Digital Works

Episode 018 - Eva Liparova

April 07, 2021 Digital Works / Eva Liparova Season 1 Episode 18
Digital Works
Episode 018 - Eva Liparova
Show Notes Transcript

We're back! A conversation with theatre producer and digital product manager, Eva Liparova about the 'hyper reality opera experience' that she worked on with the Royal Opera House last year. This was a fascinating conversation which explored remote creative teams, technologists and theatre practitioners working together, creative uses of new technologies, how you design audience experiences and expectations and lots more.

Speaker 1:

Hello,

Speaker 2:

And welcome to the digital works podcast. The podcast about digital stuff in the cultural sector. My name is Ash. And in today's episode, episode number 18, I will be talking to Eva Lipper over about the opera that she worked on last year with the Royal opera house. Current rising current rising is a 15 minute hyper-reality opera experience combining virtual reality with a multisensory set, blending, historic stagecraft with cutting edge technology on this project. Eva acted as the project producer with audience labs at the Royal opera house. She worked closely with Sam King and Annette MES , and we spoke at the end of last year, 2020, just before Christmas. At that time, the opening of current rising had been delayed. Eva was hoping that it might reopen in January, but as I record this in April, 2021 and an opening day , still next , a few months off. However, despite that I think there's loads in our discussion about using VR in artistic applications in creative teams, working together remotely in the midst of a pandemic in designing new artistic cultural experiences. Eva has a really interesting perspective. Her background is both as a, as a technologist working in digital product, but also as a theater producer. So I really enjoyed speaking with her about this project and hopefully there's lots in there whether you or embarking on your first AR or VR project, or just interested in this emerging area enjoy, We'll just, we'll just dive in and get started if that's okay.

Speaker 3:

Yeah, let's do it. What a nice can I just say what a nice bookend to a year? This is like my last task. I'm really looking forward to kind of like, you're giving me an opportunity to reflect on how the year has gone.

Speaker 2:

Well, that's good. And I think it is like I've done a lot of reflecting on this year because it has been such a slog and actually stopping and having a look back there have been a lot of positive bits in amongst all the chaos and bad news.

Speaker 3:

Yeah, I agree. So,

Speaker 2:

So hi. Hi Eva . Thanks very much for joining me today to have a chat about current rising, which is the show you've been working on with the oil Royal opera house.

Speaker 3:

Thank you so much for having me. I'm really excited to talk about it and to reflect on how it's been made.

Speaker 2:

Yeah . A place to start is so current rising, according to the Royal opera house website is a 15 minute hyper-reality opera experience combining virtual with a multi-sensory set, blending, historic stage craft with cutting edge technology, which sounds to someone like me, incredibly exciting. But what does all of that mean? What is this show? Um, what will the audience experience be?

Speaker 3:

Absolutely. Um, I'll start with what the experience is and then I'll dive into, I suppose, the story of it and why we think hyperreality is the right medium for, for this kind of story or, or , uh , narrative , um, a 15 minute opera and hyperreality is , it's a , it's a , it's a lot of terms in that one sentence and essentially hyper-reality means , um, that virtual reality. So you will play effectively a central character in this story. Um, it's an experience for four people at a time who are socially distanced at , at all times. And I suppose , um, hyperreality is a kind of next level to virtual reality where we are adding in , um, uh , other experiences that you can have. So there will be effects like wind change of temperature rumble beneath , beneath your feet. And the whole thing is , um, the purpose of that is to enhance your experience and to make you feel more envelops in the environment , uh, which is already quite quite a believable environment in many ways, in terms of the story. Um, it's inspired by the ending of the Tempest and specifically it's the liberation of Ariel and it's, it's the type of narrative that really fell into its context. I feel this year , um, because this idea of, of what freedom means and what type of responsibility comes with freedom is, is for me very much a comment on 2020. And what does it mean to be, to be free on a personal level? And what does it mean to be responsible towards others and with the community? And so the central question that we are exploring in the show is after this year what's happened, what shall we build for ourselves? And , um, how do we belong with other people?

