Digital studio Reel FX produced an experimental virtual-reality experience for Umphrey’s McGee spring tour filmed April 20th, 2016 in Houston, TX. The VR music video premiered at the Austin Music Video Festival where it was nominated for best interactive video along with The Weeknd/Eminem, Run the Jewels and Santigold. Mixed in spatial audio, the audience is given unprecedented access to the bands performance of “Puppet String,” from a unique 360-degree fan perspective that is otherwise impossible to experience.
Umphrey’s McGee and Reel FX have been looking for a project to work together on for a number of years. “Over the past 10 years of seeing UM live, I’m always absorbed into their musicianship and watch each concert like a musical virtuoso tennis match,” says Pete Herzog Executive Producer/Creative Director of Reel FX who directed the VR concert experience in collaboration with the Reel FX VR directing team. “With VR, I wanted to transport the viewer into the close-ups of every musical note, shred, drum roll, and pure power that this band puts forth every show.”
“VR is changing the way we tell stories and deepening the entertainment experience across the board. We’ve been experimenting with VR lately and jumped at the chance to work with the forward thinking Reel FX,” says Umphrey’s Manager Kevin Browning. “VR is the wild west right now and without any preconceived ideas about what it’s ‘supposed to be’, the goal was to create an opportunity for fans to peel back the onion and explore a classic UM song in a whole new way.”
Using six GoPro 360 camera rigs – three on stage, one balcony, one front of house and one crowd – Reel FX was able to capture the band from different perspectives. Reel FX also wanted to highlight extreme close-up footage shot by TourGigs, also based out of Texas. “I’m a huge fan of TourGigs and sometimes find myself watching the show through their front row cameraman, C.J. Strehlow’s lens. I wanted to add some of that intimacy he captures since their songs are just as personal.” adds Herzog. After putting on your VR head mounted display, Reel FX paid additional respects to the time sensitivity of a 12-minute song with an extended improvisation in the middle. “We wanted viewers to take a musical journey through the song so when the band cuts loose and starts to improv, I let our creative team do the same with the footage to break up the visual experience and keep it building.”
You can view the video on Samsung VR using Gear VR, or Oculus Rift and HTC Vive using Virtual Desktop. Viewers using Chrome or the YouTube 360-degree app can look around as well, or strap on a VR headset like Google Cardboard with headphones to enhance the essence of their aggressive progressive musical prowess.