Image: WPP / Mixed
I am frustrated with recordings of concerts thrown into virtual reality without conviction. Will Bastille’s new rehearsal make my patient musician’s heart beat faster again?
Earlier this week it was news that British indie pop band Bastille is releasing an immersive concert experience for Meta Quest 2 titled Give Me The Future VR. Until now, this type of digital event has always disappointed me, but somehow intrigued me.
After all, VR concerts are great – in theory. Virtual reality offers almost infinite possibilities of enriching the musical spectacle. We still get for years only unfinished 360-degree music videos.
VR concerts have potential – they just don’t get it
First of all, I am a musician myself and I love going to live concerts. The special connection between the artists: inside and their audience, and the energy triggered by what is happening on and in front of the stage is unique and will never be replaced by a digital medium. Regardless of the advancement of technology.
Nevertheless, I see potential in virtual concerts. They can become a meaningful way for artists to connect with their audience on a whole new level. However, the creators of digital events have not yet understood how they can use the new medium of virtual reality for themselves.
Latest VR shows: bad, boring and disappointing
For me, there are currently two categories of immersive gigs: cheesy 180 degree movies and cheesy 360 movies with questionable lighting and graphics effects. None of them are convincing. I’ll skip the bright avatar shows in the Fortnite universe.
The concert VR tragedy started with the invention of the 360-degree camera and the cheap, head-catching VR with smartphones. The wow-wow effect I’m right in the middle of it – usually fades away before the first chorus. Fixed points of view in action, no possibility of interaction – there is no trace of real virtual reality here.
Even if smartphone VR is dead and mature VR glasses keep getting better, 360-degree recordings of live concerts are still a blurry waste of time and tortured by poor sound quality.
If the audiovisual experience at the concert is a disaster, what remains as the selling point? The Foo Fighters, Meta thought, and brought the band around Dave Grohl to the post-show party on Super Bowl Sunday.
The meta is failing because of the technology
Even one of the most famous rock bands of our time could not prevent a costly Meta crash. The digital door on the Meta Horizon Venues community event app was closed to visitors shortly before the concert started due to technical issues. The following rush has overloaded the servers. Many visitors missed this event. Lucky you.
As the resolution of the image was low, the two automatically shifting perspectives in the scene were chosen unfavorably, and the people responsible for the camera circled the image. They recorded for a classic 2D concert broadcast. If you want to see for yourself: Production Failure is available for free on Oculus TV.
Being inside isn’t always better than just being there
The concert fails not only because of the technology. Foos are standing on a dark stage in a black room. For TV broadcasts where multiple cameras provide different perspectives and dynamic cuts always keep the action in the spotlight, that’s fine.
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But if I stand directly in front of him and see every cable and band member around him, the magic will say goodbye. The band itself has nothing to do except recite their songs.
The audience, without which Grohl’s popular spectacles are simply impossible, is missing at every corner. Watching live Blu-Ray of the legendary Foo Fighters concert at London’s Wembley Stadium gives you an idea of what a real audience can get from the band.
Why are these strange effects always?
Another example is Billy Corgan’s Aeronaut VR music video on SteamVR, which cost me less than $ 3 and four minutes of my life. Corgan hums one piano song in this “VR experience” creating a bunch of poor visuals around him and that’s it. I don’t quite understand why production companies always equate “immersion” with lighting effects, fireflies, or flight sequences when brainstorming VR concerts.
Immersion doesn’t just come from effects. It doesn’t require high-quality graphics à la Half-Life: Alyx, even comic-book environments like Walkabout Minigolf are enough. They just have to be trustworthy. What is never enough is a 180-degree film disguised as a 360-degree film with pixelated cubic zirconia floating in the air.
Bastille: Five gigabytes of immersive concert trash or rethought VR concerts?
Tired of getting drunk with bad memories. So what does Bastille supply? Give Me The Future VR requires a proud 4.8 gigabyte of my Quest 2. At first glance, this promises a lot of content. Well in advance: Give Me The Future VR doesn’t quite live up to that promise. The virtual performance includes a total of four pieces that are not entirely decorated with the splendor of VR.
I run the VR experience and land on the sofa of my futuristic apartment, which handles the Meta Quest 2 home environment even better. The menu board is so close to me and connected directly to my line of sight that I can barely read it. I choose the full trip to the Innerverse and am excited to see where it will take me.
Always the same vision of the future
Cyberpunk city. Oh yes. Interesting scenario for the future. Never seen before. I swim slowly among skyscrapers, around flying cars and lots of neon lights.
The screens on the facades of skyscrapers show Bastille’s performance under the title “Distorted Light Beam”. Basically again, I only see a sterile performance on stage, even if there is a little more movement around me.
The environment looks shabby. If you look closely, the city is just a thin background with lots of copy-paste elements. After all, there is such a thing as an audience dancing in front of a giant screen. However, black dots are so rare that at a real concert you would have to ask yourself if the entry fee is enough to pay the rent of the band members.
A little attraction at the end
After two songs, the piano version of the ballad “No Bad Days” begins, the screen disappears and the vocalist becomes a gigantic phantom of countless little lights. During the song, I slowly soar farther into the sky.
This is a great highlight of Give Me The Future as the song carries the excitement of the experience. In the middle of a noisy, cool and anonymous city where I just feel uncomfortable, calm sounds gently sway me out of the chaos around me.
Bastille VR Experience: Watch 2D Movies in a 3D Environment
After all, I end up in a desert like a Burning Man virtual festival, away from the gloomy high-tech city. A little party at the end. But I really don’t feel like celebrating.
This time Bastille appear on a giant tube TV and thanks to this they perfectly show the problem of these concerts – on purpose or not: I enter virtual reality, a place with endless possibilities, and then I watch the band perform “live” on a digital one flat screen on. Something I can do with my smartphone anywhere, anytime in the real world.
VR concerts, you will lose me for good
For me, Bastilles Give Me The Future VR joins the long list of VR’s big concert disappointments. After a good twenty minutes, it feels like there would be a lot more to it than staring at a 2D recording of a musical performance.
A poorly designed vision of the future, seen thousands of times, of a big city with screens and poorly bouncing maples, makes VR concerts in 2022 seem simply silly.
If you want to check out Give Me The Future VR Bastille in Meta Quest 2, you can do so via the App Lab. Unlock the free VR experience on the Oculus Store and install almost five gigabytes in VR glasses.
Order Meta Quest 2 from Germany
Meta Quest 2 will not be sold in Germany for now. It is not known how long this ban will last.
On Amazon France you can buy Meta Quest 2 as usual. Tip: Right click on the website and select “Translate”.
Meta Quest – 128 GB | Oculus Quest – 256 GB
Attention: You can order from Amazon France through your German account. The VR glasses support the German language in the menu. Facebook’s regional lock is currently inactive – Quest 2 is running normally. Amazon France delivers within a few days, some devices are even shipped from warehouses in Germany.