A recent Guildhall School event,s which used projection mapping to enhance immersion (photo: Sophie Harbinson)
UK - Guildhall School of Music & Drama has confirmed the award of over £900,000 from the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) to develop a new research facility for Extended Reality (XR) production arts. The grant is one of the largest research-related funding awards Guildhall School has received to date.
The grant will be used to fund the procurement of two significant pieces of audio-visual hardware as well as IT equipment, together creating a dedicated studio for research into Extended Reality. Through the use of cutting-edge technology, Extended Reality allows for either an entirely virtual world, or an experience in which the physical and virtual worlds are merged.
The research into this technology will help create conceptual environments for training performers, whether that be recreating opera houses for metaverse performances, or developing choreography with dance companies so the performance can be viewed from all angles.
The two pieces of audio-visual hardware include the Holosys Volumetric Capture Suite system, which allows for motion capture of people and objects in ‘six degrees of freedom/6DoF’, ready for use in augmented reality and virtual reality production, the Metaverse and location-based experiences; and a customised Stype tracking rig which permits 360° tracking of performers, lighting, media and projection, and spatial audio.
This new infrastructure will help position Guildhall School as a key player in the exploration and development of Extended Reality performance, which is reshaping the performance and entertainment landscape. Developing Extended Reality has in part been supported by Guildhall Live Events, a professional branch of the school, which specialises in creating immersive and interactive digital experiences. Together with the Production Arts department, Guildhall Live Events has supported the development of this research and the procurement of the grant.
Professor Andy Lavender, vice-principal & director of production arts at Guildhall School, says: “We’re delighted that Guildhall has been successful in the Creative Research Capability (CResCa) funding scheme. The addition of leading-edge infrastructure in Extended Reality production builds on the School’s award-winning capability in low-latency connectivity, live streaming, and recent Guildhall Live Events projects exploring virtual reality.
“With the expansion of electronic and produced music at Guildhall, and the advent of screen drama production, we look forward to building an all-round, interconnected digital production capacity. The CResCa award allows us to explore new processes and possibilities in Extended Reality - a key area of development in today’s entertainment industries that is shaping the future of our artforms.”
Professor Christopher Smith, UKRI international champion for AHRC says: “This crucial support for UK research infrastructure is part of the package of support provided by government so that our research and innovation communities can carry on with their essential work, notwithstanding the delay to association with Horizon Europe. The investments, made across the UK, will provide UK researchers with advanced equipment, facilities and technology, and help maintain the UK’s position as a leader in research and innovation. This support will ensure the UK is an attractive place for scientists, researchers and entrepreneurs to live, work and innovate.”

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