Speaker 2:

And that sounds fascinating. You know, I look reading the list of, of creative credits on, on, on the , the roll-up house website. You know, it's not many shows that have a CGR director , um, and CGI and software development , uh, credits along the side , you know, what's it been like , uh , being part of a creative team in the midst of 2020, but also a creative team that perhaps has a mix of skills and talents that you don't usually come across when you're, you know , theatrical

Speaker 3:

Work. Sure. It's been, for me, it's been fascinating , um, to work with such a diverse team, of course. And you know, that the people that you actually see on the rural or perhaps website is, is the creatives, but then there's about twice as many , um, twice as many people who are behind the scenes and part of the production team and construction and , uh, building and , uh, you know, voiceover artists who have all chipped in from other parts of the world to make the soundscape. So in terms of, in terms of the team itself, I think for me, what's been most , uh , interesting is to marry up this world of theater , uh , where, you know, you have the data team or the opera team, rather that we've assembled were , were really keen to disrupt. The way opera is normally made, which if I am to borrow a product framework is very waterfall. You know, it starts with the libretto that gets turned into a composition that gets handed over to a director. You stop putting that on a stage, whereas with this format, because we were developing an opera and virtual reality where you essentially walk through the world and the voice of Ariel is the soprano that guides you through these worlds. Everything has to be developed concurrently. So the CGI team were working while the composer was coming up with ideas for music while the designer was sketching out what these worlds could look like. So that was fascinating too , to figure out that the sort of micro dependencies within the process, because it was a constant process of chicken and egg. Like we need a tiny bit of piano, Sam with a tiny bit of soprano over it, just to be able to know what the scene should feel. Can you just give that to us by the end of next week, please? So, so that was really interesting. And then the next yeah , and applied to it has been , uh , making this in lockdown and in times of COVID and , uh, particularly around February, March time, it was , uh, the process was very intense because we had a libretto that we figured just wasn't going to work. Um, and we need to make a call about how we'd, how we'd approach that. Um, and so we approached it by , uh, by starting, essentially from scratch. And I knew that these three days of libretto writing this was like lockdown has just happened, which define the rest of the show and how things would go. So, you know, in some ways the project became a lifeline for all of us creatives involved in the projects, but it also forced us to be a bit more human about the whole thing. You know, there were kids to be taken care off and parents were homeschooling and people had all kinds of personal challenges going on. So I think we were just forced to be very honest with each other and about what actually everybody needed on the project and therefore what the project needed.

Speaker 2:

You've described that a very different sort of development and production process involving a very different mix of skills than you perhaps see on a very common, normal opera production. How has that process differed from a more traditional show? You know, you're a producer you've worked on producing lots of different types of , um, theater to be performed in more normal ways. How has this, you know, very, very 21st century model of, of artistic development and production differed from the ,

Speaker 3:

Yeah, I think the biggest difference, well , there's two biggest differences. One was, you know, as I said before, it certainly wasn't the type of show or the type of narrative. If you were to just look at the , the , um, opera team, it wasn't sort of written in a waterfall way. Um, the composer, the brightest design, even the sound designer were all on the same level or contributing ideas about what this experience should be at the same time. So that was quite, quite special and quite unique because they were all influencing each other in the process. But I suppose the biggest difference, even when you work , um, iteratively in theater , uh , if you're working on a device show from scratch or, you know, from you're working on something that comes out of improvisation , um, the biggest difference for me was an, a particular and a challenge as a producer was to understand what it means to make changes quickly or slowly. Cause I just couldn't, it was really difficult for me to work out if, for example, you know , uh, the director wanted to move the moon in a particular scene to the right or for something to revolve around the audience's head. Um, I couldn't quite gauge how long things would take or how challenging or less challenging some of those changes were, which is, you know, of course it, it forces you to communicate very, very clearly and with purpose with the CGI team. But I think that was sort of the most fascinating process for me to , um, understand and to communicate to the creative team that as opposed to a stage, you can't just be like, okay, let's start again from stage left, let's try this and let's try it now, you know, with , uh, with the CGI scene , it was like, okay, we'll , uh, experiment. And we'll come back to you in five days, you know? And so you have the theater team going, do you mean in five years ? Could you not just, just show me on a screen? It's like, well, we need, we need to rebuild it. And so there's a , there was this process I sort of found myself, I think for the first time in my life, you know, having done a lot of work in product management, but also having produced lots of shows, kind of being the messenger between these two teams to be like, well, in terms of product, it means this and it's going to take long and then they would say yes, but what to, what level of fidelity can we get to? I was like, Oh, let me go back to the CGI team. They'll find out, define fidelity level. What would you like? So it was a fascinating thing in terms of , um, in terms of language and it just forces you to be very clear. And if there's a blocker or if there's something you're confused about or unsure about you , you just have to say it because not saying it creates more unknowns, which could really jeopardize your , your timeline.

