Bill: The storyline is not strong, like you say. But I don't want to be critical of that. The question is where do we start. Someone has to take risks at some point in order to discover the new. And I think that is what Zhang Yimou is doing
  • 旺金棋牌 A Talk with Verity Studios — Drones for Shows and Future Possibilities

    发布时间:2019-11-23   分类:斗智斗勇斗地主

    Bill: The storyline is not strong, like you say. But I don't want to be critical of that. The question is where do we start. Someone has to take risks at some point in order to discover the new. And I think that is what Zhang Yimou is doing here. And so we're happy to collaborate to push his message. The more he works like this, the more he will understand the language of this technology. And the message will evolve all the time.

    Alex: Beyond lighting, there should be entertainment drones that can carry more weight. In that way, the costumes or props that can be carried will be more diversified. We are dreaming of drones that can carry things of any shape, which can surely enrich effects on stage.

    Bill: So it's just the very beginning. You have to understand that this is really the very first generation of entertainment drones. What we need is three or five or ten generations of them. The possibilities are endless. It's good to see that it's an exciting space to be in. A lot of work to be done though.

    The ShowPeersThe Future

    Bill: When we started off with Verity we had large drones. Then we realized that safety was a real concern. Large drones, for an actor, a person, audience, will be a problem. That's why we have designed a very small, light drone - the Lucie micro drone. Even if the person put their finger in the propeller, there is not enough force to cut the finger. Our solution is to reduce the threat posed by the drone itself.

    Bill: Well, Intel is doing mainly outdoor shows, with drones navigated on GPS. But our shows are indoors, and our drones are navigated with an in-house navigation system. Intel has experimented with indoor drone shows, but we don't believe that they're fully committed to indoor drone technology. So that's where we stand out. Our system was built from the ground up, for doing shows only. But Intel has, I think, other priorities.

    Bill: Haha, "Small is beautiful", OK, it's true. DJI is in the volume business. There is no question about that. Ours is a specialty business. The way we earn revenues is much different from DJI's. DJI makes small margins on each unit. But because they make some money and we don't make that much money, we are asked to work with smaller numbers that output much larger margins.

    Alex : The magic is coming to life. I think now drones are finding their niche; fireworks aren't allowed in the venues or theatres because of the fire marshal so they replace them with drones.

    Shaanxi storytelling performer and plastic bags carried by drones

    TMTPOST: What will you do next to update your drones for new shows, for instance new features or anything else?

    Alex: From my previous work, I can see that the use of drones in shows always arouses people's amazement. So I guess that's a good thing as well. The visual effects that most people have never seen before, like, I don't think anyone has seen that many plastic bags flying in a controlled environment and I don't think that has ever been done before.

    TMTPOST: Switzerland is kind of a hub for drone makers in Europe. And when it comes to the whole industry, there is a huge rival which is Intel. They also do business in drone-based light and dance shows. So what aspects do you think make you stand out among your peers?

    Bill: Yes. Because they don't know how to create a drone show, so they depend on us. And it's the same thing in the film industry - the director depends on his artists, how his subordinates are able to realize his vision. And so it is only we who have the ability to create expression with drones, and so that part of the show is created by us.

    Bill: No I don't think that's the only way to figure things out.

    TMTPOST: So have you ever pictured in your mind what a prospective drone would be like? Or what drones will be like in, say, 10 or 50 years from now?

    TMTPOST: In China, the drone makers are chasing a huge customer base and lower prices. They just like to have such huge output, and you can easily buy a DJI drone on Taobao using just a few clicks. Plus, in your country, you seem to prefer to make in-house drones with large inputs of time and money. What do you think about this difference?

    Dancers being suffocated by plastic bags carried by drones (Credit: Verity Studios)

    Yes, there is that classic kind of artist who works in his studio all alone, creates his singular art. But this is not the sort of production involved. If you think of, for example, film production, well, film production is not the work of a single artist, there are hundreds of artists involved. From the producer to the photographer, to the costume designer, there are all sorts of artists, and they're working to create this one larger thing. We work a little bit like that. We engaged with Zhang Yimou. He is the director, so he is the creative lead, but we all have our creative elements to contribute to that, in order to accomplish his vision.

    TMTPOST: Your drones are AI-powered. You can program the drones, but you cannot program humans. What if there is an accident on stage?

    Alex: I like 'Apologue'. Things like putting the dancers and singers together live and combining with lots of new technologies. I think the whole concept has never happened in America, in Europe. For me it's very exciting.

    TMTPOST: But these are two different business models and promotional modes. This one is like "Bigger is better" and that one is "Small is beautiful".

    TMTPOST: Having chosen drones as a career, does that mean you are two tech optimists?

    Bill: We are always moving towards greater positioning so we can fly them closer together. Beyond that, what sort of things do we have?

    A scene in this season's 2047 Apologue (Credit: Verity Studios)

    TMTPOST : Do you like '2047 Apologue'? And don't you think it's kind of superficial because there are only visionary effects and no storyline?

    Bill: Well, first of all, we like DJI. (Alex: I have two DJIs because I love photography. They are the best out of the best for recording moments.) The point is the drones are not made to do the same thing. The DJI drone is a consumer product. Ours is a professional, entertainment product. So it's quite a diversification. What DJI's doing with drones is really nothing to do with us except for the fact that they are both drones. They are not in the same market.

