Philharmonia Orchestra’s new immersive 3D audio VR experiences put you inside the Orchestra

[The latest presence-evoking experiences from Philharmonia Orchestra take you on-stage during performances of works by Beethoven and Mahler. The abridged press release below via The Corner Shop PR provides the details. Find a news report on this topic in The Times (requires subscription). Luke Ritchie, Head of Innovation and Partnerships for the Orchestra, describes the development of the VR projects and the potential and challenges the format represents in a 2017 story in ArtsProfessional. A first person report on the earlier “Virtual Orchestra” experience is available from ClassicFM. The Philharmonia website indicates that all of the showings this month at the Southbank Centre in London are sold out, but the site features links to the VR films and an iPad app. –Matthew]

[Image: Source: FAD Magazine]

The Philharmonia Orchestra Brings Free Virtual Reality Experience To The Southbank Centre This September

  • Two New Immersive Virtual Reality Experiences, Presented In A Specially Created Space For Audiences Will Replicate The Full 3d Audio Model Of The Orchestra
  • VR Sound Stage Runs At The Royal Festival Hall Between 27 – 30 September

PRESS RELEASE – Thursday 30 August 2018

A new digital partnership between the Philharmonia Orchestra and Southbank Centre is set to open on 27 September with two immersive, surround-sound Virtual Reality (VR) experiences presented in a custom-built sound studio in the Royal Festival Hall foyer at Southbank Centre. It will run between 27 – 30 September alongside the first two concerts of the Philharmonia’s new season, with tickets available to book from 4 September.

VR Sound Stage, the latest of the Orchestra’s pioneering virtual reality projects, and the most high-tech experience to date, invites audiences to take a seat inside the VR Sound Stage, put on a VR headset, and experience Beethoven and Mahler’s music in ground-shaking detail. Inside a seven-metre custom built space, audiences of up to six at a time will begin ‘seated’ in the heart of the Orchestra, right in front of conductor Esa-Pekka Salonen (the Philharmonia’s Principal Conductor & Artistic Advisor), and take a journey all the way to outer space whilst the Orchestra’s full-bodied sound will be replicated by the circular 18-speaker array.

The first film – Beethoven’s Fifth – won a Raindance Film Festival Award for Best VR Music Experience in 2017. Commissioned by Google Daydream in partnership with NASA, it commemorates the launch of the Voyager 1 spacecraft in 1977 which became the first human-made object to leave the solar system and is still travelling today. Mounted to the spacecraft is a gold-plated phonograph record, featuring images, recorded greetings, and the Philharmonia Orchestra playing the first movement of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony. The film which cuts together scenes from interstellar space along with footage of Salonen, is directed by leading VR filmmaker Jessica Brillhart.

Mahler’s Third, a UK premiere, captures the final ten minutes of Mahler’s epic Third Symphony, conducted by Esa-Pekka Salonen in front of a live audience at the Royal Festival Hall on 1 October 2017.

Luke Ritchie, Head of Innovation and Partnerships at the Philharmonia Orchestra, said: “The VR Sound Stage represents the next exciting step in the Philharmonia’s journey with Virtual Reality. These new experiences, presented in the UK for the first time, bring audio to the fore in a powerfully fresh format. Audiences can see and hear the Philharmonia and Esa-Pekka Salonen in a completely new way.”

The Philharmonia Orchestra has been at the forefront of technology, since its inception in 1945 to capitalise on the then revolutionary development of recorded music. The Orchestra continues to remain a pioneer by creating cutting-edge digital projects to nurture interest in orchestral music and build new audiences. Their large-scale digital productions RE-RITE and Universe of Sound have been putting people at the heart of a symphony orchestra for years and VR is the next step in this concept. The Orchestra began experimenting with it in early 2015, and has now worked on three public VR projects to date – The Virtual Orchestra (2016), Beethoven’s Fifth (2017) and Mahler’s Third (2018). The Orchestra’s in-house Digital team have also worked with some leading technology firms to develop their VR projects, including Sony and Google, with whom they are now formal partners.

The VR Sound Stage – Audio Design

The design and configuration of the 18-speaker ambisonic array was led by Mixed Immersion, ambisonic audio specialists and Audio FX company, based in London:

This speaker system is at the core of the VR Sound Stage, coupled with a bespoke software system created by the Philharmonia Orchestra, which allows multiple VR headsets to play in sync to the ambisonic audio playing through the large speaker array.

London showcase – Igloo Vision projection system

During the showcase at the Royal Festival Hall in London between 27 – 30 September 2018, the speaker array will be concealed inside a beautiful 8K projection cylinder, created by British company Igloo Vision (, who are world leaders at shared VR experiences.

Igloo Vision worked as a partner with the Philharmonia during the premiere of Beethoven’s Fifth at SXSW in March 2018. This projection cylinder will itself be hidden within a soundproof 7m x 7m ‘black box’.


Southbank Centre are a key long-term partner for the Philharmonia Orchestra, who are one of the Centre’s resident orchestras. This will be the third year in a row that a Philharmonia VR film will be presented alongside the start of the Classical season.

Google have been a key partner for the Philharmonia during the creation of their last two films. Beethoven’s Fifth was commissioned and produced by Daydream, directed by Jessica Brillhart, who was Principal VR Filmmaker for Google at the time.

Mahler’s Third was only made possible through several partnerships. Google Arts & Culture, with whom the Philharmonia Orchestra is now a partner. This allowed the Orchestra to use a Google Jump Odyssey VR camera to film the performance in October 2017.

Post-production and stitching for Mahler’s Third was provided by Satore Studios (, a leading creative VR company based in London.

For further information please contact The Corner Shop PR on 020 7831 7657 or email Maisie Lawrence


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