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AR visuals create virtual competitors for new comp

Avatars created for Alter Ego, Fox’s first avatar-based, AR singing TV show

Silver Spoon, a leading real-time animation and virtual production studio, has partnered with visual production specialists lulu, to create Fox’s first-ever augmented reality (AR) virtual singing competition, Alter Ego, starring an entire cast of virtual avatars.

Fox’s new singing competition, hosted by Rocsi Diaz, features a combination of advanced performance capture technology and AR tools to allow the performers to drive the movement of their digital avatars on stage, in real-time.

Silver Spoon and lulu designed a workflow that “sets a new benchmark for live virtual production”. Working closely with Fox, Silver Spoon crafted the look of the digital stars, translating initial sketches into fully functional and real-time ready 3D avatars, each with a wardrobe of unique costumes; lulu  handled the real-time AR compositing, virtual lighting and triggering character FX and transitions on stage.

Part of the process included developing innovative special effects such as the ability to cry, blush, and sweat in real-time. To bring these avatars to life, Silver Spoon set up a full motion capture volume on set, matching the size of the physical stage on which the AR avatars would appear. Each performer’s body and face were captured in precise detail and translated, in real-time via lulu’s AR compositing tools, to their digital alter ego performing on stage. The production built 22 avatars and recorded over 65 avatar performances in just a matter of weeks, rather than months.

“The technology and creative process behind Alter Ego are unique and ground-breaking,” explained Laura Herzing, executive producer at Silver Spoon. “From the performance capture and Unreal integration to live compositing and real-time controls, every step builds upon the last. The success of this novel real-time pipeline is a testament to the capabilities of everyone involved. As a result, we expect the concept of virtual avatars and performances to continue growing as an established form of live entertainment.”

Dirk Sanders, director for lulu, added, “lulu was thrilled to work with Fox Alternative Television, Silver Spoon and the entire creative team on Alter Ego to create a new angle on the reality competition genre. The compressed production cycle required new thinking in order to achieve the five+ performances per episode across the mocap and composing workflows. We’re excited to keep pushing the envelope on what’s possible in live broadcast performances powered by technology.”