Speaker 2:

I think, you know , you touch on there , your, your background, you know, you have worked in digital product roles in lots of different sectors, but equally you have produced lots of work for theater. And so you, you can do that translation in your own head between, you know, digital software technology, world and theater worlds quite, quite naturally. Um, I wonder what was the sort of level of, I can't think of a better term, the digital literacy across the whole creative team, because you know what you've described there, people who very much are working within , uh , a highly complex, highly technical context in the world of VR and then the, the less , um, no less complex, but very complex and a very different way of, you know, theatrical production. Did you find that there was a , not necessarily a tension, but , uh, as you say, a translation needed between those two groups of people. Um, and I guess how, how did you arrive all of you as a team at a, at a point where you could all be communicating and hearing and understanding what each other was saying? Yeah,

Speaker 3:

It's a really , um, it's a really interesting thing, but I do, I do really believe that there's, it's, it's a totally different language, right? So the CGA team talks to each other in a different language in terms of , uh, in terms of process tasks that need to be done. Um, and it's, it's very methodical task oriented. The creative team speaks in a language, which is first of all, very much driven by emotion from the perspective of what do we want people to feel? What do we want the audience to experience? Um, you know, what does the scene feel like? And it's very, th the language can be very , um, uh, poetic in that sense, you know, but if you , if you speak to a developer and you say, Oh, I, you know, I want it to feel like, you know, that second line and Sylvia Plath , um, that thing it's like, w what , what do you mean by that? So there was certainly, there was certainly a point of how do we, but it sort of, I really feel like it worked both ways because on one hand, CGI team really forced , uh, the creative team to articulate exactly what was needed on a critical level. And I sort of kept pushing this idea of like, okay, what does MVP for opening guys? What is critical? And what's nice to have let's, let's just prioritize the feedback. Shall we, let's not send these 50 items to them today. Um, and then on the other hand, I really feel like there was a really , uh , beautiful influence of Joe and Nisha , the designer and director when they worked closely with the CGI team where they really encourage them to, to think from the perspective of , um, for the lack of a better word poetry, you know, how, how could we make this feel really , uh, beautiful and impactful in a, in a very dreamlike way. And I think that was probably a surprise to them in terms of process. I think there was certainly a point where, you know, when you say, how, how did you , um, how did you bridge that gap between the two? I think precisely because we spoke these two different languages, the only way of going about it is to just say, this is what I need. This is what I'm trying to achieve. How can we do it in terms of process? And there came a point where Joe , the designer really wanted to be closer to the CGI production, but of course they just needed to do a lot of work. So for them, it felt easier to work on something for three days and then share it with us. Um, and I said, okay, well, I guys, I don't want this to come across as micromanagement because that's not what it is, but if we're going to be iterating things in a very nuanced ways, I need Joe to have a standup with you every day. Um, and you know, in a normal world, in a non COVID world that would take Joe to be in the studio with them and just glance over someone's shoulders and be like, no, no, move that slightly to the rights of that. One of them could we have the wave a bit bigger, but we couldn't do that. We had to find a remote way of doing it. Um, but I think it was, it was just about identifying for me, it was spotting , uh, you know, where there were sort of moments of anxiety about the end results from both the CGI team and the creative team. Um, and then kind of going, okay, this feels like a point of tension. Um, let's, let's just crack this, what do we need to do right now? And how can we treat the next couple of weeks to bring us to point B and you , and you can't plan for it much further ahead, because you just don't know what the next challenge is going to be.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, that's really interesting to hear, because I think, you know, as we continue to move through the pandemic and hopefully beyond not in the, not too distant future, I think you're going to see more , uh, digitally driven, digitally delivered , um, artistic experiences, or certainly where digital plays a much bigger role than it historically has done. So I think that these creative sort of mixed discipline creative teams are going to be, become a more common occurrence. And it's, it's really important that people understand and recognize that there is going to need to be. There is a , there is a gap, there is a gap in sort of a cadence of working. There is a gap in language. There is a gap in understanding and expectations. Um, and of course that gap is Bridgeable, but it's interesting to hear about your, your experience , um, in, in bringing those two worlds closer together to deliver the show that you've been working on and may, you know, everything you've described here sounds incredibly exciting, incredibly new. Um, and I suppose reflecting as you, as you have been, what have been the most exciting, rewarding, surprising aspects of working on a , an opera and hyperreality

Speaker 3:

