Transforming virtual fans into interactive holograms for the BAFTA TV Awards 2021
With COVID rules and social distancing in force at the latest edition of the BAFTA TV Awards in June, the usual frenetic red-carpet experience was not an option. But, thanks to the innovative use of technology, a consortium of companies – including Anna Valley and Bam Bam Productions – provided the chance for selected celebrities and members of the public to interact with BAFTA nominees and stars in a unique way.
To replace the normal red-carpet activities and explore new fan engagement opportunities, event sponsor Virgin Media engaged the services of creative agencies Saatchie & Saatchie and Matter XP. In turn, they involved Bam Bam and Anna Valley to deliver an online interactive hologram technology experience at the entrance to the BAFTAs, which took place at London’s Television Centre on 6 June.
From the start, it was apparent that the use of holographic technology at this event would differ considerably from previous implementations. Until now holograms have tended to revolve around tightly scripted representations of major public figures – for instance, to provide performances of a few classic songs during a concert. For the BAFTAs, it was decided that both members of the public and celebrities would join in remotely and have the opportunity to ask questions live on the red carpet – making it one of the most interactive hologram experiences, anywhere, to date.
Delivering the experience with interactive hologram technology
On the day of the BAFTA TV Awards, members of the public had the chance to register their interest via the Virgin Media website. Each successful fan was offered a choice of digital avatar, onto which their head would be added, with the resulting combination projected onto hologauze to create the final hologram. The hologram was subsequently introduced to their chosen celebrity by presenters Stacey Dooley and Vick Hope and the interviews were then filmed and streamed online on a custom-built platform.
Making sure that the hologram would work effectively in the daylight was an important element of the extensive testing conducted by Anna Valley in the weeks before the event. Brodie Povey, account manager at Anna Valley, recalls that the team “initially created a tunnel with one open end, and under warehouse conditions it would probably have worked well. But in conjunction with the team from Holotronica – which provided the hologauze technology behind the hologram experience – we quickly concluded that natural light was not our friend! As a result, we decided to close both ends of the tunnel, which really brought the experience to life.” With hologauze, as long as there is effective light behind the material and good projection in front at the correct angle, the background and screen are able to ‘disappear’. “With both ends of the tunnel sealed we were able to achieve a really compelling hologram effect,” adds Povey.
Innovate Live was responsible for the online platform and Giggle Studios created the avatars under the careful direction of Bam Bam. All other technical requirements, including the hologauze, Barco 4K projectors, portable production units, audio systems, media servers and all technical crew, were fulfilled by Anna Valley. The audio-visual company built the final structure on site at Television Centre, incorporating a 10-12 foot graphic wall and using stretched vinyl with printed graphics to separate the hologram experience from the extensive control area.
For what was undoubtedly a bold and unusual project, the holographic red-carpet experience was declared to be a success. On the night, stars including actors Shelley King and Richard Blackwood appeared in hologram form, with the latter digitally dressed in a red tuxedo and enhanced with a projected hairstyle. Along with members of the public rendered in virtual form, they had the opportunity to speak with the two hosts and stars including Diversity’s Ashley Banjo and Strictly Come Dancing professional dancer Oti Mabuse.
“The event was very well-received, both by the people who took part and the sponsor,” says Sharon Kersley, Bam Bam’s managing director. “It’s also important to note that there was definitely a dimension to this project of it being a proof of concept. I think it’s given a lot of people a sense of what can be done with this technology and the kind of unique experiences it can help to deliver.”
Kersley also highlighted the pivotal contribution made by Anna Valley, noting that the project underlines one of the company’s key strengths: “If I come up with an idea or something new that hasn’t been done before, they will find a way to make it happen. Interactive hologram technology hadn’t been used in this way before, but it was clear that it could be achieved with some head-scratching and a lot of hard work!” Hence the project marked another successful collaboration between the companies.
Whatever the requirement, the team at Anna Valley will always take it onboard, tell me what can be delivered, and go the extra mile to work out what’s necessary. Once again, they came up with the goods.