Katy Perry’s Mixed Reality Performance On American Idol Was A Virtual Showstopper

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American Idol ends its latest season with a virtual bang.

This Sunday marked the conclusion of season 18 of American Idol. The long-running singing competition switched to a virtual format this past April as a direct result of the ongoing COVID-19 lockdowns. For the first time in the shows 18-year history, contestants found themselves performing for judges online as opposed to on-stage.

Despite these significant alterations, the shows producers did their best to recreate the excitement of their live show as best they can. This included a jaw-dropping remote performance by American pop star Katy Perry which featured an impressive variety of vertigo-inducing mixed reality visuals. The performance begins with Perry seated on a real chair surrounded by the instantly-recognizable American Idol branding. During an interview with BBC radio deejay Zoe Ball, Perry reveals that the performance was captured on a massive green screen and enhance with the immersive visuals in post.

“There’s also going to be a performance, my very first big performance of ‘Daisies,’ and I just filmed it the other day on this incredible new technology; it’s augmented reality and virtual reality on a green screen. Someone set it up for me, I went in there, I filmed it, and then I left.”

As the performance progresses, Perry’s 3D environment deconstructs and reorganizes into an inter-dimensional living room. Before you even have time to adjust to the cartoonesque environment, however, Perry is “lifted up” by a virtual platform and into a dark chapel. Eventually, Perry finds herself floating on a digital cloud throughout a sea of flowers before being lowered back into “reality”.

With the exception of a single yellow chair, it appears as though every visual shown during the performance was generated in post. What really sells the performance, however, is the choreography. Throughout the entirety of the performance, Perry reacts and responds to every visual element shown “on-stage”.

When being lifted into the chapel at 1:04, for example, Perry physically reacts to the two red hands towering menacingly above her. When standing at the edge of a ledge, she carefully balances herself as if trying not to fall into the virtual pit below. Objects can also be seen flying past Perry in the foreground; just another benefit of mixed reality technology.

I especially like this little moment at 2:19 where the yellow chair is somehow dragged off set; a small, but surprisingly hilarious detail.

Image Credit: Katy Perry

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