain films that I would want to see in that format, you know, especially if there was also IMAX and you had this giant screen that was 3d in front of you. I saw avatar in 3d IMAX. I thought that was pretty cool. I think that's probably one of the only films I've seen in 3d period, but it was cool. Now what I can say about it personally is that there is a point at which you walk into theater, you put the glasses on, it looks fantastic. You're, you're kind of blown away. And then there's a point at which it just becomes what you're watching, you know, but the, I guess the novelty sort of wears off. So do you think that might be why it didn't have like a really long stint and become like the thing?
Speaker 2 00:11:33 I think that it didn't have that long extent because it always added significant costs in production and post-production, and it couldn't be justified in ticket sales returns. Right. It was just a very simple financial question. I remember working at Cameron paste group and having a discussion with a studio executive that came in a studio executives that was in the position to Greenlight, you know, tens of millions of dollars in production budget. And you had just a very honest discussion. I just remember this clear as day. And he said, Hey, I agree with you that shooting and stereoscopic and delivering and stereoscopic delivers a much better, more engaging film. Let's put that argument aside because it does make a better product. I agree with that a hundred percent. We're not arguing about that. You're telling me it's going to cost 5 million more in production to do this. Yes. Is there any way around that? No. Is it going to affect the number of people that come to see my movie? I was like, I don't know. He's like, I can tell you that I can answer that one for you. It will not. So you're adding millions and millions of dollars to my production without anything that I can point to in bottom line return. I was like, kind of, and he's like, okay, then why are we talking about this? Let's grab lunch.
Speaker 2 00:12:51 It was really that simple. And I was like, copy that.
Speaker 1 00:12:54 Yeah. So, and I imagine you probably had that discussion several times.
Speaker 2 00:12:59 Um, I did, but never in a way that was the discussion that crystallized it for me because it was not an emotional discussion. And he was somebody that was very bought into stereoscopy from a creative level, but he was a studio executive. He had the responsibility for the creative film, but he also had the responsibility for the financial of the film. So he said, Hey, it looks better. No question. It's going to be a better movie. It's going to be a better looking, better feeling movie, if it's a good stereo and it's going to cost a lot more money. And I can't justify that cost. We're done with this discussion. Let's go have lunch.
Speaker 1 00:13:33 Yeah. Just briefly again, on your LinkedIn profile, I noticed that one of the things was bringing the 3d technology into non-traditional markets. So when I think of traditional markets for 3d, I think of film, what are some non-traditional?
Speaker 2 00:13:45 I think it was, well, it was corporate, it was medical. It was a lot of B2B markets that are outside sort of the purview of mainstream thinking,
Speaker 1 00:13:54 Any kind of meetings and events probably,
Speaker 2 00:13:56 But it was long time ago. Not that I can immediately remember. I mean, and stereoscopy, by the way, it's still a very big deal in medical markets. The stereoscopic endoscopic cameras and stereoscopy and surgery is still a very big deal. There it is. It's not tied to financial return. It's tied to surgical results and mortality results, which is a little more tangible,
Speaker 1 00:14:18 Increased efficacy is always a good thing
Speaker 2 00:14:21 In surgery.
Speaker 1 00:14:22 Yes. Yes. That's the bread and butter. So, so how did this all lead to sort of a more immersive experience with VR talking about that transition in your, in your journey? A little
Speaker 2 00:14:34 Sure. I've always been interested in ultimately the technologies that I've sort of chased and the things that I've sort of followed are all sort of one singular mission. If I, if I had to boil it down, which is to deliver a message, if you're in the communications business and you're not using the tools at your disposal to deliver the most effective message possible, whatever, to generate an end result, whatever that end result may be. If you're doing a narrative features, maybe you're trying to make somebody laugh or cry. If you're making, if you're making commercial, you're either generating brand awareness or you're trying to make somebody buy something, or, you know, there's always something that you're trying to communicate. And there's an action on the other side. And it's your responsibility as a communicator, in my opinion, to use the best tools that you have to create that message.
Speaker 2 00:15:23 It's a very geeky way of saying that I'm just trying to create the most emotional impactful statements possible. And that was true at the change from SD to HD, bigger pixels, better pixels. It was, you know, watching a show watching avatar. You mentioned avatar. Well, you can watch avatar on your iPhone where you can watch it in a stereoscopic IMAX theater, same film, very different emotional impact, for sure. So watching it on a standard of screen to an HD screen, bigger, emotional impact, watching it stereoscopic, bigger, emotional impact, watching it in VR, bigger, emotional impact. That's sort of what I've always chased. And when I first put on a VR headset in this current iteration of VR going on, I guess, five and a half years ago, the very first thing I saw when I put on my first VR headset, this iteration of VR was a crappy 360 degree recording of Dave Mustaine in his backyard playing guitar. And I'm a child, I'm a metal kid from the eighties and nineties. And I was like, holy crap. I'm in the lead singer, Megadeath backyard.
Speaker 1 00:16:29 And that's fantastic.
