XR Voices

Virtual Events Are Better in the Netherlands

Today I interview Arjen Kijk in de Vegte of Faber Audiovisuals from the Netherlands. Arjen, Manager of Corporate Solutions, describes, “We wanted the virtual event to feel as close to a live event as possible for both the presenter and the audience.” Their unique solution combines an augmented reality stage, real-time live audiences, and an interactive 360° ‘Event Lobby’ landing page. 

Arjen’s story is an excellent case study on how production teams all over the world have been innovating in response to COVID-19. As designers, it is wise to stay informed on the rapidly evolving needs, uses, and adaptations of the virtual event environment.

Introducing Arjen Kijk in de Vegte

“We are Faber Audiovisuals, an audio/visual technology company. We are part of NEP Live Events, a global group of companies. I’m heading the corporate events department from the Netherlands. We deliver technology and associated services to events, including content support, visualization and, especially the last half year, virtual event support.”

As always, it’s a group effort.

Faber AV is one of several NEP companies that come together to produce a polished virtual event. Arjen explains, “NEP as a group can assist with global connections and studio and broadcast requirements across the globe.” One of the key team members when it comes to virtual events is the creative content company called Univate (also an NEP Company).

Univate is responsible for creating and building the virtual world that surrounds the live presenters. Faber has found that incorporating an LED video wall as a backdrop to the presenter as well as an LED video floor help to create a more believable blend between the live and augmented virtual environments. Arjen and his team use Disguise and Notch to embed live connections, blend in remote presenters, insert a virtual live audience, and more.

Not just another virtual event solution.

With so many virtual event companies around, Faber stands out with a unique offering that I personally have not seen here in the States. They’ve found a way to grab a live virtual Teams or Zoom audience and embed it into the virtual world in real-time. Best of all, Zoom functionality like raising your hand will still work to create a more realistic Q&A session, perhaps as close to real life as we can get in a virtual world. The presenter can even see & respond to the audience in real-time thanks to a large downstage monitor. 

As a set designer, I find this integration of a virtual audience very exciting. How will the ability to incorporate a customized virtual audience change the content, format and or the structure of the environment itself? The possibilities seem endless. 

Designing Augmented Worlds

Faber AV typically takes one of two approaches when proposing set designs for clients, namely turnkey or custom.

Their turnkey solution uses a pre-existing design which can be easily adapted to the client’s unique needs. Arjen explains, “We simply transform one of the template sets into your set, or you can have a design team which we also have in house with the Univate group to help you with a custom design set.”

Univate also creates interactive 360° ‘Event Lobby’ experiences they call Virtual Venue. Visitors can interact with each other by chat functionality, watch videos and download information prior to the show. Arjen shares their streamlined client workflow saying, “We design a world and then come with a pixel map we send over to the agency or client so he can work on his content for us to embed.” The result is an immersive, fully branded portal to the wider virtual event.

The New Normal

I asked Arjen whether he thought virtual events were becoming more desirable than live events. With 25 years in the events industry, he responded saying, “Some events are better live and some are better online, it all depends on the event type.”

Arjen mentioned that networking events and certain types of interaction are still not truly achievable in a virtual environment. The same is true for product launches and entertainment events which are much better suited to live experiences. But Arjen believes, “We are coming into a hybrid world after this.” He predicts many events will come back to the real world slowly, and that we will see a innovative combination of both live and virtual approaches.

XR Voices is an ongoing Interview Series featuring events industry professionals who are using innovative visualization tech.  We aim to share knowledge and entertain any opportunity to evolve the design process.
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