With imagination and technology, it’s possible to "travel" without going anywhere. That was my experience in testing the new mixed-reality capability at the Marina Bay Sands Hybrid Broadcast Studio in Singapore.
The studio itself was created in a record seven days last year, at the height of the pandemic, to allow companies and event organizers to broadcast as well as convene when restrictions lifted. The Mixed Reality toolbox was added last November, and when we broadcast Northstar’s WiT Travel Roadshow from the studio in April, I leapt at the opportunity to test the new tool.
It was a steep learning curve for our team as well as the studio’s production staff, as this was the first time either had used this technology for editorial storytelling. Our task was to create and produce a 10-minute piece of content that would take the shape of an imagined road trip from Singapore to places we can only now dream about going right now.
Step by Step
The process starts with a storyboard; you need a clear narrative to build the structure of the content. After that, it’s about finding the right mixed-reality (MR) assets to execute. One key challenge is the lack of suitable, accessible and affordable MR images, but that should improve over time. Just as photo, video and music stock libraries took time to build, so will assets around MR, VR (virtual reality), AR (augmented reality) and even ER (extended reality).
Also important are the transitions, which is how you move from one part of the story to the other. Much like a road trip, you want it to be as smooth as possible without falling into unforeseen potholes.
After that is the "live" delivery of the story — and that’s where anything can go wrong. Even with multiple rehearsals, expect glitches — and be prepared to improvise.
I am glad to report that our live road trip went relatively smoothly, taking our audience to the mountains of the Himalayas, to Iceland to seek out the Northern Lights and then onto the beaches of Southeast Asia. In MR, you don’t need to rely on planes, only imagination.
Our collaborator, Ong Wee Min, vice president of conventions and exhibitions at Marina Bay Sands, believes new technologies such as MR will move the content needle forward for events of the future. "The digital and technological landscape is constantly changing, and in many ways, accelerating. These capabilities are not new but are the next essential steps that the MICE industry needs to take as technology plays an even more prominent role in meetings of the future." He added, "MR technology allows presenters to have a more meaningful interaction with digital data and the environment, bringing presentations to life through hyper-realistic visuals."
This Is the Future
Going forward, said Ong, "a key focus of the industry will be on storytelling. The ability to create meaningful content, deliver it in an engaging and immersive manner will help brands to capture the attention and imagination of their virtual and in-person audiences. This will help further deepen delegate engagement, build brand loyalty and drive idea generation among key communities."
In the nine months since the studio was completed, the response has greatly exceed expectations. "The launch of our multifunctional Hybrid Broadcast Studio last August has inspired other communities, including the entertainment industry, to look at different possibilities," he said. "We hosted the first hybrid entertainment event last October for the launch of Singapore hip-hop artist Yung Raja's latest single and music video, 'The Dance Song.'"
As the global broadcast center for this year’s PCMA Convening Leaders 2021, the property also conceptualized and executed the industry’s first omnichannel event of its kind, combining digital (including MR), face-to-face and chapter events in key cities and venues around the world.
New Hybrid Spaces
After opening the Hybrid Broadcast Studio, Marina Bay Sands built three additional studios, catering to mid- and large-size events.
"In the future, event planners can look forward to more enhancements made to the Hybrid Broadcast Studio, such as a full-fledged extended reality (XR) hybrid events solution that aims to truly redefine meeting experiences," said Ong.
It’s Time to Learn
While Marina Bay Sands continues to invest in infrastructure, facilities and technology, the property is also prioritizing the personal development of team members by providing them with the necessary resources to upskill, Ong noted. "Our team members are the driving force behind the creation of successful events at Marina Bay Sands and only with the relevant skill sets will they be able to seize opportunities of the future."
As Singapore moves enthusiastically to embrace the new world of events, it’s critical that planners and suppliers learn to maximize new technologies. From event producers like us to venues, to the whole ecosystem of suppliers, the entire industry needs to re-skill as well as attract new skills to support the migration.
Hardware is easier to build than people skills. We were fortunate to collaborate with Marina Bay Sands to road test its new technology, and we look forward to continuing to learn and grow as our business moves into an exciting new phase.