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News Source: recode.net
September 8, 2015

Are you a classical music fan? It’s a question most people would probably say no to, and the Los Angeles Philharmonic knows that.

“People are intimidated by classical music,” said Amy Seidenwurm, the Philharmonic’s director of digital initiatives. “They don’t come to concerts because they feel it might not be for them.”

But to change those minds, the LA Phil is turning to virtual reality. For the next month, it will be driving around the Los Angeles area to parks, festivals and museums, in a van outfitted with real carpeting and seats from the Walt Disney Concert Hall — and six Samsung Gear VR headsets, which have been loaded with a special video performance of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony. (You know the one: Dun-dun-dun DUNNNN.)

Lights, camera, Beethoven!

Re/code previewed the video recently in Los Angeles. Inside the VR headset, you can look around the concert hall as conductor Gustavo Dudamel leads the orchestra through the iconic first few minutes of the symphony. As it plays, CGI animations of spirits and demons battle over the orchestra’s heads, a turn reminiscent of Disney’s “Fantasia” movies.

The video was recorded and produced by an agency called Secret Location, using a custom 360-degree camera and more than 40 microphones. Secret Location managing director Eric Shamlin said the performance was filmed from seven different angles, but one of the seven — a shot from Dudamel’s side — was left on the cutting room floor because it felt more detached and less intimate than the shots facing either the conductor or the orchestra.

Secret Location's VR camera, on location in the Walt Disney Concert Hall.

The Fifth Symphony was chosen both for its existing popularity and because the LA Phil is about to start a series of concerts proceeding through all nine symphonies. But Seidenwurm stressed that selling tickets is a secondary goal.

“I want them to explore the art form,” she said of the young people the LA Phil is hoping to reach with the VAN Beethoven tour, as it’s called. “I want them to come to a concert, start listening, or just learn more. Some kids might even say, ‘I want to take that music class.’”

“We were extremely happy with production values and audience reaction to theater casts, but they were a big economic investment and not sustainable,” Bohnett said. “I think this [the VR film] has a permanent place in a number of areas. For example, we give tours of the concert hall when the orchestra isn’t playing. I’d like to see an area on the tour where people can experience this for three minutes.”

A screenshot from inside the Orchestra VR app.

The LA Phil also plans to release a free app soon for Samsung Gear VRs and Oculus Rift headsets containing the performance.