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First human space flight celebrated in AR gala concert

Augmented reality technology from Pixotope deployed at gala concert celebrating the 60th anniversary of Yuri Gagarin's first human space flight

In a week when Amazon figurehead Jeff Bezos announced he was venturing into space with his brother aboard his Blue Origin-made ‘New Shepherd’ space capsule – and with it, potentially ushering in a new era of commercial space travel – the very first human to make the trip, Yuri Gagarin, was being celebrated by his homeland with an augmented reality-powered live concert.

Virtual production specialist Pixotope was enlisted by production company TDS to enhance the visual experience of the event which was held at the Baikonur Cosmodrome launch complex in Kazakhstan and broadcasted live by TV network Russia.

An area the size of four football pitches separated the main performance stage from the space centre’s launch pit from where TV viewers could see a computer-generated beam of light shooting out from the ground and through the metal complex. 

According to the production company, its main challenge was to make the virtual object “look as realistic as possible, whilst also integrating it with a physical asset”, in this case, the structure of the launch pad. This is where Pixotope’s virtual graphics software suite was deployed to help configure all necessary hardware and software and obtain a realistic picture of the beam.

AR-enabled cameras equipped with Mo-Sys technology helped with distance tracking from the point of shooting to the virtual object. According to TDS, the original design concept called for the light beam to be so powerful that more than 60 high-power light projectors would’ve been needed to create it in real life.

Pavel Pupa, TDS’ project manager said, “After this project, it was clear to me that Pixotope® stands true to its philosophy of ‘by creatives for creatives’. Often, I’ve come across software solutions where clearly engineers didn’t take into consideration some of the artists’ key pain points. It feels like they have given thought to every step of the creative process. It’s forward thinking, future-proofed technology, and type of tool enables artists to do their magic easily. In a nutshell, it augments creativity, not just reality.”