Speaker 2 00:16:32 And I was like, this is awesome. He was just playing an acoustic and singing something. It wasn't a fantastic thing, but I was in Dave Misty's backyard and everywhere I looked, I was like mistakes house. I was like that stadium sustains tree. It's made such a huge visceral, immediate impact on me that when I took off the headset, I was like, oh, I want to do this. It was that simple. It also tied into my love of technology as well. So I was like, Hey, this looks weird and hard with almost zero money. Here's a chance for me to work harder and make less money. That one, please,
Speaker 1 00:17:13 I will tell you from a performance standpoint, I do a community theater every once in awhile. I'm a act in community theater and I'm involved with a theater company in central Pennsylvania that does a lot of what they call immersive theater. And it is performing in very small non-traditional spaces. So instead of performing in a theater, performing, and maybe a pub, maybe in a building that is set up for a particular experience for patrons to come in and experience it, actors are in character the entire time. They're probably improving there. There's definitely a show, but it might be adjusted based on audience participation and things like that. And I say, I had a very similar experience that you described, which, which was just, this is so much better than, than standing up with blinding lights in your face and performing to whoever's out there. You know, you can't even see them, you see reactions, you gauge like, what are we going to do next based on what the audience is doing? How's it going to go? Yeah. I remember just getting involved in that for the first time and thinking like, this is really cool. Like this is the way I would want to do theater. If I was going to do it more, more,
Speaker 2 00:18:14 It was just a, a logical progression for me. I started superstar initially, just myself, doing projects and raising my hand and saying I was a VR producer when nobody knew what that meant, I could get away with it. So then I started doing projects and started delivering projects and started getting a reputation for a guy who could deliver projects in a new and weird medium, and then started getting more calls than it was just an organic growth. From there. It started getting more calls, did more projects had to hire people because I was getting more calls to do more projects. It sort of went from there. My partner, Doug and I had been working together for a while. Um, and we saw an opportunity to do, we were doing 360 degree videos for a lot of people. We both thought, you know, it would be really cool is to be able to do live streaming and to be able to do live performances in VR.
Speaker 2 00:19:02 Because if you can't be at a show, this is the next best thing. And in some cases it's better than being there for people that have either social anxiety or people just don't like being in crowds or people that have disabilities that prevent them from going to these venues for whatever reason. So we started doing that and just sort of found our group there. It tied into everything that both Doug and I loved about the industry. We love music. We love live music. We love technology and the artists were digging it and creating these experiences and doing these experiences was it's fun.
Speaker 1 00:19:36 Awesome. So you've already talked about it a little bit, but let's, let's shift the discussion a little bit to what some of these experiences look like for the fans, for the viewers. So live situation where you kind of feel like you're there with the artist. Is that kind of the gist of it? I know I'm simplifying it.
Speaker 2 00:19:51 It is again, it is about respecting the artists and about creating that impact superstars corporate tagline, which is a nice tagline, but also happens to be something I believe in pretty deeply is that superstar brings fans closer to the things that they love and that's ultimately what we're trying to do. And that means respecting the artist also in what they're trying to do. So whether we are doing, if we're doing just a straight multicam show, straight multicam VR show, I mean, we've built a lot of technology in the background that lets us integrate any kind of camera and deformed geometry in real times that we can take a read and put it into a VR world and do a real-time default defamation and make everything sync up. You know, we've, there's a lot of technology and a lot of engineering that's gone into it in the background, but ultimately if we show up at a venue and the artist is performing there, we want to capture that performance.
Speaker 2 00:20:44 And we want to transmit that performance in as technically clean away as possible, but also in a way that respects what the artist is trying to do with the stage show. We did a show for Billie Eilish at a sold out arena and Madrid and Billy's show is pretty stripped down. It's a great light show and she and Phineas are fantastic performers, but it's pretty sparse stage. And it's really very focused on her and her performance. So, you know, our camera placement and what we're trying to do with the cameras and how we're trying to do that, reflects that. So when you put on a headset and see the show, yes, you're getting a great VR experience. You're also getting the impact that the artist is trying to make with their live show. So if we're doing that kind of a show, that's what we're doing.
Speaker 2 00:21:28 And then when COVID came along after we got through the first month and a half of it, regardless of how it personally affected all of us in our own individual ways as a business after we got through the initial month and a half of, Hey, there was a bunch of shows that we were going to do on the road and a bunch of money that we were expecting that no longer exists after we got through that, then it did allow us to sort of take a step back and build something that we had been working on for a while in fits and starts. But it allowed us to really focus and build something which turned into the arc water platform. And the arc Warner platform is virtual production for the music industry. Our goal with it is to be able to bring a very high end technology to an accessible, affordable level and allow artists and allow allowed the average artists and allow the average performer access to those tools at a price point with technology that they're used to.
Speaker 2 00:22:25 So we can build, we can build virtual worlds or artists can build virtual worlds, and then they can perform in those virtual worlds with initially just green screen technology. And there's a lot more advanced technologies we can use, but we explicitly chose to start with screen because in any city that has any kind of production base in the world, you can say, Hey, can we set up a green screen shoot? And somebody in that city is going to go, yeah, no problem. And you can do it right. We live in a work in LA. If we wanted to build something that had that required, massive led walls and camera tracking and mo-cap and all that. Well, we have access to that. We can do that because it's LA right. You can't necessarily do that in Boise or Barcelona or Charlotte, all of those places or cities that have, that are big, reasonably big cities with fan bases and artists that have music to communicate, but don't have access to the same level of stages and tools that you do in major markets.
