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1st June, 2023

Guildhall School awarded major research grant to develop new Extended Reality facility

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Guildhall School of Music & Drama is delighted to announce the award of over £900,000 from the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) to develop a new research facility for Extended Reality (XR) Production Arts. The grant is one of the largest research-related funding awards Guildhall School has received to date.

The grant will be used to fund the procurement of two significant pieces of audio-visual hardware as well as IT equipment, together creating a dedicated studio for research into Extended Reality. Through the use of cutting-edge technology, Extended Reality allows for either an entirely virtual world, or an experience in which the physical and virtual worlds are merged.

In Production Arts, Extended Reality offers the opportunity to combine real-world digital clones of performers, objects and spaces that can be supplemented with additional digital elements and effects to help invigorate and humanise digital performance representations. The research into this technology will help create conceptual environments for training performers, whether that be recreating opera houses for metaverse performances, or developing choreography with dance companies so the performance can be viewed from all angles.

The two pieces of audio-visual hardware include the Holosys Volumetric Capture Suite system, which allows for motion capture of people and objects in ‘six degrees of freedom/6DoF’, ready for use in augmented reality and virtual reality production, the Metaverse and location-based experiences; and a customised Stype tracking rig which permits 360° tracking of performers, lighting, media and projection, and spatial audio.

This new infrastructure will help position Guildhall School as a key player in the exploration and development of Extended Reality performance, which is reshaping the performance and entertainment landscape. By creating new avenues of performance and research, Guildhall leads the way in developing this exciting branch of Production Arts. Developing Extended Reality has in part been supported by Guildhall Live Events, a professional branch of the School, which specialises in creating immersive and interactive digital experiences. Together with the Production Arts department, Guildhall Live Events has supported the development of this research and the procurement of the grant.

Professor Andy Lavender, Vice-Principal & Director of Production Arts at Guildhall School, says“We’re delighted that Guildhall has been successful in the Creative Research Capability (CResCa) funding scheme. The addition of leading-edge infrastructure in Extended Reality production builds on the School’s award-winning capability in low-latency connectivity, live streaming, and recent Guildhall Live Events projects exploring virtual reality. With the expansion of electronic and produced music at Guildhall, and the advent of screen drama production, we look forward to building an all-round, interconnected digital production capacity. The CResCa award allows us to explore new processes and possibilities in Extended Reality – a key area of development in today’s entertainment industries that is shaping the future of our artforms.”

The grant of £901,178 is awarded by AHRC and World Class Labs’ (WCL) Creative Research Capability (CResCa) funding call. Forming part of the UK Research and Innovation (UKRI)’s £103 million investment to expand and upgrade the UK’s world class research infrastructure, this award builds on Guildhall School’s outstanding research environment, as recognised in the 2021 Research Excellence Framework.

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