Yeah, we , um, it's funny, you mentioned this because we just had our little , uh, celebration with the team. Yes. It's celebration of the opening night , uh , which is not going to happen just yet. Um, is exactly what last night was about. Uh, it was supposed to have been on the 19th, but of course this has now been pushed back to the, to the new year and we'll just have to see what T3 , uh, brings or when that comes down rather. Um, and we talked exactly about this question. And one question that I asked the team was what was the most memorable , uh, moment on the, on the project . And for me, there's the obvious moments. Um, it's the moment when you put on the headset for the first time and the headphones, and you hear the music and as a, as a three 60 audio experience, as you move through the space, it's seeing the worlds that were sketches 10 into a 3d world. So that is all around you. Um, and I think that, that, of course the thing that goes with it is this idea of , uh, uh, it always surprises me how immersive reality is, and I've done a few virtual reality experiences now, but it always just, I feel like it just hits me and that's because you really believe it. You know , uh, Nisha said yesterday, the director, she said , uh , if you have vertigo in real life, you will have real vertigo in virtual reality. It's, it's a very, very visceral response. So I think those were the, those were the obvious, lovely moments when you kind of see the, the results of your work kind of transforming for the first time into the experience for the audience that you can start to experience and get a grasp of, and you kind of go , okay, we're at the last 20% hour , this is all doable. And it's just going to get better from here. But I think , um, from a producing perspective, what really surprised me was , um, you know, when you're writing a show from scratch, if it's a device show, but everyone on the creative team is required to work concurrently, the only way I've done it before was to basically lock the team in a room with me for a few days and you just workshop it and you just, you , it, it sort of , uh , I've never thought about this idea of how do we do this remotely, because I was never forced to, and there is so much emotion and excitement that forms as part of that, part of that development process, that it makes sense for people to be in person, because you can, you can play with that energy in the room and when locked down happened. And we had to, we were at this point where we were like, right, we have to rewrite that a Bretto from scratch. Um, I , I had serious doubts about how that was going to go, and I've sort of planned a very detailed agenda of how to go through the three days and how we'll end up with a storyboard and, you know, user experience scene by scene, very methodical. And I think what I was most surprised by is after day one, we started , uh, started workshopping it and doing it. And I thought after day one, you know what, we're going to be absolutely fine. This works if , if not, if not better than being in person, because cause you know, such a tense , um, whole situation for everybody that I feel like everyone was being really mindful of people's time and people's needs. And we all understood that we had to do this remotely and we had the libretto written 24 hours later , um, was supposed to take three days and it was perfect. And in some ways I think it encapsulates, it is sort of , uh , the strange time we were living in. And uh, and I just thought, wow, this is fascinating. Remote development of actual opera with 12 people in the room, this can happen now that's going to save a lot of money in the future. That's great. Um, so that was a , that was a real surprise to me. Um, it says of creative development,

Speaker 4:

I think. Um, gosh,

Speaker 3:

There was so many, it's really, really hard to say. Um, which one would be a good one. I think what was also really, really satisfying was recording and locked down . Um, so recording with the opera , uh, with the opera ensemble , um, which was a seven piece orchestra and a soprano and that whole process of how do you take the composers sheet music. And first of all, turn it into something that the rest of the team can hear so that it enforced forms the rest of the development. That was fascinating. And what we ended up doing just to , um, uh, bring something to life is we worked with , uh , with a pianist and the composer would send them the sheet music, the pianist would then send it to the soprano, the soprano, which recorded on her iPhone together with the piano score, send it back to the creative team. We would listen back to it. And we sort of iterated on the music in this way. Uh, though of course, you know, the piano score is not a seven piece orchestra, so there's some gaps that your imagination has to fail, but just to kind of grasp what the composer was going through, it was amazing to kind of form this micro composing music team. And then the second thing that we did was , uh, we recorded at the national opera studios and that was in , um, July and that was still under lockdown conditions. So we had to make sure that everyone was distanced at, you know , um, two meters apart and the risk assessment for it took about two or three weeks. Um, making sure that everyone at the Royal opera house was happy from a health and safety perspective at the time when all of health and safety was being redefined and for free for the first time and absolute ages. And Alex, the recording producer did an absolutely incredible job bringing together the , uh , recording engineer , um, the, the whole team of the musicians, making sure the soprano was recorded in a whole separate room because we needed her voice to sound very sort of clean and isolated from the , from the rest of it. So that was fascinating to complete that recording. And after a week of , um, mastering and engineering, it , um, David, the favor of the recording engineer shared it with us and we just thought, wow, what an absolute feat that we've managed to do this, right? This is the next milestone in the project. Yeah. And I think,

