(January 31, 2022) – Heavenue, an entertainment-focused platform delivering high-fidelity, immersive live shows from the cloud, has opened in New York. Founded by Alex Coulombe, CEO, the early development platform has already been used by the prestigious Actors Theatre of Louisville in Kentucky for its first show, a virtualized rendition of Dickens’s classic, “A Christmas Carol” in the first hybrid live stage and virtual theater performance of its kind.
Heavenue allows audiences to get up close and virtual with their favorite performers, live, from anywhere in the world. “Now, with the advent of technologies including NVIDIA CloudXR, remote rendering, MetaHumans, and Unreal Engine, we can build a platform like Heavenue that democratizes live performance across the metaverse,” says Alex Coulombe, who, for the past five years, has also run the award-winning creative studio, Agile Lens: Immersive Design. “Coming from the live events industry, I see firsthand the pain that artists and performers are going through during the pandemic.” He continues: “With Heavenue, we provide performers additional tools to diversify their revenue streams and engage with worldwide audiences. We believe performing live in virtual environments should be intuitive and utilize craft developed in the real world — we don’t want anyone to feel like they require knowledge of 3D software or hardware.”
While building Heavenue’s toolkit and delivery platform, the company has partnered with a number of technology providers and services with the goal of making a tech-agnostic solution that meets a wide range of live performance needs. Cloud computing, for instance, is key to ensuring that audience members receive the optimal experience from any Internet-connected device, from legacy computers to smartphones to standalone virtual reality headsets. Now integrated into Heavenue software, NVIDIA CloudXR is streaming XR technology that delivers VR and AR across 5G and Wi-Fi networks.
Heavenue scales to enable performers at all budget and technology levels to take advantage of the platform. They are designed to serve a wide spectrum of creators, from theater students with a simple camera setup, to vTubers using prosumer motion capture, to established artists and studios seeking to host the event of the year.
Heavenue’s first production was “A Christmas Carol: Scrooge’s Ghost Encounter,” an exploratory collaboration with the Actors Theatre of Louisville. Greg Maupin (Our Town) starred as Ebenezer Scrooge in the iteration of the show that took place at the Bingham Theatre. Immersive actor Ari Tarr (Adventure Lab, OnBoardXR) starred as the virtual Scrooge in a simultaneous iteration that broadcasted his performance from his home in Oregon. Both iterations of the show mixed classical theatrical stagecraft and new media by using motion capture to immerse audiences in the ghostly world of Scrooge’s haunted, imaginative inner journey.
Rob Lester, a creative technologist who worked on the production, notes: “One of the really fascinating aspects of working with the Actors Theatre on this production and, specifically, using Heavenue as a platform has been to see how creative, theater-minded individuals who are not deep in technology have quickly been able to get their performers and performances inside a virtual space. I think that speaks to the level of accessibility that this platform enables. Heavenue is a quick way for anybody who’s creative and has a story to tell to get that out into the metaverse.”
“It’s a new way to make people sit in a room together and experience something,” says Maupin.
“As [this technology] is advancing, it’s gotten more and more sophisticated, more and more impactful, in a subjective way, in moving the audience.” adds the theatre’s Executive Artistic Director, Robert Barry Fleming. “The cross-disciplinary conversational insights and discoveries between the mixed reality story world and the entirely virtual landscape have been illuminating and thrilling. The fact that the investigation will culminate with both in-real-life and virtual reality lab productions is the icing on the cake.”
Most live virtual shows outside of Zoom are either expensive, custom, one-off experiences like the pre-recorded concerts in Fortnite or small-scale, low-fidelity productions taking place inside of social VR platforms like VRChat, Mozilla Hubs, or Altspace.
“There has never been a tool like Heavenue before,” Coulombe concludes. “We’re simplifying a workflow that, in the past, cost tens of thousands, even millions of dollars for one-off productions. We’re giving people tools so that anyone, regardless of budget, can put on an incredibly compelling show.”
To view a teaser of Scrooge’s Ghost Encounter, visit https://vimeo.com/662158278.