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‘A world of possibilities’: Inside latest trials for first ever 5G Festival

Last month saw the latest round of trials take place for the world’s first ever 5G Festival, due to take place in early 2022. And Headliner has spoken to those at the heart of the project to find out how the event is progressing and what the music industry can expect from the concept.

In early November, the partners behind the 5G Festival completed another successful trial to demonstrate the benefits of advanced digital technologies on artist collaboration and audience experience.

The latest 5G Festival trial was centred on solving the key technical barriers of AV latency, with a band of musicians split between Brighton Dome’s concert hall (vocals and keys), the Band Room in Brighton Dome (bass) and Metropolis Studios in London (drums). A live audience was also included in the trial for the first time to provide feedback on their experience.

The trial also tested the audience virtual reality experience and the set-up of the spatial audio in a separate large space for multiple users. This was used to create a ‘virtual festival’ experience designed to transport the audience member from wherever they are to the centre of the Brighton Dome Concert Hall auditorium. 

The drummer performed using augmented reality glasses, live streaming through a 5G network-ready 360° content distribution platform, and an immersive audio mixing interface, allowing them to collaborate as though together on one stage.

For the audience, augmented and virtual reality and 360° video technology will, according to organisers, ‘create a more emotionally connected experience in-venue, and will enable live streaming into their own homes on their preferred viewing device, or from one venue to another’.

To find out more, Headliner caught up with two of the 5G Festival partners’ senior figures, Sonosphere director Jamie Gosney, and DiGiCo (part of the Audiotonix group) brand ambassador Dan Page to discuss what was discovered from the new trial…

What did this latest round of trials entail?

DP: From an audio point of view, we’ve used the expertise of the Audiotonix group with Calrec bringing the AoIP and AES67 capability, KLANG the immersive in-ear system and DiGiCo the live mixing expertise. Each local system isn’t very far removed from our normal set up, with the majority of the development work going into the network. 

While the end result each time has been the same – getting the audio over the network - the underlying structure, the topology, has taken a step a forward each time. We’ve made the routing more efficient in terms of getting it from site A to site B. It’s those network refinements in terms of routing the multicast audio between sites that have taken the biggest step forward with the latest trial. We’ve made the technology work in a much more elegant way.

JG: Also, for the first time during these trials, we were able to take the audio feeds from each of the locations, bring them back into our spatial mixing studio at Metropolis and then broadcast the spatial mix out to a live, immersive system in the Founders Room at Brighton Dome. This was an exciting addition to what has gone before and will now play a part in the ongoing trials and the final showcase.

This is an R&D project. Issues are there to be found and solved. Jamie Gosney, director, Sonosphere

How did the trials go?

DG: Of course, we had some technical challenges, that’s the very nature of a research project, but each time we do it, it gets easier and quicker. The first time, it took two days to get the network up and running. This time it was done very quickly. Our learning experience throughout this, and the accumulated knowledge we’ve gained, are making a big difference and will continue to do so as we progress.

JG: The trials weren’t without their issues, but as Dan says, this is an R&D project, so issues are there to be found and solved.

What’s next for the festival? Where and when is it likely to take place?

JG: There will be ongoing trials to refine the technology and it’s thrilling for Sonosphere to be working alongside Audiotonix and Mativision to develop something that has the potential to change the music industry, allowing exciting collaborations between musicians that may never have had the chance to meet and work together. 

For example, a composer in London being able to collaborate with an artist in Morocco creating a musical fusion that may never have happened if the technology we’re creating were not available. And, of course, this will create new content for audiences to consume.

How does a 5G Festival work? What can festival-goers and music fans expect from the experience?

JG: Like I’ve already mentioned, the potential for musicians from different cultural locations and backgrounds without having to travel to collaborate opens up a world of possibilities. We believe it will produce new and exciting content for hybrid music events where there is a combination of live, in-venue audiences and remote viewing.

Do you expect this to set a new standard for the concept of live music?

DP: Maybe not a new standard, but it certainly has the potential to be an alternative experience that allows musicians who wouldn’t necessarily come together under normal circumstances to play live together.

Can any venue host a 5G festival? How does the concept work?

DP: At the moment the answer is no, but as the 5G network roles out, then potentially, yes.

JG: With the technology we’re developing and the progress of the role out of the 5G network globally, venues will be able to install their own private 5G networks, which will give them the ability to link with other venues and artists.

What are the biggest challenges in running an event like this?

DP: There are two challenges. The first is inventing new technology that works across multiple sites; the second is the usual communication problems when issues arise.

You can find out more about the upcoming 5G Festival here