Speaker 2:

You know, the, the benefits you've actually described there that , you know, lots of people have worked out how to carry on doing whatever it is they do in amongst all the constraints that 2020 is thrown at us. Um, you know, that's been the case for us trying to run, you know , workshops with organizations on the West coast of America, from the UK. And actually after a bit of thinking and experimentation, we've, we've identified a number of approaches that work, as you said, as well as being there in person and actually probably have some additional benefits when it comes to access. When it comes to sort of equality of engagement. It's not just the loudest people in the room that are being heard because there is a different sort of way that a video conference call happens compared to if it's a big meeting all around the same table. And I think that there are lessons to learn and sort of benefits to hold tightly to, as things start to slowly creep back towards something that looks more like the pre pandemic world. Actually I think , um, collaboration workshopping , all of those things are entirely possible with, you know, remote distributed teams and surely the creative potential that, that unleashes of people being able to work with people in different locations, different countries is, is tremendously exciting. You know, you have worked on this entirely new piece that's being delivered in entirely new format, you know, partially distributed through key stages of the artistic development process, which is fascinating. I think

Speaker 3:

It's been really interesting to , um, to observe the chemistry between , uh, between the various creative team members, because I feel like this is for me, this is a crucial difference between , um, product managing a team and producing a team of artists and what I've observed time and time again, is if the chemistry between the artists isn't right, in terms of being on the same page ideas, you know, you're constantly, you're constantly dreaming things up in , in terms in order to tell a story in order to give an experience. Whereas if you are product managing and you're working with designers and developers, you are solving problems for the user or for technical infrastructure or stakeholders, it's a slightly different mindset. It obviously requires , um, imagination and creativity and being quick and smarts and all of that. But when you are writing a show from complete, it's not necessarily a process of problem solving, problem solving comes into play , um , when you're dealing with things like timelines and resources and , um, and that's kind of my job , uh, as, as, as part of the process, but I don't want the creatives to problem solve necessarily. Um, so it's been really interesting to observe the chemistry remotely because we had to go, this is what it is, which is going to have to have , uh , weekly meetings on zoom. We will have intense sessions on zoom when we have to. And I think perhaps, maybe this is just my kind of , uh , hope. There's a, there's a part of me that feels like a lot of the human connection that , that we are so excited about when we're in the room together making a piece of theater that was in some way, perhaps put into the work all the way more on a, on a kind of subconscious level, because we were, we were trying to connect with each other as part of this as well. And I feel like that has translated into the piece somehow. Um, and of course landing this , uh , at the time when the pandemic is still , um, going on, I hope will bring, bring it, bring about this idea of human connection even more,

Speaker 2:

Yeah. Maybe moving on to that sort of audience experience, I guess this is an immersive experience. You know, VR plays a huge role in delivering it. You mentioned earlier that the VR experiences that you've had, you're always surprised at just how immersive they are. And I've only been, I've only done VR a couple of times, but it is remarkable whenever you put that headset on and you are suddenly in a completely different reality, but I wonder what sort of considerations does VR force upon , um, the creative team when you're thinking about designing that audience experience? You know, I know that , um , current rising is 15 minutes long. There's a , another VR, deliberate , uh, opera Layla in Finland, the Finnish national opera. Um, that's about 20 minutes long from what I can tell , uh, you know, does, is there, you know, people listening to this, they may not have had a VR experience. They probably never made work for VR. Does VR place constraints on the, or, or, or does the audience experience naturally need to be sort of cattails to that sort of length or does it come down to resources? You know, anyone who's ever worked in film and TV knows that every minute of costs a huge amount of money and actually is there a , there's a financial constraint that means that actually making work any longer than 15 or 20 minutes suddenly becomes fantastically expensive. It'd be interesting to hear about the considerations that you had to think about when designing the audience experience.