Speaker 1 00:23:24 Sure. The later I was actually going to ask you about when we get into technology, but we're, we're already there. So yeah. Let's just talk about the arc runner platform and what that looks like. I'm curious as to like what sorts of tools are involved in that ins and outs?
Speaker 2 00:23:35 Oh, well the arc runner, it is software that runs on a high-end PC. Basically, you know, you guys can get the integration details, but it boils down to shove a fast CPU, a bunch of Ram and some big hunk and graphics card. You know, some Nvidia R T J nine, three slash 7,000 X in there with a bunch of fans that take down the power grid runs on a very powerful PC it's based on the unity game engine right now, we're working on porting it to some other platforms, but it's based on the enemy right now. And one thing that's important about it is that we see a lot of mo-cap performances and we see a lot of artists performances that are out there that are very bespoke that require the artists to spend a lot of time and get into weird outfits or to do things that are unnatural for the performance that may result in a fantastic end product. But for the artist, right, they're performing are unnatural. And we, and green-screen is also not a completely natural thing. But if the choices are put on a mocap suit with a bunch of trackers and perform on green screen, green screens, a little more natural.
Speaker 1 00:24:49 Yeah. For, for our listeners mo-cap would be motion capture, but like to peel back some of these, some of these phrases sometimes, and just make yeah. Acronyms and such.
Speaker 2 00:24:58 No problem. What we're trying to do is also put the artist's entire team back to work. Because when you see a live performance, you are, it's not just the artist. If you go to a stage and see a performance, it's not just the artist it's working, it's the artist, it's their sound engineer, it's their lighting director and lighting team. And it's their visuals team that are pumping the visuals into the screens behind them and around them. So our coroner actually lets the entire team work in real time to create a show. The artists are performing on a green screen and we're doing green screen work to put them into the virtual environment we've implemented, what's called the DMX protocol. And there's two variations on the DMX protocol and we've implemented one of them. And I can never remember which one it is, but it basically allows us to interface with industry standard lighting consoles.
Speaker 2 00:25:49 The one that a lot of LDS use is called the grandma two and the grandma three. So what that means is that lighting director can actually sit at their lighting console and run their cues and see their lights in the virtual world. And then we also have a way to take visual inputs from arena or from some other software that is sort of built for that world. And we can take those visuals and pump them into virtual IMAX on the screens. So a good example is a show we did recently for major laser major lasers lighting director is a very talented guy named Darious Medina. So Darious give us his lighting grid, gave us his plots and gave us his lighting grid. We modeled the lights pretty precisely from the manufacturer site, from the manufacturer specs. And we rebuilt his lighting grid in VR. And we wired that to his console.
Speaker 2 00:26:40 So Darious, when he sat down and major Lazer was performing, he sat down at his lighting console with his cues all loaded up and he ran his show when he pushed a button on his console. And when he moved up a slider, he saw the virtual representation of that light. And that was what he was expecting to see. Right. So when he was, when he was working on the fly, he was looking at his lighting grid, but in VR, it's this fourth wall that we're breaking of when you see it. It's a very simple thing. It's like, I take a slider, I move it up. The virtual light moves and it shines. Right. But what we've done behind the scenes is I think, you know, tooting our own horn too much. I think it's pretty extraordinary in that. We've
Speaker 1 00:27:23 The word fascinating because I really do think it's, it's pretty fascinating. I mean, this is fascinating.
Speaker 2 00:27:28 LinkedIn profiles are not fast
Speaker 1 00:27:32 To set.
Speaker 2 00:27:34 It looks like a small step, but it's a pretty extraordinary thing to see a lighting director sit down and sort of, you can tell at a certain point that they're not uncomfortable. You can tell at a certain point that they're looking at their lights and they're just doing their thing. And you can tell that it's sort of, they're not making the distinction anymore between the physical world and the virtual world, because they're running their lights and their art. And they're seeing what they,
Speaker 1 00:27:59 And I imagine that's a key to making all this work as that, you know, that sort of switch in your brain that flips to what I'm looking at right now in front of me is real right. Absolutely. One of the things I was going to ask you during these events and during these experiences are all of the people working on the show, wearing headsets, and you answered that. That's pretty amazing.
Speaker 2 00:28:16 It's interesting because most of the time they're not wearing headsets. They're seeing we can, we can pump it out to monitor so they can see it so they can see it around them. Because if you're wearing a headset, if the lighting director is wearing a headset, well, then he can't see. So you do have to make some trade off somewhere.
Speaker 1 00:28:36 Right, right. Something I picked up on earlier, you mentioned about being able to interface this technology with many different formats of camera and that sort of thing. I, you know, I don't, I know you don't want to give away too much here, but are we doing some sort of a math calculation on the image that's been produced there by the camera to put it into that 3d space?
Speaker 2 00:28:57 Yes. And I'm not really, I'm not really giving anything away. I can tell somebody I'd built a skyscraper and you can see that it's a skyscraper, but if you want to go build your own self out, you know, all cameras shoot in a specific kind of geometry, the geometry that we're all used to looking at when you, when you pull up a YouTube video or when you pop in a red camera, the rectangle that you see, or the four by three aspect that you see that's called a rectal linear geometry. Everybody's used to fish and lenses and how a fish eye lens looks well, that's a distortion, that's a geometry distortion. That's applying some kind of math to make a new geometry map of that image. When you shoot in VR, you're creating, what's called an equity, triangular geometry. So all that we've done is we've written code and we've created a technology that is able to take in any kind of camera in any kind of geometry in the same way.
