Hatsunme Miku: Will The Music Revolution Be Virtualized?
Almost entirely created within the computer, this cast of characters were voiced not by actors or actresses but by Yamaha's VOCALOID
By Mattie Jalonack [01-02-2012]
Possibly the longest line since the Harry Potter finale came out seemed stretch and wrap itself around the sparkling, neoned, street. After what felt like an extended time climbing precarious looking escalators, the audience for Hatsune Miku Live Party 2011 39's LIVE in SAPPORO show were greeted with a spacious I-Max theater. As the lights dimmed and another round of screams erupted, several concert goers produced glow sticks from out of pockets of anime themed print-screened sweat shirts and Tokidoki messenger bags. A gesture that was mirrored by the Japanese crowd onscreen, although their glow sticks were in a Y shape, the shape actually seemed to make it easier to keep in time with the music.
The onscreen Japanese crowd was a sea of bald spots and shaggy (if not fully masculine) hair cuts. The few quick glimpses of the crowd were enough though to confirm that most of the audience members were male and reinforce a 2008 questionnaire showing that males in their 20-30s are significantly more interested and aware of Hatsune. At the New York show and in the US overall, it seems their is a much more mixed demographic for Japanese culture based events and programming. Specifically at this show, the most rabid fans were teens, tweens and twenty-somethings of both genders. Yet in New York, the most visible fans were girls in their teens, with candy colored stripes in their hair. Several cosplayers (costume players) were also in attendance, with aqua wigs, brilliantly homemade costumes and impossibly high shoes.
The band was composed of live humans who seemed pleased to be accompanying Hatsune on stage. They played with a great energy and charm. While receiving less screen time than Hatsune herself, the band was introduced, thanked, and given several close up shots. For the show's uniquiness of a hologram as the lead singer, it seems some things never change, no matter who (or what) the main singer is.
Concerts being recorded and produced for the screen are generally a great feat of technology and coordination, but Hatsune Miku Live in Sapporo! stands out. The lead singer Hatsune and her band of virtual side kicks are from Sega's lab of improbable things; dressed to impress (several costume changes with outfits of stunning complexity and life likeness) but made to move. A ten foot long screen and a slightly shorter elevated screen set the scene for the virtual singers, giving them room for complicated choreography.
Almost entirely created within the computer, this cast of characters were voiced not by actors or actresses but by Yamaha's VOCALOID (join together the words Vocal and Android), a program used by Cryton Future Media to allow musicians of any skill level to fully actualize a song and have a computer generated front (wo)man sing it. The practice is becoming extremely popular, so much so that a record company, KarenT has been created solely for Vocaloid generated singers. While Hatsune's voice is modeled on a well known Japanese voice actress Saki Fujita, her voice is fully virtual. Despite her compatriots less illustrious pedigrees, the characters themselves are well known and liked. Screams of ferocious fan girl joy could be heard in other theaters as the blonde twins known as Rin and Kagamine Len took the stage.
The level of skill displayed by everyone involved with this show was welcomed. Their attention to detail, forethought and planning created an amazing experience, with every aspect conceived to include the audience wherever they were watching the show from. The lighting and stage design for the show were impressive feats of creativity and style as well. While smoke and multicolored lasers are par for the course in pop concerts, rarely must set designers and art directors be concerned with the possibility of the main singer completely disappearing within the fog and lights found on the stage. It must have taken a special level of care to make sure the hologram of Hatsune did not go up in smoke.
Overall there was great integration of all the elements that go into this stellar music experience. The camera work was nearly flawless, the use of precise angels and simple transitions really helped create an immersive experience for the audiences watching the simulcast. The lights in the Times Square theater were timed (rather perfectly) to react with the performance, farther including the concert goers in America with the Japanese audience.
For all of the spectacle and virtual reality that played into the show, the enjoyment of the event, the band, the fans, and the music were very real. At the end of the performance the Japanese audience turned around and interacted with the American audience, bringing people who were a world away together sharing a positive and memorable experience.
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