Speaker 3:

Yeah. I mean, I th this is the first VR experience that I've worked on as a, as a producer. So in terms of, in terms of length, certainly , um, in this case , uh, there weren't resources to create anything longer than 15 minutes. Um, I don't know if there's , uh , an optimal time or optimal length of time for a VR experience , um, uh , for a VR experience to be, but it's an interesting question because when it comes to constraints , um, we certainly went through a kind of discovery phase where we really struggled with , um, how to tell a story in VR with characters. And , um, the reason for that is every time you trying to sub F to create something that is human, like in VR, it becomes a very non believable because you know, that it's a replica of a human. And, but actually what was really interesting is if you create environments that are inspired by the human world, for example, we have a scene , um , that is in the middle of the night on the sea, but the sea is kind of, it looks more like ink rather than sea . And , uh, the sky is not your sort of Disney sky covered in stance, but you can recognize it as a sky. And there's , uh , you know, the, the voice of Ariel appears on the sky in some way , uh , which I won't give away. So there's all of these sort of environments that you can recognize from, from real life, but they are in some way, fantastical and unreal. And the moment you try to make something a little bit more abstract in VR, suddenly you are reminded of being human. Uh, certainly that's what it's felt like every time we tried kind of to borrow ideas from the real world around us. And so one of the things which was quite a radical decision that we made was that we would not have any characters in the show. And actually , um, the way VR differs from creating a show for the stage is you always play the central character, whether you like it or not, because you're in the middle of it. And the story takes place 360 degrees all around you. And so , um, I suppose part of the, the purpose of the show being an opera and hyperreality is we wanted the voice to , um, to be your companion, your guide through the space as you play this central character and for the voice to tell you a story. And so in many ways, it acts as your inner voice that is taking you through these environments, and it's , it's conveying a message to you. Um, one other, I wouldn't call it a constraint . I think it's more of an expansion of what the stage can't do is you can't play with things like scale and speed when it comes to when it comes to , uh , audience versus stage or auditorium as a stage. Whereas in virtual reality, we can make you look really small by making the environment massive, or we can make you look really big by shrinking all of the buildings around you. We can make you , um, you know, look down the obese and make it feel really dangerous, whereas it's actually quite safe and real life. Um, we can play with speed of how you progress through the environments, which also has quite a visceral response. So that's been for me, a really fascinating thing to, to, to play with, and essentially looking at an art form or, you know , technology that is learning itself to an art form and going, what can we do here , uh, that we can't do on a stage? How do we make people truly experience something rather than being sat in their seats in quite a safe way in witnessing what is in front of them? And how is that an opportunity to perhaps have a much more intimate experience with the story and off the story and to , um, to be truly kind of moved in a very enveloping way?

Speaker 2:

Uh, yeah, I mean, th th the creative potential that you described the area's fairly mind blowing it's , it sounds a little bit like you're suddenly operating in, you know, four dimensions rather than three. And I mean, to be, you know, I've, I've worked with film and TV directors in the past, and they have commented on a few of them that have tried directing VR experiences or video game experiences where the mode of storytelling is so different, that it can be a real challenge to , to shift your perspective, to shift your understanding as the sort of author of that experience, to understand how you can communicate the narrative, control the experience, all of those sorts of things, because it is absolutely not the same as directing a performance that is being performed at or to an audience. Um, and it would be interesting to hear your, your reflections on, you know, having been through this process for the first time. What have you learned?

Speaker 3:

Gosh , um, okay. Item number one of , uh , 100 , um, I think what I've learnt , I think what I've learned most of all is how , um, I'll start with so sort of mission versus process, I suppose. And one thing that's always kept us , um, aligned across the whole production team, CGI team, the opera creative team was we knew why we were creating an opera and virtual reality. And the reason for that was how can we, you know, opera and by its definition is an Epic experience for the, for the senses. And we wanted to create the sense of epicness in your ears through, through, through the headphones and , uh , the epicness through the possibilities of virtual reality, but at the same time, give people a really , um, intimate individual experience of what opera could be. And that to us has always been a kind of , um, the , the lighthouse , uh, thought that the kind of mission of what we're trying to create. So going back to your question, what I've learned is every time there was a challenge coming up , um, and there were plenty this year and lots of stop and start moments. It was a case of bringing the team back to this lighthouse moment and saying, okay, we know what we want to create. This is unshakeable . This is where we are in this process. What we need to crack is X, Y, and Z, you know, how to bring composition to life so that we know how to shape it going forward. Therefore, in order for us to create this lighthouse moment for audiences,

Speaker 5:

What do

Speaker 3:

We need to do now in order to crack this in the next couple of weeks? And to ,

Speaker 5:

I suppose,

Speaker 3:

