Working with Welsh National Opera, REWIND has taken two classic operas - Madam Butterfly and Magic Flute - into VR. Audiences young and old will be given the chance to interact and engage with these experiences through fully responsive animation and sound. It is the first time that an opera company has used VR to re-imagine operatic scenes.
The two experiences, named ‘Magic Butterfly’, launched in Cardiff in July 2017, before touring other locations in Wales and England.
'Madam Butterfly’ combines motion capture, animation, music and technology to create a new artistic expression of classical opera putting audiences at the heart of the experience. It features an original WNO recording of the much-loved aria by Puccini, ‘Un bel di’ (One Fine Day) with world-renowned soprano Karah Son. Built in Unity, the four minute experience has been created for Google Daydream and uses Houdini to create highly visual, uncompromised effects.
Houdini has historically been used within the VFX industry to achieve super-real effects. As the VR industry matures, developers are increasingly turning to proven practices to push the visual quality, precision and realism of a project. Houdini was a perfect choice for Madam Butterfly as it allowed the team to achieve highly artistic but controlled effects. REWIND is the first to use Houdini in a mobile VR experience for Daydream. Within the experience, Houdini is specifically used to create the complex butterfly movements.
The project also involved working with CAMERA to capture body and face motion data from Karah Son, whilst she performed ‘Un Bel Di’. One of the challenges was effectively capturing the movement of the sleeves on the digital Madam Butterfly avatar’s kimono. The novel solution involving attaching markered netting to Karah’s arms to simulate the movement of the fabric. The final result created a natural cloth movement without the need for a separate simulation, keeping the performance realistic and pure.
Filled with Mozart’s music, ‘The Magic Flute’ is one of the greatest and most popular operas ever written. It explores the search for true love and wisdom. The magic of the opera has been brought to life through this VR experience.
Within the experience, users are transported to an enchanted forest. Using the Google Daydream controller the user can conjure up six animals to reimagine a scene from Act 1, when Tamino - one of the central characters - plays his magic flute and animals appear and dance, enraptured, to his music. The forest experience is set to a recording of ‘How soft, how strong your magic sound’.
Built in Unity the three-minute experience is fun and interactive and will engage and delight audiences old and new.