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Inside the Royal College of Music’s new simulation lab

A Meyer Sound’s Constellation acoustic system and visuals driven by Unreal Engine combine to create to two fully immersive performance simulation facilities to aid the training of students.


͏​​‌A Meyer Sound Constellation system has been installed in a new Performance Laboratory at London’s Royal College of Music (RCM).

The facility combines acoustic simulation technology with the visual graphics engines that drive the latest video games to create two fully immersive performance simulation facilities to aid the training of students.

The multi-faceted laboratory features two screens that extend from the floor to the ceiling, with dozens of speakers installed in the walls and ceiling.

Meyer Sound’s technology allows users to transform the acoustic to emulate other performance spaces or create new ones. This is paired with the immersive visualisations of performance spaces – driven by Unreal Engine software, and including models of the RCM’s own concert hall and theatre – to provide realistic and reactive audiences or audition panels.

Creating different conditions by changing the receptiveness of the audience, triggering disruptions that can occur during a performance, adjusting the lighting and audience size or setting up an intimidating audition or competition panel allows performers to hone their skills.

Aaron Williamon, head of the RCM’s Centre for Performance Science, says: “The spaces will create unparalleled opportunities for our students to prepare for the challenges of a modern music industry, as well as propelling research in this field across multiple disciplines.”

Similar technology has been installed in a studio in the RCM’s Blomfield building, upgrading the college’s original Performance Simulator. Technologies that can track performers’ physiology and movements will also be used in both spaces to spearhead new research into the act of performance in real-world settings.

George Waddell, the RCM’s performance research and innovation fellow, says: “Since its introduction in 2011, we’ve used the original RCM Performance Simulator to help thousands of RCM students and professionals from organisations such as the Imperial College Business School, Football Association and Google hone their skills of live performance under pressure.

“The new Performance Laboratory will be transformational in the range and realism of situations for which we can help performers adapt and prepare.”

The head of the RCM’s digital and production, Richard Bland, says: “Bringing together this collection of technologies is an indicator of how committed the college is in supporting the next generation of musicians. We are not just embracing, but actively advancing digital technologies for research, learning and performance.

“The Constellation system alone is thrilling as it is the UK’s first publicly accessible performance space treated this way. The opportunities to use multiple technologies in a venue hosting so many concerts during the year puts the college at the forefront as a digital innovator.”

The new facilities – which have been funded by a £1.9m grant from the Arts and Humanities Research Council and World Class Laboratories Fund – were designed and created by the RCM’s Centre for Performance Science and Digital teams.

The RCM will use the Performance Laboratory to advance performance research across not only the arts, but also business, sport, medicine and education.

Photo credits: Phil Rowley

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