As a producer, I kept reminding myself that we had this really big mission ahead of us, but there were so many unknowns and so many things out of our control that you just have to put one foot in front of the other and take it one step at a time and identify very quickly what the various team members are feeling tense about , uh , and act on that first, because it was a constant process of something would something would flare up because we were just so , um, so wanting to create an incredible experience for audiences at all times that we felt really precious about Mo in moments of kind of a mini crisis , I suppose. So I think that for me, is my biggest learning, another biggest learning , um, another biggest learning, another big learning has been , um, how to , um, how to communicate with people on a very human level, which makes me sound like an Android. Uh, when I S now that I've just said it's to myself, but I suppose what I mean by that is because everyone was going through through so many challenges that were related to lock downs and COVID, and being separated from families or having too much on their plate in terms of family responsibilities. You, whenever you ask people for their input or to , to complete certain tasks or whatever, you always have to look at their personal circumstances first. And we, we learned to work with that, and I feel like we've managed to create a team that was incredibly , um, you know, of course, smart and talented, but also very considerate and empathetic and caring. And whenever there was anyone who needed support or needed some time out or to step away, we found a way to , um, for the project to still progress and for things to not be stalled on for anyone to not be upset , uh , by that. And I felt like that really gave me a sense of , um, well, this year has given a lot of us, a lot of , uh, uh, blockers and a lot of moments to stop and pause. And perhaps that's quite a nice rhythm and quite a nice tempo. And , um, and perhaps more projects should be made in this way when we returned back to non COVID times.

Speaker 2:

Yeah. And I , I, you know, I, I've been reflecting on the characteristics of organizations who feel like they've been able to respond to the , the challenges of this year, particularly in the digital context, sort of most confidently. And I think that point that you made about, you know , the guiding principle of this top of this project was not how CA how, how do we use this technology? It was about audience experience. Um, and I think if your starting point is here's a new techno piece of technology, let's find a reason to use it. I think you're always going to be setting yourself up for maybe not failure, but not as much success as you otherwise words . Whereas if your starting point is, you know, we have this, this piece of work that we want to do, or we have this experience that we wanted to deliver, or we have this way in which we want to engage with people. And what is the best way of achieving that? I think you're going to be coming up with much better answers to those sorts of questions. Absolutely. And

Speaker 3:

There was also a , um, you know, a , a big kind of part, part of the mission of what we're trying to create with current rising was it's an audience experience for four people at a time , um, takes place in virtual reality. Um, it's totally devoid, but by that definition of people's being able to see each other in real life, you do see each other as avatars in the experience. And part of the challenge or the beauty of what we were trying to , um, create with virtual reality was can we create a sense of connection? Can these four people feel insanely connected to each other as a community going through this experience, seeing each other as avatars through this experience, because along the way, you sort of lose each other and then you sort of regained connection. And that was fascinating for us to , to see how, what , what type of creative choices you make as , um, as part of that mission as you are forming it in VR. And , uh, yesterday when we had our little celebration, we talked about , um, the people who have gone through the experience part of the testing. So of course the front of house staff and the ushers went through the experience so that they knew what audiences were going through. Some ROF staff have gone through it, and the responses are incredible. Um, incredible in the sense of diversity, there was a , you know, some people just go through the experience. They just swear all the time, because they're just so ecstatic about what they're seeing. It is incredible. What the is that , uh, some people are just , uh, you know, and a Dennis apparently went through it, who's our soprano. And the moment she stepped into the second room, which we call the house of subconscious, very Asher, ESC , uh, inspired sort of staircases all around you. Um, she walked into the room and apparently she just went just sort of also like, sort of, you know, imagine the sound of joy by a surprise nest. That's kind of a , that was a , that was a terrible imitation of a soprano , but, you know , um, some people feel so overwhelmed by standing on their two feet in this foreign environment that they go on all fours and they crawl through it because that makes them feel safer, which I find fascinating as well. Um, and some people feel really moved and really emotional. Uh, so , so to witness these different responses, to, to the type of work that we made , um, where we didn't quite, you know, w we sort of had it , we had an idea of the type of experience we wanted audiences to have, but to see all these different outliers is really amazing to see. So I'm looking forward to more of them when we actually open it . It sounds

Speaker 2:

So exciting. And I think, you know, at the moment there isn't a lot of VR or mixed reality work being made in the cultural sector. I think as people become more familiar with that technology, you know, more people have had those sorts of experiences as the cost of making that sort of work comes down as it inevitably will, as all technology eventually does. Um, there will be more people engaging in projects like this. So maybe just , uh , some, some final reflections, you know, what would your advice be to anyone who's perhaps thinking of making work like this?