Speaker 2 00:29:51 When, when the camera comes into a system, you have to deal with this color space. If you want it to look good, you have to match color spaces and make sure that everything's in the same color space on the output. We're doing the same thing with geometry. We are, we're assigning a geometry, each incoming camera and saying, oh, you're this, you're this you're this apply this defamation to it. So that it fits in an echo rectangular output for the VR world. So that lets us take a red camera on an input and warp it and put it into a VR world. And then there's a lot of work that we did to make sure that everything's in sync and make sure that that transformation happens in real time. You know, it's, non-trivial work to make it happen, but the end result is pretty straight forward here. Explain everything has a geometry on the input. We transform it in real time to a VR geometry on the output so that we can create VR world from whatever camera's coming in and I'll put it.
Speaker 1 00:30:46 Got it. So when you say a multicam, you know, when I think of a multicam, I think of several cameras throughout the space in different positions that are focusing on the same subject, but from different angles. So are we in this situation? Are we at the same vantage point looking at in different directions or is it a combination of those?
Speaker 2 00:31:02 Typically when we, when we do a show we have, and it's the same way that you are forget about VR. If you're going into a concert green and your broadcasting show, just show that we're all sort of used to, you have to think through camera placement, lens choice, where you're putting steps, how you're framing, all those choices are the same. You're just adding the VR component on top of it, right? So you're saying, okay, we have, now we're adding VR into the mix. Okay. Here's the creative ability that, that gives us, what are we going to do? Where are we going to put cameras? How are we going to mix geometries? You're just, it's still the same creative calculus. You're just adding more options. You're saying now, now we have VR as an option and you have to understand technically and creatively, what does that do to your show?
Speaker 2 00:31:47 And then you have to make choices accordingly. For instance, VR cameras are fantastic for presence. They're fantastic for putting you in a place. They don't assume that's the problem. So, you know, as a result, a lot of VR shows that you see in a lot of VR videos that you see are wonderful. As long as somebody is six feet away from the camera, but once they get 20 or 30 feet away from the camera, and then you're like, I can't see anything great, I'm in this space and there's something over in the distance over there, but I have no idea what it is. Right? So that's why it's important for instance, that in a lot of our shows, we include rectal linear cameras. We include traditional cameras with zoom lenses so that we can do an imag or we can do a cutaway or whatever we can say, okay, here's our 360 camera and we're in this arena. And it's awesome that I can see all these people around us, but here's my camera. That's delivering my, my head and shoulder shot. Right. Here's my camera. That's delivering the reaction that everybody wants to see. And we can put that in into the canvas, however we want. Yeah. That
Speaker 1 00:32:51 Could be on an imag or yeah, I
Speaker 2 00:32:53 Gotcha. People tend to think very in a very binary fashion where people can think about that. I'm either shooting VR or I'm not shooting VR. Like that's not true. You probably hear my cat.
Speaker 2 00:33:07 Really. You got to think of it as it is a canvas. And you're painting on that canvas. It's exactly the same thinking as you do with an HD frame or any other frame, you have this amount of space. How are you going to fill up that space? So it's not, when you're shooting 180 or 360, you just have a 180 or 360 canvas. Whether you paint that with an HD camera and some graphics, or whether you paint that with a 360 camera and or whether you paint that with a 360 camera with an HD overlay, it doesn't matter. It's your, it's your creative choice, but you just hold a bigger canvas and you have to choose how you're going to paint it.
Speaker 1 00:33:42 That's great. That actually shifted the way you explained that. Thank you. That shifted my thinking because you sorta made the distinction between, you know, it's, it's really just the same as everything else with an additional tool, additional, you know, uh, creative palette versus this is the way we do it. And this is, this is how it, how it looks and yada yada,
Speaker 2 00:34:00 And that's, that's something that's always been true with technology is that when a new technology comes up, there are sort of the binary purists that say, this is the new way. Forget the old ways you must. This is the new path we are now following the new path, forget the old path. That's a terrible way of thinking about things. And it never works because human beings don't do that. Especially with their gear human beings. Don't do that. You always have to provide a transition. You always have to provide a ramp from, this is how we're going to get from here to there. There's always going to be people that will dump everything old and go only with the new thing. That's a really small segment of the population and they're very annoying.
Speaker 3 00:34:40 And our industry has a tendency to be a little bit slow. We want to work with, you know, what we know is tried and true.
Speaker 2 00:34:49 Absolutely. So it's really just a question, but ultimately, you know, because I have a history of chasing shiny objects, I also have a very deep awareness of shiny object syndrome, which is that you're chasing, you're chasing the technology and forgetting about the creativity and you get lost in the geekery and you get lost. And look, I have all the shiny toys and it's like, yes, you do. What's your output look like not very good. Then what is the fucking
Speaker 1 00:35:17 I, that's something that I'm very passionate about, actually. Yes, thank you.
