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Virtual Idol Excites Fans in Live MIKUPA Concert

MAGES uses Blackmagic Design's UltraStudio 3D capture and playback device and HyperDeck Studio SSD recorder and player

In many ways, Hatsune Miku is a typical teenaged pop star. She is a popular performer in Japan with her own signature style (think long turquoise pigtails) and she sings regularly to large, excited crowds. But unlike other pop stars, Hatsune Miku is actually a computer generated image. She is a vocaloid character created by Crypton Future Media.



Vocaloid software allows a user to type in lyrics and melody which can then be sung by a voice synthesized from recordings of a voiceover actress. Since vocaloid's release, more than 100,000 songs have been created and published by its users. Users can also use Hatsune Miku's artwork if it is not for commercial use, so not only can they create songs, but also illustrations and CGI. (VOCALOID is a registered trademark of Yamaha Corporation.)



What is MIKUPA?

Because of its popularity, many Hatsune Miku live events have taken place since 2009. The sizes of these events vary, as sometimes they are hosted by fans and sometimes by companies. Tokyo based MAGES. Inc. regularly hosts one of the bigger events, the "Hatsune Miku Live Party," also popularly known as "MIKUPA." MAGES started MIKUPA in 2011, and on March 9th, 2013, the official Hatsune Miku day, the first MIKUPA in west Japan drew 5,000 fans.


©SEGA/©Crypton Future Media, INC. 
Organized by MAGES.


At these events, the 3D computer generated character, Miku, performs a concert on stage. It may sound pretty simple, but a huge amount of preparation is required for the event to succeed. To be as realistic as possible, MAGES installed a special acrylic screen onstage onto which they project Miku's image. The screen is transparent, so that the live band behind it can be seen. This way, it looks like Miku is actually on stage with the band, which plays live during the concert along with Miku's voice track for a real live stage experience.

Pursuing Better Quality

For MIKUPA, MAGES uses Blackmagic Design's UltraStudio 3D capture and playback device and HyperDeck Studio SSD recorder and player. Yohsuke Ikuta, System Designer at MAGES, and Ogikuboman, CEO at Ogikuboman Inc., were both involved in the video production aspect of the live concerts and spoke about how they used Blackmagic Design solutions in this live event.


©SEGA/©Crypton Future Media, INC. 
Organized by MAGES.


Ikuta and Ogikuboman's task was to realize what the stage director of MIKUPA wanted to accomplish for the event.

"We mainly finalize the CG image from CG artists to actual video that could be projected on a screen. We also created imagery to show on the LED screen onstage, like falling cherry blossom petals, or some cool effects for when Miku changes her stage outfit. We understood what the director visualized and created actual video files," said Ogikuboman. 

According to Ogikuboman, "the first priority for the technical aspect is outputting a high quality 60P image." At a previous MIKUPA event, they had used a solution that only allowed them to output a 30P image.

"We wanted the best quality video to project on the screen," said Ogikuboman. So we researched solutions to achieve this, and came upon the UltraStudio 3D. Our staff are mostly Apple Mac users, and Blackmagic Design's products work really well with Apple's."

Simple System, Big live Concert

Ikuta installed Blackmagic Design's Media Express software on a Macbook Pro and connected it to an UltraStudio 3D via Thunderbolt to output video and audio. The video was then sent to a switcher via HD-SDI and then to a projector to be displayed on the screen, while the audio was sent to Pro Tools to sync up.


©SEGA/©Crypton Future Media, INC. 
Organized by MAGES.

Four HyperDeck Studios were used for the event and two out of the four were used as backup players. Also, Mini Converters HDMI to SDI were used to input HDMI video to HD-SDI service monitors on stage.
"I was surprised by how simple the system was to do this job. All masters came from the Media Express software!" said Ikuta. "The main feeds were from the UltraStudio 3D, fed by Media Express on a Mac, and the HyperDeck Studio played backup video so that if something unexpected happened, such as computer trouble, we could switch to the backup feed."


©SEGA/©Crypton Future Media, INC. 
Organized by MAGES.

"It's always good if everything is prepared nicely before going to the concert venue to set up, so that we're ready for the show to start," said Ikuta. "However, there were constant changes and fixes right up until the last minute. We knew that we had to change some of the CGI, render it, then bring it to the computer on the setup day. The combination of Media Express and UltraStudio 3D made this very simple and easy. It is part of the reason why we chose this solution as we could just play back the finished data in the computer. HyperDeck Studio also saved us time as all we needed to to do was simply copy the data onto SSDs."

Ogikuboman said the reasons they used Blackmagic Design's solutions for MIKUPA were the compact size, easy to handle nature and cost effectiveness.

He also mentioned that "Blackmagic's support team really helped us. That is another reason I chose Blackmagic solutions. I didn't know how to use HyperDeck Studio at all, and this might not be a common way to use it, but they took good care of us."

Besides MIKUPA projects, Ikuta's team uses ATEM Television Studio and ATEM 1M/E Production Switchers, and the Intensity family of capture and playback devices for live events and streaming.

Ikuta said, "We use so many Mini Converters! Also, we are using UltraStudio Mini Monitor and Recorder with Thunderbolt. They don't need a power supply, are very portable, and are easy to use. It's as simple as just plugging in a cable. I like how easy it is to handle them; just connect them to computer, and you are ready."

Ikuta continued, "If we want install a large scale system, it would be difficult to even borrow the system and test it. Blackmagic Design's solution allows us to build a simple system. I can even hand carry my equipment for rehearsal if I don't need to bring back up equipment!" 

They are now considering creating video for the MIKUPA in high quality 2K or even 4K to pursue even more reality.

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Related Keywords:Blackmagic Design, UltraStudio 3D,HyperDeck Studio SSD recorder, Live Performance

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