Tomorrowland’s Around The World digital festival took place this weekend, July 25-26th. In lieu of their real life event, Tomorrowland opted to still bring fans together through an online event. Taking place on an island called Pāpiliōnem, the virtual world showcased various stages that featured different styles of music, mirroring the real Tomorrowland. They even had extra activities such as influential speakers, cocktail recipes and even a library.
To make it all happen, Tomorrowland had to create 4 large green screen studios around the world. Camera wise, there were six 4K cameras used, as well as a number of virtual cameras – meaning up to 38 angles could be used at the mainstage. There were 280,000 virtual people in the crowds, each having their own attributes like flags and lights. To render the entire virtual world, it took ten different render farms working 24/7. They ended up with around 300TBs of raw footage.
One of the most impressive elements of the digital festival was the crowd, the way the avatars react to the drops and certain melodies with a cheer or a hum is very engaging. There were definitely times where you forgot it was all computer generated. For example, Tiësto would tell the crowd to clap their hands and they would, at an indistinguishable level.
The timing of the initial run was not ideal for Asia and the Americas, so thankfully Tomorrowland did two re-runs for these regions. Basically it meant that once the day was done, it would start again, twice. Another great thing was having the local time inside the world and on the schedule, providing for a simple way to organise who you will see and not having to the trouble converting from European time.
However, not everything ran smoothly – many people experienced issues with audio/visual components and bad loading times. With a large number of ‘attendees’, a selection of customers were bound to experience issues. Moving browsers seemed to fix the issue for people however. There were also some bad graphics here and there which didn’t connect well with the real life elements. This is really just nit picking as the virtual environment was very impressive.
The extensive and various camera angles mixed things up and it really felt like the real thing. The avatars were not that amazing close up but that really wasn’t an issue, considering the amount of them. At least once, during an American re-run, people were stuck outside of the world and could not enter, for around an hour – this was obviously not ideal for paying customers. However it was shortly fixed and they should have beeb able to watch what they missed through the next re-run. With this being the first time Tomorrowland have tried something on this scale, there was sure to be issues. it comes with the territory of being the first. If they were to do another festival next week for example, I’m sure they’ve learnt a lot and it would run much smoother.
If they were to do it again, I think it would be better to have the sets on demand instead of re-runs of the entire festival. Running through once would be good, but having the option to watch just one selected set would be better, instead of having clashes on a pre-recorded event. This would allow customers to watch who they want, when they want – of course having certain limitations.
With it being Tomorrowland, it is usually a milestone in the summer circuit for acts, who premiere exclusive music at the event and the online variant was no different. Acts such as David Guetta, Martin Garrix and Armin van Buuren played a range of new material. We’ll likely see clips from the festival online as promotional material for the yet to be released music.
The amount of time and computing power needed to render these videos is unfathomable. No online festival has been produced to this quality yet and any future ticketed event online is surely going to be compared to Tomorrowland’s. I almost feel sorry for other electronic festivals that may take place online after this. If they decide to charge money like Tomorrowland – there will be many comparisons between the two.
Overall, the Tomorrowland experience was next level for a digital edition. There are only a number of brands who could pull this off and Tomorrowland was one of them. The amount of work and time put into this is evident and it’s clear why this could not be free. Hopefully ticket sales meant Tomorrowland profited on this endeavor, with some reporting over a million users were attracted to the event – which if true, would definitely have been well worth it for Tomorrowland.
For those who did not purchase a ticket, you can view snippets of 25 sets in the playlist below.
Tomorrowland provided CULTR access to Around The World, although that did not impact our thoughts in this article.