Google Cultural Institute Puts Us All Onstage

With 360-degree videos, fans of the performing arts can feel what it’s like to be in the middle of the Philadelphia Orchestra or the Paris Opera Ballet.

Comments: 27

  1. Well, no. It doesn't put "us all onstage" at all. It allows us to look at pictures from the POV of a camera onstage. As I look at the Carnegie Hall video I'm not onstage. I'm at my desk in my den looking at the photos - or video - on my monitor.

    Oh, don't be so picky you might say. But it's important. Tech industry hype is out of control and is trying to move people deeper into a virtual world that we know has a damaging affect on society. Day after day we see more and more articles on how the distractions of and immersion in technology is causing more harm than good.

    So enjoy this latest little whiz-bang thing. But now, more than ever, it's important to keep things in perspective.

    And don't even get me started on how the Times, the supposed adult in the room, is contributing to the problem by buying into and promoting the Google hype at every turn.

  2. To go further with this, these cameras onstage interfere with the live audiences' ability to enjoy the performance due to cameras everywhere on and around the stage.

  3. WGBH-TV in Boston started broadcasting Boston Symphony Orchestra concerts in the 1950s. These broadcasts were carefully prepared and shifted their focus to different performers as their instruments had prominent parts in the score. Lots of close-ups of the conductor, too. There's nothing innovative or particularly interesting about Google's treatment. You get as much visual excitement from being in the audience. Overhype, indeed.

  4. Though being included in the Google Cultural Initiative, I wonder why the Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires (on the top 3 list of Opera Houses in the world) is not even mentioned in the article. Weird.

  5. In a time long past during Argentina's heyday, the Teatro Colón was indeed one of the top opera houses in the world. But no longer. As for the NYT not mentioning it in the article, its cultural worldview tends to extend as far away as Europe. But it stops there.

  6. Here is my advice whether you want it or not: forget the technology and learn things so that you can actually HAVE the experience. It is really sad to see a whole generation sucked in by technology. They read their mail and send their communications on gadgets, watch their favorite movies on miniature screens (what an insult to film makers) listen to music on other gadgets.
    It is a fabulous experience to actually BE in the middle of an orchestra playing an instrument ( I played bassoon for years in an orchestra), or in a musical group, but it takes work. Can you do it folks? doesn't look like it but you never know. Take up dance of some sort and do it. It too is a wonderful experience. I learned to dance in grammar school--yep, we had dancing once a week in 6th grade. Try the box step. guys, you don't have to be --you know--to learn to dance.
    Your assignment for today is to sit down, take that tablet from under your chair, and write down all the REAL experiences you've had. NOTHING? How sad. Experience is what makes life interesting. Being a cook, a truck driver, a soldier, a sky diver, oh, so many things. A rock hound, a volunteer for an archeological dig? Yeah, it is possible. Forget google---it is just more couch potatoism.

  7. What do you mean, 'you know'? That, my friend, is a micro-aggression. I'm calling you on it. But everything else, I totally agree with. Learn and do. So. Much. Fun!

  8. Yes, I find it boring actually. Anyone can plunk down a camera and capture a 360 degree POV shot from that camera's perspective. But as Hugh Gorden, a reader, commented here, what's interesting has to be shot intentionally and edited together.

    This is the Emperor's New Clothes New Media style.

  9. Oh my goodness, Google's Cultural Institute is overflowing with culture I could weep. One thing that stuck me is what a difference good user interface design makes to feeling immersed in the performances as well exploring the various exhibits of humanity's art heritage.

    Phooey on the wet-blankets, I say the experience was quite immersive for me even if I'm sitting here in my office with a coffee cup and a donut in my hand.

    You're welcome to attempt climbing onto the stage at the next live performance and see how far you can get there before you get booted off. By contrast Google is providing a nice low-risk comfortable experience, hype claims notwithstanding.

  10. Now if only Google and other silicon valley tech companies would take their corporate cultural philanthropy more seriously and actually help put things on stage rather than just look at what is already there in new ways.

  11. There is no substitute for the real thing and I concur with the commenter below that if you want to experience being amid an orchestra, then learn to play an instrument to the exacting standards required of a top notch orchestra. Likewise, if I want to experience a world class museum (or any museum), nothing beats being there, front and center and in communion with the masterpieces. This Google initiative is yet another ploy to keep users glued to their devices (and maybe to increase ad revenue?). And who has the time and focus/concentration to view all this stuff thrown at us?

  12. Well not everyone can be there and not everyone can play in an orchestra. So what's the harm of giving them this experience? No it is not the same thing and nobody thinks it is.

  13. Too bad it's google. I wouldn't cross the street to help google if it begged me. Try going to a dance performance in your community and buying the highest price ticket if you want to "engage" with art.

  14. My my. I am not really surprised at the number of Luddites. Yes, there is nothing like the real thing. Be it a Jimmy Buffet concert, a live theater performance, or seeing Van Gough's works in a traveling exhibit, nothing beats being there.

    But I can't make it to the ballet, or MOMA. I'll gladly settle for what I CAN get - a chance to experience the performance anyway. 50% of something beats 100% of nothing.

  15. Pretty gimmicky don't you think? I do. Buy a ticket; see the performance or watch it filmed conventionally on TV/Youtube/etc. You might actually see/hear what the choreographer/composer intended. If you want to be on stage then work hard.

