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Plans unveiled for world’s first 5G powered, immersive hybrid festival experience

Posted 10 May 2021

Leading organisations from across the UK’s arts, entertainment and technology industries are collaborating to create the first ever hybrid 5G Festival. The 5G Festival will be a showcase of creative talent blended with the power of advanced digital technologies, and broadcast live directly to audiences at remote locations from world-leading venues, as well as producing novel immersive in-venue experiences.

The pandemic may have changed the habits and appetites of consumers for the long term, as audiences increasingly look for remote, digital and blended experiences. 5G Festival imagines the “festival of the future” when artists and audiences can gather and connect both in person and online, with the power of 5G to communicate the “live-ness” of the experience wherever you are.

The collaboration is led by Digital Catapult, the UK authority on advanced digital technology and leading 5G specialist, and brings together global music company Warner Music Group; renowned live arts venue and culture organisation Brighton Dome & Brighton Festival working with Brighton 5G testbed partner Wired Sussex; telecommunications service provider and sponsor of The O2 and O2 Academy venues O2; pioneers in music production Metropolis Studios (audio mixing, production and venue), Sonosphere (immersive audio and live streaming) and Audiotonix (audio mixing consoles and AoIP networking); and innovative digital technology companies Mativision (5G, 360° immersive live streaming and distribution platform) and LiveFrom (blockchain ticketing).

As part of the wider £200 million 5G testbeds and trials programme (5GTT) funded by the UK Government, the 5G Festival will produce a 5G powered, live immersive collaboration platform for artists and enrich the live festival experience for audiences at home and in venue. 5G Festival is using 5G and its ability to transmit with low latency (delay) and in ultra-high bandwidth to allow physically separate artists to produce immersive live, collaborative performances across multiple venues with a live and remote immersive environment. In practice, this means musicians can perform together from different venues at the same time, completely in-sync with one another, and audiences can have a wider choice of where and how they can experience live music.

The core 5G infrastructure is based on Digital Catapult’s 5G Testbed, which spans three sites across Brighton and London, and offers technologically complete end-to-end, standards compliant, commercial and open source network services. 5G Festival will use Mativision’s network-ready 360° content distribution platform and O2’s public 5G network to support the scale of the project. 5G Festival will also explore opportunities for digital transformation and capability building for the UK’s world-leading live music, festivals and events sector. Finally, The O2 Lab will be developing the customer facing mobile application for the project. BDBF is using its world-leading arts festival design and production to create a showcase event with artists distributed over multiple physical venues and virtual spaces.

In March 2021, the first trials experimented with the effects of audio latency (the delay in the amount of time is takes for sound to get from its source to a listener’s ears – i.e. from one musician to another) on the performers’ ability to play together, dialling the amount of delay (latency) up and down to showcase the power of 5G technology and test the musicians’ and singers’ ability to cope with latency, as well as what the delay limits were before a performance fell apart. “The trials produced fascinating, and some unexpected results,” says Sonosphere’s Andy Robinson. The next trials will take place during June 2021, with a final showcase event planned for early 2022.

Jeremy Silver, CEO, Digital Catapult said: “Covid-19 has denied us all the buzz of going to live shows. 5G Festival aims to change our view of how to enjoy a live performance as the project looks to create the world’s first internationally accessible, immersive live festival experience powered by 5G. This ambitious project aims both to help artists collaborate and create new music, and then to enable audiences to see their favourite artist, safely in-person at one of the UK’s best venues or from the comfort of their own home, in a totally new and different way. It’s an honour for Digital Catapult to lead a project with such great partners – watch this space!”

Tiago Correia, Director, New Business & Ventures, Warner Music, said: “Something beautiful happened during lockdown: we saw artists, writers and producers collaborate remotely like never before. But without the proper tools and network to do so, that creativity will always be limited. Which is why we’re incredibly excited about the goal that this consortium has: to give our artists the ability to collaborate in real-time and their fans a unique live experience, all powered by 5G.”

Rob Searle, Head of 5G at O2, said: “As the UK’s no.1 brand in live music we’re proud to be part of initiatives like the 5G Festival, using advances in technology to bring entertainment from amazing venues into people’s homes. At O2 we’ve been celebrating our own venues in recent months, identifying local talent to create artwork reminding communities of the good times enjoyed at live music hotspots. We’re looking forward to getting the 5G Festival up and running – connectivity has never been more important as we power this country into recovery and work to rebuild Britain.”

Matt Warman, Minister for Digital Infrastructure, said: “5G is not just about having a faster mobile phone – we’re funding groundbreaking projects across the UK to explore other ways in which this revolutionary technology can make people’s lives better. I’m delighted that Brighton and London are hosting this innovative project to help our cutting-edge music industry seize the new opportunities 5G offers to transform live entertainment and connect with even more people across the globe.”

5G Festival will help create a more diversified, sustainable live music industry with increased opportunities to reach new users (artists/creators) and audiences (fans) by using the latest available and developing technologies, helping to not only future-proof business models for venues and festivals adversely affected by global risks (such as coronavirus and climate change), but provide safe, creation/performance environment for artists and valuable, high-quality, immersive experiences to audiences wherever they are around the world.
 

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