Music series

How Japanese artist Miyavi’s Amazon music series merges global creativity with technology

With eight successful world tours totaling more than 250 shows in more than 30 countries behind him, the Japanese singer, songwriter and record producer Miyavi (Takamasa Ishihara) understands the unique power of live and in-person musical performances. Known among fans as the “Samurai Guitarist,” the Los Angeles-based international artist is known for his unconventional guitar playing technique which has built his popularity and caught the attention of brands like Toshiba and Nissan for the production. commercial music on television.

Now Miyavi is redefining the virtual performance that has become mainstream during the coronavirus pandemic. His most recent collaboration with Amazon Music

last week saw an exclusive free performance, “Miyavi Virtual Level 5.0: Synthesis,” on the Amazon Music app. Originally premiered last year on Amazon Music’s Twitch, the archived performance has been re-released as a series of eight music videos, or songs, available to stream on Amazon Music as Singular Performances or Singular Performances. ‘a playlist similar to a live visual album.

As Miyavi evolves the way revolutionary technology and music merge, its series of live shows with Amazon Music sets a new standard for live musical performance, in which innovative creativity and international collaboration thrive.

“This year, the unprecedented spread of disease has transformed the global economy we were comfortable in… as a result, it has become a year for musicians to reconsider the message we convey in our music”, Miyavi said.

“Miyavi Virtual Level 5.0: Synthesis” was created using Unreal Engine, a real-time 3D game engine developed by Epic Games and used for Fortnite and The Mandalorian. Miyavi performed in a green screen studio with cameras, lighting and virtual sets reflecting the performance and tracked in real time by a Reality Engine tool. So when a camera moved on the set, it also moved in the virtual world.

The producers also collected electroencephalography (EEG), or brain electrical activity, data from Miyavi and incorporated it into visual performance. Since all the sets and effects such as explosions and fires were virtual, there was no physical waste from building the sets.

The entire production was produced by an international team in quarantine with nearly all of the crew working in tandem from their respective homes in the United States, Italy and Japan. From his home in Tokyo, Miyavi was able to achieve the same type of visual experience as he would in person.

Miyavi and his team produced live virtual performances using a variety of technologies including VR and XR / AR. Similar to how listening devices have evolved over time, the artist believes it is crucial to evolve live performance using new technologies to meet consumer demands.

“Will virtual performances one day replace live shows? Not quite, but this pandemic has forced us to explore new mediums and accelerate innovation in live music delivery, ”said Miyavi.

Taking precautions in the event of a pandemic, Miyavi halted filming of a live music video and instead turned to using volumetric capture technology for her track “Need for Speed.” He filmed his performance in a Tokyo studio with the creative team directing remotely from their homes in New York, Los Angeles and South America with post-production completed in Unreal Engine.

Miyavi loved using Unreal Engine so much that he chose it again to produce his “Synthesis” show that airs live on Twitch. However, while the audience sees an engaging virtual world, the performers only see a green screen during the performance and face the challenge of imagining performing in front of a live audience in a virtual environment.

“My job as a musician is to rock, but it’s the platform’s responsibility to bring my energy to the audience through the delivery of the performance,” Miyavi adds. “I want to be at the forefront of this, to keep aiming higher to deliver my performances in a new way that no one has done before.”

With no flights or equipment transport required to complete “Miyavi Virtual Level 5.0: Synthesis,” the team was also inspired to redefine live production around a sustainability mindset. The show gave Miyavi the opportunity to speak out on current social issues around the world. As an actor (Uninterrupted, Kong: Skull Island and Bleach) and philanthropist, he regularly uses his music and messages as a platform to bring cultures around the world closer together.

“Climate change, refugee issues, hunger, poverty, inequality and the pandemic… how do we deal with the global issues we face, how can we commit to the future of the planet at through music and art? There might be a limit to what we can do, but we can find a new way of life by merging with technology, ”says Miyavi.

The technical head of production for Miyavi’s Amazon show is David Cihelna, co-founder of R&D studio Pyramid Three and production company with artist and filmmaker Dyan Jong (director and renowned gif artist for Billie Eilish, Miyavi and Kali Uchis among others). Jong was co-director and co-creative director of Miyavi’s Amazon show with Annie Stoll, senior art director at Columbia Records.

“Artists are pushing each other to find new limits for technology. It opens so many doors for how artists can interact with fans and how audiences can feel closer to an artist, ”Cihelna said. “We are only seeing the beginning of these types of experiences.”