  16. Reading these comments, you would think the barbarians are at the gate or somehow that Google is trying to 'take over' live performances and such, and please give it a rest. I doubt very much that people viewing Google's cultural site will forgo going to live performances, rather it has the potential to introduce people to art and performances they otherwise might not even think of. For years cultural institutions, especially the performing arts, have bemoaned not having new audiences, that a typical ballet, opera or classical music performance has an audience that is well beyond graying, and that is a fact anyone who goes to live performance will admit to. Given the cost of going to performing arts centers these days, this may be the only introduction some people have, and more importantly. it may get them excited to go to a live performance. Given that millions of people may hit this site, even if the yield is between 1 and 10% that go to live performances, that is something. It is funny, the claim was back in the day that radio and then tv would stop people from going to live performance, but it didn't, plenty of people got their interest from radio or tv to go to actual performances. Like the movie theater opera broadcasts, it can only help. More importantly, I suspect those complaining are over the age of 35 or so, and don't want to understand that this is how you can get younger people exposed.

  17. Wow, Google is great! These sort of immersive videos can transform the way we experience music, dance and art, and thereby make all of it more attractive to see in person. Thanks Google!

  18. I looked forward to trying this out but was severely disappointed. On my laptop, a recent Retina MacBook Pro, the 360-degree views look bizarre and distorted. Navigation within the view does not work.

    Then I cast it to my large-screen TV with surround sound. The music sounds compressed and lifeless. It's certainly not an immersive experience if the 360-degree video does not work and the music does not sound live and real.

    Sorry, Google Cultural Institute is not ready for prime time.

  19. Try it on your mobile device or, better yet, insert your mobile device into a Google Cardboard virtual reality headset (about $20).

  20. Of course there is "no substitute for the real thing," but I don't believe that is what is intended here. The ensemble that I work with, Piffaro, is one of the U.S. partners. We are one of a kind (in this country), but there are only so many cities that we can get to. The 15th-17th century music that we perform on instruments like shawms and dulcians is something that the vast majority of people would never get to see live unless they happen to live in a community with a well-developed early music scene or presenter interested in the genre. Google's Cultural Institute provides my musicians a wonderful opportunity, one we would never have the resources to even think about on our own.

  21. Only New Yorkers, who can take a 25 minute subway ride to Carnegie Hall or to City Center or to PS1 or, well, anywhere, and can, if they're lucky, find a 30 ticket by subscribing to TDF or cadge a decently-priced tick at the TDF booth in Times Square, could drip sarcasm and contempt that people in Iowa, or Tanzania or Sofia, Bulgaria might not be able to see the Berlin Philharmonic, LIVE.

    The horror that Google, an institution apparently more evil than the government of North Korea, might make these immersive experiences available to the hoi polloi who don't live in New York, London, Paris or Berlin or who might not be able to afford a $200 ticket to a LIVE performance of Rigoletto at the Met.

    As some folks have said, New York get over yourself.

    And, guess what, some of the folks who watch a great Italian opera for the first time in their lives on the site might actually become lifelong buyers of tickets to live performances.

    Why would anyone think that this technology is a zero-sum venture? I doubt that very many folks who would otherwise go to a live performance will be dissuaded from buying their tickets because they can get a peep at something new and interesting in their very comfortable beds.

  22. This new technology reminds me of Google Glass: an answer looking for a question. Google has so much money they don't know what to do with it. A wonderful breeding ground for white elephants.

  23. Interesting! Can't wait to see what 360 viewing inspires. Not just recording the arts as they are currently performed, but how it will change the performance: Choreography in the round, but viewed from the inside. Placing musicians for 360 sound. Wish I could participate somehow.

  24. I'm waiting till they come up with an app. that benignly puts me in the arms of either one of my top three female baby boomers who ultimately rejected my romantic overtures during my life! Though they should be warned that there is this Butterfly that has been buzzing around my heart! Till then, I'm saving up my pennies for my next trip to the Met, to see a performance of either the last fifteen minutes of the first act of Boheme, all of Rossini's, Barber of Seville, all of Offenbach's , The Tales of Hoffman, all of Verdi's , Don Carlos, the last act, though with a different ending of Butterfly, and all of Bizet's, Carmen, and all of Mr. Puccin's , Turandot, whatever the ending! That is if the Met is still around, and has not been replaced by a Rap Mecca, or a statue of Adele! Oh, the heartache!!!

  25. I just think this is so wonderful, not just for what it is but for what it presages. VR, 360 degree photography and videography and similar technologies and techniques have the real potential to change our access to the outside world and our perceptions of it. What a beautiful idea, to be able to become intimate with cultural activities and attend museum exhibits from anywhere with an Internet connection, at any time. Instead of flying to an exhibit in another state and filling the sky with carbon, missing it altogether, or just reading about it or seeing a video or some flat photos online, now we can attend, look around, even in some cases walk around. Soon these technologies will allow us to touch the Mona Lisa without disturbing it. The technologies of today promise a world a few short decades from now when digital experiences will be indistinguishable from local, ordinary ones. These examples are baby steps in that direction.

  26. I congratulate Google Cultural Institute on this tremendous effort. The next step is to stream entire performances or tours and allow the art content provider to generate new revenue from pay-per-view. The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra live streamed a free concert in July 2014 with a 360 degree camera, and users from as far away as South Korea and New Zealand were able to control the camera and watch what they chose in real time. And yes, there is a way to live stream audio/visual works and avoid paying additional copyright fees to ASCAP, BMI and SoundExchange.

  27. I see the Luddites and Google haters are out in force on this one. How many people have felt compelled to tell us that this isn't really the same as being there or doing that. No kidding! When I listen to a recording it's not the same as being at a live concert either, but that doesn't diminish the value of the recording. Not everyone has access to museums and concert halls and if these videos can bring them a little closer to that experience it's a good thing. When I was a kid and had no access to museums and concerts I learned about them through other media - books, tv, movies. This is no different. It's pretty selfish to want to deny this to others just because it doesn't happen to interest you.