Speaker 2 00:35:21 I have this here, piano behind me, right? This here, fancy digital piano because I have synths and I have lots of stuff. Right. But I grew up playing classical piano. And at the end of the day, for me, it's, it's taken me almost 50 years to get to this point. But for me at the end of the day, the music that I enjoy creating this solo piano, that's the thing that still resonates most clearly with me.
Speaker 1 00:35:44 So let me ask you this then. What is your favorite digital piano? That one right there. Okay.
Speaker 2 00:35:53 The cord has to be one very good. I have a core guest for you. One that I run through, I have an Apollo gets Metronic and I have a couple of plugins. I have a Neve ETQ I have, I have some plugins that I, that I put on it to make it sound good for my ears. That's my favorite digital piano. And I actually like it better than most of the analog piano is I play.
Speaker 1 00:36:14 Okay. Good. Interesting. Um, yeah, the reason I ask is because I also play keyboard. I've played keyboard for many years. It's I wouldn't say it's my primary instrument, but maybe I don't know. The reason I ask is because I've always found that I'm very picky about what keyboard is in front of me. And, uh, if it doesn't feel like a piano, it's really disruptive to my whole brain.
Speaker 2 00:36:37 I actually I've had that for four or five years. But when I bought that keyboard at the time I went through and I played every single line, you know, I went to guitar center when guitar center still existed, right. Play. And I went to Sam Ash and, you know, I w I played through every single keyboard and because the feel of the keyboard was super important. The sound of the keyboard is super important. Right, right. And this one for me was the best compromise. At least for me, some of the Yamaha, the high-end Yamaha Clavin Novas felt better, but they didn't sound as good. This one, the very, very small compromise that I was personally making and how it felt was far outweighed for the fact that I thought it had much better sounds. And also it has just fantastic. Other keyboard sounds Rhodes, B3, Clavin, Nova, et cetera.
Speaker 1 00:37:24 Have you played around with piano tech at all with what Ghana tech is a, is an acoustical modeling piece of software that basically it's a virtual piano that you play. And it, it does the thing in a virtual space.
Speaker 2 00:37:38 I've, I've heard of it. I have not played around with it because it took me years of fuckery to get this point where I was happy with it, and I will add new stuff to it. But at the end of the day, for me personally, I'm happy with that sound. And whether I want to play Chopin or miles Davis or, or me screwing around, I'm pretty happy with that. How that sounds
Speaker 1 00:37:58 Well, because you like shiny, I'm going to ask that you check this out because there are three different versions of it available. And, you know, I, of course don't work for them or anything. I just happen to think that it's pretty amazing. But imagine being able to tweak the tuning reaction, hammer a density of any key on the keyboard and, you know, do whatever you want to do to make it slightly randomized and all that kind of stuff. It's pretty neat. It's worth screwing around with,
Speaker 2 00:38:27 It must be relatively new because I've in the past couple of weeks, I've had like three or four friends send me the piano tech thing. And I'm like,
Speaker 3 00:38:35 The universe is telling you to play with this toy Lucas play
Speaker 2 00:38:39 With
Speaker 1 00:38:40 It's just because I have to say, I haven't done like a lot of actual projects with this tool. That's not because I don't like it or because I don't care it's
Speaker 2 00:38:50 I did go listen, I did go watch the YouTube video and listened to the demo. And I was like, oh, that sounds really cool. But I also, I have an unfair advantage cause I spent several years of my career as a demo artist. So more than most people, I know the difference between a demo and the product. Right. So I'm like, yeah, that sounds cool. How long do you spend making that? Don't even don't lie to me, bro.
Speaker 1 00:39:16 Anyway. Yeah. So why don't we talk about like some of these experiences that you have helped or that you have created, what are some of the coolest things that you feel that you've been able to do with this technology as a tool in your creative palate
Speaker 2 00:39:28 So far that there's a technology roadmap that we have that honestly just is a pretty logical extension of what we're doing right now. The two things so far that we've done that I think I'm proudest of are number one, the major laser thing that I just mentioned, where we recreated Derrius his lighting grid. And I could see that when he was working his lighting grid, that he was happy in his brain, that was his lighting grid. And I was like, that was a big win at that. And then also we did a show a couple of months ago with kid Cuddy and Scott <inaudible> is his name. Scott said, Hey, I want to perform on the moon because his latest album is called man on the moon. And we were able to say, yeah, okay. And we built the moon for him. And we went through a couple of revs of the moon and it was like that one.
Speaker 2 00:40:12 And we're like, okay. And he performed on the moon and we gave his lighting director the same tools. But also if you think about the grandma console, it's just an interface. It's just a controller. Right, right. It doesn't have to control just lights. So we put like asteroids and lasers and a bunch of crap. We put other stuff in the environment and we were like to Scott's LD. We're like, Hey man, move that slider. And it moved the, it changed the density of the asteroids. And he was like, oh, that's cool. And so it was just adding more artistic capability to somebody who's already used to thinking about how do I combine a hundred elements in a real-time way to make a show. Right. We were just telling him, Hey, now you can take those asteroids and change their speed and their density. And he was like, okay, cool. And you did rad shit with it. He did a bunch of rad stuff with it that we never would have thought of because we're not lighting directors.
