Music for holos

Music for holos

The production we showed at SIGGRAPH 2018 was a new kind of thing. When you put an audience in a physical room together and provide them with a shared experience of total sensory immersion, it’s not exactly a play, and it’s not exactly a movie. For want of a better word, I’ve started calling it a “holo”.

One issue we’ve run into is that approaches that work for plays or movies don’t necessarily work for holos. Consider, for example, the question of music.

When you watch a movie, there is usually a score playing in the background. This score is certainly not necessary, but for most commercial films it has come to be expected.

The audience does not usually notice the score on a conscious level, but they definitely respond to it. If properly composed and placed within the audio mix, the musical score of a movie can greatly enhance an audience’s emotional experience.

In theater the conventions are different. For most straight plays, dialog is not generally accompanied by a continuous musical score. If such musical accompaniment were present, it would quite likely stand out and draw attention to itself, because theater audiences are not used to such a convention.

For our holo at Siggraph we drew on the conventions of live theater for staging, yet we draw on the conventions of cinema for musical accompaniment. This might or might not have been the best decision.

Some people found it jarring to hear what sounded like movie music while having an experience that felt more like being in the theater. Other people said they really liked the combination.

Were we right to follow that mixed convention? Would it have been better if we had not? Will holos end up following some entirely new convention for musical scoring, one that nobody has even thought of? Many questions like these will come up in the coming years, some we cannot yet even imagine.

Exciting times ahead!

Ken Perlin
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