    The show itself, Verity's peers in the drone-making world, and the future were the three topics discussed.

    Shaanxi storytelling performer and plastic bags carried by drones (Credit: Verity Studios)

    Being performed at the National Centre for the Performing Arts in Beijing, this year's '2047 Apologue' kicked off with a tree and dozens of flying white plastic bags. A Northern Shaanxi storytelling (an artform that features oral musical narrative) performer sits under the tree singing a traditional song, in a distressing tone. The plastic bags fly around and rotate in the sky, while modern dancers are waving while being suffocating by the bags. The rapidly moving plastic bags elicit a strong sensation of danger, as if they are going to take over and rule the world. And after careful observation, it is astonishing to discover that all things concealed in the dark to achieve this effect were, in fact, drones.

    It is out of people's expectations because for the majority of shows in which drones participate, they are usually easy-to-be-spotted gadgets with small LEDs, the clumsy visionary effect producing machines serve as a foil to the story. The drones in this show, however, are dynamic, with costumes, not merely highly integrated into the story, but actually becoming the central element that sustains it.Dancers and plastic bags carried by drones

    TMTPOST: Verity stated on its official website that its drone show is a kind of art. In a previous interview that we read up on, however, you said that if the creator has his own idea of how to do his show, the only thing you have to do is to cooperate with them. Does that conform with the definition of 'art', which should have a high level of autonomy?

    Bill: One thing we are excited about right now is that using drones as a theatrical device is now taken for granted. People deciding shows now will ask, "What if we have some drones?" But 20 years ago, nobody could say that. We have lights, sounds - how about some drones? No. But now, both Verity and our competitors have done lots of work. It's now considered to be a standard part of a director's considerations.

    Alex: And also when we do the shows we will have a security chat with the performers. And when they hold the drone up, they sometimes laugh because it is so light.

    It's a completely different business model. It's like in Europe, take the drone production situation in Germany as an example - it will be very difficult to compete with DJI because your working conditions are different, salaries are much higher. And so you certainly can make the same product, but they probably cannot be competitive. So the German DJI costs twice as much as the Chinese one. And so what Europe can still have is an extremely high-level of technical expertise. So they go after more specific markets that require high-degree specialization. And so they develop smaller markets for highly specialized products and niche markets. And in those cases, they are able to remain competitive. So I think there is a tendency to do that because you can remain competitive this way.

    He has presented his '2047 Apologue' to audiences now for three seasons, each time featuring short chapters of unique content, with no coherent storyline. The drama production was first launched in 2017 and has been staged annually since. Though the shows are an extravagant display of technology, which includes programmed robotic arms, drones, ultralight dirigibles, lasers and more, that may not be the ultimate expression for technology on the stage, the combination of traditional cultures, modern civilization, humanity and tech ethics is a bold start.

    Alex: We've been working with Zhang Yimou's team for two seasons of 'Apologue'. I think they have always been willing to listen to us, you know, when they ask you what you think. They gave us the idea of what they wanted to create till we came up with a choreography. And then we work together. They were quite open.

    Bill Keays (left) and Alex Tintore Piqué (right) from Verity Studios (Credit: TMTPOST/Dido Pang)

    The team behind the drones, Zurich-based Verity Studios, intrigued us at TMTPOST. Following the conclusion of the show, we conducted a quick interview with the company's Creative Project Manager Bill Keays and Technical Project Manager Alex Tintore Piqué at a cafe. Alex ordered a latte while Bill ordered a coke.

    Bill: Oh, yes, absolutely. Otherwise, we would be in the wrong business. I know that we're not saving the world with a drone, but that we're creating a new visual experience, still, we are creating new forms of inspiration for people.

    Alex: For me the best difference is that what Intel does is more like a one-off event, while they don't hold any permanent-running show anywhere in the world. For us, we have five permanent-running shows plus touring, so it's like we trained their team and they learn how to do it, and they go and do it. Intel have to always bring like 20 people to do the show. OK, they do it and then they go. For us, you know, we come with you, we show you, we train you and then you can go and do it yourself. Our system is so robust that we can hand it over to the client. You need us and you call us, but you could fully run the system on your own.

    Bill: I think one of the most exciting directions is lighting. Lighting directors are now limited by fixed rotations of lights. With drones, lights can be put in that space then move to anywhere they want. And it can create forms of lighting which may currently not exist in the theatre. In the future, we will have more powerful lights on drones, not like the current small LEDs. And we will have more powerful patterns. There is great potential for new forms of stage light.

    Bill: And so it has all the robustness, the operability of any electrical automation system, fully commercial industrial system. Intel does not have that and nor does anyone else.

    Zhang Yimou, the director behind the 2008 Summer Olympics opening ceremony and Golden Bear Award film 'Red Sorghum', now in his sixties, is trying to interpret the meaning of technologies and their impact on humans.A scene in this season

    Alex: We actually have a costume designer in the office whose job is to create costumes, and she spends her days creating different models. We test it in the office and she is constantly creating new ones. We are actually now working on the Christmas season. You know, how to create costumes for the drones used in the Christmas shows, and we've had a lot of fascinating ideas as well, so it's like constantly developing.Bill Keays (left) and Alex Tintore Piqué (right) from Verity Studios




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