Speaker 3 00:41:05 So user experience. Right. Let's talk a little bit about, you know, I'm your average lover of video and I'm thinking that this all sounds awesome. And I might want to spend my hundreds of dollars on a cool VR headset. How does one actually enjoy this, go to these concerts? And what is the user experience like for the end user versus the performer? Cause I'm really curious about what the experiences of the audience and what kind of feedback is there versus the end user audience feedback and experience.
Speaker 2 00:41:40 That's a really good question. So for the artist, it's a green screen shoot, right? So for the artist, it is a green screen shoot and the audience mechanics for that, or whatever you can do for a green screen, it's either people that are there around him or her in the shoot, or it's in COVID times, it's zoom walls and blue jeans, walls and stuff like that. Right? So that's, what's happening for the artists for the user Superstore is not a delivery platform. So our is a production tool. It's not a distribution platform. So we work with distribution partners to be able to have our shows appear on those platforms. But one of the platforms that we work with quite a bit, which we like quite a bit as well is venues, which used to be called the Oculus venues. Then they ditch the Oculus name and announced just venues by face.
Speaker 2 00:42:29 The important thing about venues and also rec room and alt space and a couple of other tools like that is that there are new generation of product called social VR. So the experience that we do, the experience that we produce and create is a great experience, but it still has to be absorbed by the end user. And if you do that in a solo environment, then that's fun, but you're missing sort of a crucial aspect of attending a show, which is the fact that you don't do it in isolation. So venues is a great experience because it's an avatar based social VR experience. So what that means is that when you put on the quest headset, you are represented as an avatar that you can customize whatever. And then you go into a virtual theater and you see all the other avatars that are in there with you and you have the range of motion and you can see them interact and you can talk to them because there's a microphone built into the headset.
Speaker 2 00:43:26 So it's like going to a show. And I have to tell you when the concept of venues was first proposed to me, I thought that sounds blokey. That's just dorky. I am not going to do that. I was happy to be proven wrong because what I realized was that if you have a quest headset and you were going to a specific app at a specific time to see a specific artist by definition, you're a super fan. So everybody, everybody that is in that audience is psyched to see that show. So it's odd. It makes sense once I explain it that way, but it's odd because when you go in there, it honestly has the same psychologic. When, when the show's about to start, it has, you kind of feel that same psychological vibe that you do at a real show. When the lights go down, right?
Speaker 2 00:44:11 You're like, oh, cool. It's much start everybody's in there. Sort of moving around. And then the music comes up and you hear everybody in the audience go, woo. And it's, it's a lot of fun. It really is. I've seen a ton of shows this way now. And it's, it's a great way to experience stuff. It's a great new way to experience stuff. And Facebook did something with venues. They did. One thing that I thought was just brilliant. They created the ability to take virtual selfies. You can pull up a virtual selfie stick, so you can take pictures of you in the virtual environment, which again, sounds dorky as hell, but it ties into everybody's social need to share an experience. Right? And it turned into a viral thing with kid Cuddy, because one thing that you also don't think about kid Cuddy was a prerecorded concert.
Speaker 2 00:45:00 It was not a live show. He did not tell us he was going to do this, but Scott has a quest headset. He went into the audience during his show and rapped and sang with themself in the audience and people around him, the avatars around him realized after a minute, because these are all fans, they know voice, they know, right. They realized after a minute they were like, wait, Scott, is that you? He was like, yeah, man out. Right? And so it created this really amazing dynamic where the artist was in the audience, surrounded by people and people were taking virtual selfies in kid, Patty posted a virtual selfie on his Twitter feed of him in the audience as a virtual avatar with people around him. It was a whole thing. Right. And if you think about it from an artist perspective, that's also an unusual thing because it's a way for artists to be close to their fans without having to worry about physical safety. Wow.
Speaker 3 00:45:57 And 2021 is really valuable. I mean,
Speaker 2 00:46:02 I mean, somebody like a kid Cuddy, or I'm going to like a Cardi B, it can't go into the audience. There are definite physical safety issues, right. This is a way for them to be physically close to their audience without having any safety issues. Yeah. That's fascinating. It's a, it's a great world.
Speaker 3 00:46:18 Yeah. So it's, it's interesting. Like, um, what I had read that Facebook had bought Oculus, I was like, oh, well, hell, they're going to create the metaverse like done and done. And it seems like that's slowly but surely what's happening. Right.
Speaker 2 00:46:35 That is exactly what they're doing.
Speaker 3 00:46:36 So we go back to William Gibson and Neal Stephenson and Neuromancer snow crash. Some of these tried and true cyber punk eyeballs that we grew up with, um, kind of painting these pictures of what technology could be like in the future. And here you are Lucas Wilson living that reality.
