A symphony of technology: Finnish National Opera creates entire set in VR

A symphony of technology: Finnish National Opera creates entire set in VR

The Finnish National Opera developed the set for a performance entirely in virtual reality. It is a great example of the potential for efficient work with new technologies.

The Finnish National Opera and the Finnish National Ballet (FNOB) are demonstrating how virtual reality can be an efficient tool for large-scale productions. For the performance of Giacomo Pucchini's Turandot, FNOB technicians created the entire set in VR. According to the creators of the project, using immersive technology resulted in significant time and cost savings.

Finnish State Opera uses VR headset from Varjo

"After 20 years of experience with light modeling, our technical team realized that we needed a more efficient solution to deliver faster and better results to our artistic teams," says Timo Tuovila, technical director at FNOB.

Virtual reality, he says, makes this possible. But the use of virtual tools requires an intuitive user interface and photorealistic models. That is why FNOB's technical team chose Varjo's XR technology.

Varjo produces high-end XR headsets for professional applications such as simulation, design or training. Headsets like the Varjo XR-3 provide near-perfect image clarity for a more realistic experience.

XR Stage: Opera creates its own XR tool

During the pre-production phase of the opera, the team created a photorealistic virtual set from scratch in VR. The set and opera house were rendered in an immersive 3D environment long before the physical sets were built.

"We were able to create a digital twin of our stage that was truly realistic and met the expectations of our ambitious artistic and technical teams," said Tuovila.

For this purpose, the team used XR Stage, a visualization tool developed in-house and based on the Unreal Engine. It can display lighting and projections, simulate equipment operation, and virtually create entire sets.

The Finnish studio ZOAN originally created the integrated 3D model of the main stage. XR Stage can be used with a VR headset as well as on a computer or mobile device such as a smartphone or tablet, making it accessible from virtually anywhere.


VR saves time and money

Artists and technicians can move freely in the VR environment in front of, on, and behind the stage and benefit from unlimited stage time to rehearse and test key sequences.

By using the XR tools, the teams were able to gain important insights into the set early on. They also saved nearly 20 percent of the originally estimated labor costs. Much of the team's travel between Helsinki and Malmö was eliminated by collaborating online in the immersive environment.

Designing in VR also reduced material costs. In total, Varjo says the use of XR Stage saved about 1,500 man-hours and 75,000 euros in production costs.

Greater workplace safety through VR training

The Finnish National Opera also used the digital twin of the stage to improve workplace safety. Potential emergencies were practiced in VR. On the virtual stage, staff could visualize emergency exits and rehearse movements. Normally, officials say, this would require hours of practice with up to 30 people on stage. That's expensive and takes up valuable stage time.

Other industries have also realized VR training's safety benefits: U.S. emergency responders use VR training to prepare for disasters, railroad workers in the U.K. use VR gloves to practice work procedures, and foresters and rescue workers in Germany use virtual reality to learn how to use a chainsaw.

Opera doubles-down on VR production

The Finnish National Opera has been using virtual reality and augmented reality since 2020, with seven productions to date, and plans to expand its use of immersive technologies. In the future, all FNOB production teams will be equipped with XR headsets.

The result of the opera, which was conceived entirely in VR, can be seen on the on-demand service Stage24. A recorded livestream of the performance of Giacomo Puccini's Turandot at the Finnish National Opera will be available there until August 23, 2023.

Sources: Varjo