Speaker 3:

Um, my advice number one would be , um, it will take four times as long as you imagine it will take. Um, so budget accordingly and resource accordingly. That's a really practical one. I think in terms of , um, purpose, I would say, you know, find justification for the technology that you're using in a narrative sense, you know, how will the story or the audience experience be enhanced in a very , um, in a very heartfelt mission-based way by using this technology, don't just , um , make it a gimmick because there will be moments when people will be thrown and , uh, you know, off the , the, the sort of plant path and they will be looking for, for that sense of purpose. And so as a producer, it will make your job much easier if you make that mission. And that purpose really clear, and you remind people of it a lot as you go through the development and through the process, because people will always have a , uh, kind of , uh, a story home to come back to. So that would be my second one. And I think a third one would be if you are working with , um, with a partner who is looking after the technology and in the case of current range , raising that's , uh , that's been figment productions who are based in Guilford and they have been absolutely incredible. And in particular, I have to give my hats off to Alice who's their producer , um, who essentially, you know, we waked back to back , um, as, as these two producers kind of , uh, fighting and , uh, you know, putting out the fires as we went along and she did it for, for the CGI team. And, you know, she was a sort of a lighthouse person for them. And I was looking after the creative opera team. And so, you know, if you're working with a technology partner, make sure that you have someone in the team who you are on par with, he help you with those , um, the translations of the two worlds. And he will give you a really good sense of what the needs are of the technology partner. I know if the teams , um, it will make your job much, much easier. So that would be a third one. I feel like I should do five because that's a nice number. Um, a fourth one would be just on a very basic level, just it was, you know , really illuminating for me to, to suddenly know about , uh, everybody's family and the process. You know, we had to th th the , the parents and the group, and, you know, there were parents looking after their elderly parents, and it gives you a real , um , sense of context of where people's heads are at and what else might be going on in their lives. That just makes you a little bit more mindful in how you communicate and what you ask people to do. And, you know, there was a fascinating moment where we became, so in tune with each other's circumstances that you almost make it part of, part of the process of San Fernando was pregnant. She now has, so life is 10 weeks old. Uh , she did, you know, dress rehearsal with her just like strapped onto the front of Hazara was asleep throughout the whole experience. But there was a moment in September where , um, San Fernando was like, Hey guys, you know, just checking in, you know, going into labor and about a couple of weeks. So I was wondering if there's a way that I could still , um, you know, pop into figment and experience it to give you some feedback. And maybe like, Sam, you are so pregnant. If, if we're going to do that, we are going to find a way to bring the experience to you. And Alice bless her. She was like, Oh, we'll just get in a cab. We'll just take, you know, the computers with us. And, you know, you don't live too far away from Guilford , so we'll, we'll do that. And it was like , okay , cool . And then in the end, we didn't have to do that. It was so funny that, you know, throughout this whole project, like someone gave birth to a composition and a human. And , uh , and it was, it was somehow still just parts of what we've been doing and just part of people's circumstances and being mindful of each other in that. So that was, that was for understanding people's personal context and working with it. And , um, number five, I think this was probably the first project , um, where everyone was so humble and so devoid of any sort of ego or wanting to assert themselves that, you know, that's not, that's not really a sort of a piece of advice, but maybe, maybe there would be a piece of advice around just surround yourself with people who want to make this piece of work because of the incredible audience experience they want to be giving to others and not, not because of , um, wanting to prove anything else. Um, and you know, that it was very much a process of how can we expand on the idea of what opera is? How can we expand people's minds and their understanding of what opera could be, how can we make opera really accessible? Um, and so, yeah, maybe, maybe I would summarize that as surround yourselves with people and a team who are not afraid to ask the really big questions about the future of something that you're trying to create and to really commit and go for it. Thank you so much for your time today . Thank you so much for having me. Ashes has been so wonderful to talk to you and thanks for the opportunity.

Speaker 2:

Thanks, David , for taking the time to chat with me. Hey , just before Christmas and be at the end of what was probably the most chaotic year that any of us have experienced. I realize it's been a few months since the last time we released one of these podcasts. I've got a few ready to go, or she'll be released over the coming weeks. Uh, earlier this year, we did hold three of our digital works events over consecutive days in January and videos from all of those conversations are available on the website. [inaudible] dot com slash digital hyphen works. Um, all right then. Well, I hope everyone safe . Look after yourselves. She has.