Speaker 2 00:46:56 Yeah. I mean, it is an interesting world that we inhabit. There is certainly more virtualization happening in our world. And can't put that genie back in the bottle that's just happening and how it evolves and how it sort of morphs and happens is just a really interesting thing to watch, you know, because you see a lot of interesting social dynamics happen with, I mean, it makes sense that people are rebelling against Facebook and other companies owning too much data and what they do with that data, those are very valid arguments to have. And you see things like blockchain appear as somewhat of a response to that to provide accountability. So it's the same thing that has happened in the, in the physical world for millennia now happening in the, in the digital world. And you know, I'm not a Facebook apologist, but Facebook is a huge company and they get an understandable amount of crap for some of their practices. But I can tell you that the people that we deal with on a day-to-day basis are all super committed and super passionate about what they do and are enablers of artistry and enablers of the digital space. And we enjoy working with them, but the data challenges and the data implications of what Facebook and Google and Microsoft and other massive companies are doing, they are profound questions and something that we all have to deal with because honestly, as a citizen of the 21st century of being off the grid, it's not really an option anymore.
Speaker 3 00:48:24 No, literally impossible unless you're in the mountains and there are no drones.
Speaker 2 00:48:29 Yeah. And there's almost increasingly, there's increasingly the cash economy is disappearing. It used to be that you could actually go live in a cabin and just exchange in cash, not so much anymore. It's an interesting world.
Speaker 1 00:48:41 When will we be able to pay for experiences with, oh, I don't know. Here's some vegetables I grew up.
Speaker 2 00:48:53 I was in the clubhouse from last night talking about NFTs and crypto exchanges and blah, blah, blah. You know, it was like just tired of it after awhile because people always get very enamored by, by the new shiny objects. But ultimately it comes down to a value system. Ultimately it comes down to human beings. What do they like and what is valuable to them and how are they going to give some of what they have in exchange for the thing that they find valuable, right? Whether it's a credit card, transaction or cash, are
Speaker 1 00:49:24 You saying that we're all speaking the same language,
Speaker 2 00:49:27 Whether you're giving you vegetables or it's a credit card transaction or crypto or NFT in some ways I don't care because it's just a value economy and we're just getting stuff. Sure.
Speaker 3 00:49:39 Right. So NFT is the non fungible tokens
Speaker 2 00:49:42 And I'll explain it to you in 30 seconds or less, we'll read a tremendous amount of hype and you'll be like, what is it all this bullshit? The core of NFTs is that it is verifiable digital scarcity. And this is something that has not really existed before. It is a way for me to create a digital file, have only 10 copies of that digital file and have them be, have them be verified as the only 10 copies of that digital file. Now people will always find ways to reproduce digital files and share them around. So the best analogy I've been able to find is that there's only one monopolies. There are a billion copies of the Mona Lisa in a billion books, in a billion websites, but there's only one Mona Lisa. And that one MonaLisa is valuable because it is the only one Mona Lisa, this is the digital template. And it's tied to a cultural shift in how much people value digital assets. And you know, maybe 10 years ago, nobody gave a crap. But now there is a cultural shift that digital assets without a physical component are inherently valuable.
Speaker 3 00:50:51 Yeah. I mean, and as the economy shifts, as we, you know, dig further into automation, which we do regularly talking about media workflow here, but in general, in the world, when there are less truck drivers and more robots, we need ways to be able to say that somebody's idea was important. Right? And if we have social networks that can track the Genesis of an idea and perhaps fund back small portions of whatever currency we're exchanging at that point to say, oh, I see where you initiated this awesome idea. Then everybody who uses that idea moving forward in the future, it should all come back to the originator in some way, shape or form.
Speaker 2 00:51:38 I agree. But again, it always comes back to just a basic value economy, right? Do I find your digital file valuable and do other people find that valuable if they don't, then it's not worth anything if they do, and it is worth something and people will always find a way to trade on that worth.
Speaker 3 00:51:56 I think that, I mean, speaking as music lovers, all three of us that has been a near death experience for so many musicians because of the ability to copy files and share files and mostly stream
Speaker 1 00:52:09 Files. Exactly
Speaker 2 00:52:11 The best music equivalent I can think of is I forgot the name of it, but the, the Tang album of which there's only one right. Imagine if that was an NFP. Imagine if that was a digital file and you could verify that I have the one true digital file. Could other people record it somehow? And could it get spread? Right. But I have the one true album and I can prove that I have the one true album that's valid. That's valuable.
Speaker 1 00:52:38 Definitely.
Speaker 2 00:52:40 But again, it ties to the fact that it's Wu Tang and, and everybody knows what that is. If I tell you I have the one true Lucas, Wilson, piano improvisation, you'll say,
Speaker 3 00:52:50 Yeah, your mom is like, good job Lucas. That's lovely, honey.
Speaker 2 00:52:55 Exactly.
Speaker 3 00:52:56 Yeah. And then what is the future, like, what are you excited about as a futurist and chaser of shiny objects?
Speaker 1 00:53:02 Challenges? I mean, of course you've talked about some of the coolest things that you've done. Obviously those were challenges. Um, I'm thinking more like, you know, what was something that was real head scratcher that just, you know, maybe it was tripped up a little bit
Speaker 2 00:53:14 And hearing me out how to synchronize the Phil and Matt channel coming from ultimate into a black magic card in a virtual reality universe.
Speaker 2 00:53:23 That was a pain in the ass. We track that one down for quite a while. I mean, but honestly guys, you know, there are creative calendars and there are technical challenges, right? Creative challenges are, it doesn't matter what the technology is, their creative challenges. Right. Put people on them and you figure it out technical challenges, same thing. My entire career has been living sort of on the bleeding edge of technology. So shit's always breaking up for sure. And it's just a question of, of having smart people in place that can be nimble and look at something that's broken and go, uh, how do we fix that? Like real fast and, and be able to, I mean, being in the live music world for if you're ever in live broadcast, it doesn't matter whether it's local TV in a small town or whether it's a national broadcast.
Speaker 2 00:54:10 If something breaks, it's got to get fixed really damn fast, and you've got to have people around you that are able to fix it really damn fast, that's kind of it, there's no really specific thing that I can point to. That's like, oh my God, this was crazy. It's just always a question of balancing, you know, where you want things to be with what you can accomplish now in a real-time setting and not pushing that too far so that you're not in a situation where something breaks on set and you're like, yeah, there's not a fix for that. We have to scrub the shoot cause that's bad, real bad. And as far as the future, like everybody else, I'm looking forward to going back to a physical concert, but until then, and even beyond them, my work and sort of my mission is to continue to break down the barriers between what is a physical concert, what is a virtual concert that goes in a million different, interesting directions. That's what I continue to try and do. And it all comes back to sort of my key tying phrase of bringing fans closer to the things they love. If at the end of the day, someone looks at a super severe experience and comes away with a smile on their face going that was rad. I've done my job. Yeah.
Speaker 1 00:55:16 Mission accomplished. So are you seeing, or have you seen these experiences sort of converging? I mean, we've got a potential for, I hope very soon to be able to go to live concerts again, could you see a world where there's a mixture of these, you know, this sort of virtual and real, I don't know.
Speaker 2 00:55:37 That's a question I get a lot for me, short answers, forget about the technology. It's just a question of physical people in proximity when you're at the crush of a show, right? What are you going to have in your hands or on your face? God forbid, that's going to add to that concert. Right. And again, somebody is going to come up with an answer to this that I haven't thought of yet. And when everybody sees it at risk and we go, oh, that's rad. Right. But the, what are you going to do at a show that is going to enhance the show, right? Yeah. I'm at a physical concert, I'm digging the physical concert experience and I'm not a person that's looking at my phone or trying to get Instagram selfies to show everybody else that I was at the concert I'm enjoying the concert.
Speaker 2 00:56:19 Right? Yeah. The only thing that I have seen that is an enhancement of the physical space in the concert that works is those synchronized glowing wristband thingies. You know what I'm talking about? Yeah. There's a couple of different companies that have done them. That's cool because that is something that doesn't interfere with your physical enjoyment of the show, but is increasing your social connection to the, to the crowd and is increasing your social connection to the performer. Cause you can see your wristband turning red and you can see everybody else's wristband turning red and you can see like waves of color washing through the audience. And that's, that is the only thing that I have seen. That's like, okay, that's cool. Right?
Speaker 1 00:57:00 Yeah. It reminds me of kind of the silent disco thing where everybody's, uh, you know, I've, I've done that a couple of times where you're, everybody's wearing headsets and you have two different channels you can tune into and you can visually see on the headphones who's gender at the same time.
Speaker 2 00:57:12 And I can certainly see something where I, you know, again, this is something that some clever 20 year old who is in a different generation than me and experiences music differently than I do. We'll come up with something and I'll look at that and go, damn, I wish I would've thought of that. You know,
Speaker 1 00:57:30 Isn't that great. I mean, I can say like being in my forties that, uh, it is really cool to see like what people are coming up with, what, what younger people are coming up with and what their people are doing to use the technology and use the creativity that they're, you know, that they're given
Speaker 2 00:57:45 Once in a while somebody comes up with something and most of the great ideas are things that you look at and you think, damn that's so logical wish I would have thought of that. It's the clubhouse app, this new club. I don't know if you guys are on the clubhouse train, but the clubhouse app is a, is a great example. If I describe the app to you, it sounds like the seventh layer of how it's a non-ending 24, 7, 365 panel discussion. Right? Doesn't that sound like, hell, it's a trade show that never ends, but it is surprisingly engaged, right. Especially in COVID times, it is a way to connect with humans. Right. And it's audio only, there's nothing fancy about it. You're just talking to people. Yeah.
Speaker 1 00:58:27 Right. There's another aspect to this that I think, you know, I have heard several times throughout this, um, this pandemic over the last year, year or so, which is about the, uh, the fact that we, human beings need the, the experience of interacting with strangers, which is something that we are lacking at this point in our, in our existence.
Speaker 2 00:58:49 You guys check out, I'm telling you to check out clubhouse. It's my new obsession jam in another month. I'll be tired of it and I'll be on to something else. But right now it's my obsession.
Speaker 1 00:58:58 I'm laughing because I'm this, I feel ya. Well, Lucas, Wilson, this is a great place to tie up our discussion today. I want to thank you for your time and, uh, and, and for your expertise and for all the great things you're doing these days. It's awesome.
Speaker 2 00:59:14 I really appreciate you guys taking the time and for giving me a platform to, to speak to my, to my at least couple of dozen fans.
Speaker 1 00:59:26 That's fantastic. And thank you for listening. The workflow show is a production of Chesa and more banana productions. Original music is created and produced by Ben Kilburg. Please subscribe to the workflow show and shout out to [email protected]
or at the workflow show on Twitter and LinkedIn. Thanks for listening. I'm Jason Wetstone