The secrets behind Tomorrowland’s game-changing live stream

Over 200 staff worked around the clock to pull off this remarkable spectacle

Virtual festivals and live streams have certainly been this year’s hot topic for the music scene. With all these digital alternatives to raves crowding social media at once, it can be hard for any of them to cut through the noise. However, one party starter that has unsurprisingly managed to stay ahead of the competition, is the world’s biggest electronic music festival: Tomorrowland.

Following the cancellation of their annual festival; an event which runs over two separate weekends and sees around half a million visitors, the brilliant minds behind Tomorrowland wasted no time developing the next best thing they could offer; Tomorrowland Around the World. An epic virtual spectacle comprising of eight digitally designed stages, filmed in four huge recording studios with 60 top drawer international artists.

Virtual streams became the main source of electronic music performances this year, with thousands of DJs, promoters and brands all opting to take their parties online. However, recreating an event like Tomorrowland is no easy task. The 60 artists featured filmed new and exclusive sets on 6x8x8 metre green screens at four different studio locations including São Paulo, Los Angeles, Sydney and the festival’s spiritual home of Boom in Belgium.

Pulling this off required a huge amount of planning, preparation and probably some pretty good luck. Alongside the countless meetings which took place, a series of talks and panels were also carried out with stars such as will.i.am, and NBA legend Shaquille O’Neill giving their thoughts. The outcome lead to Tomorrowland collaborating with various creative agencies and specialist crews to design a virtual 3D world from scratch called Pāpiliōnem. This interactive stage like no other was the product of 200 staff working non-stop for days on end. So how did they pull it off?

Firstly, the studios which acted as the physical home of Pāpiliōnem went through a complete overhaul to make them primed and ready for augmented reality production. Elements of this setup would then change periodically to ensure things such as the lighting on the artist’s face and location matched the time of day during the broadcast (it’s those small details which make a big difference).

Eric Prydz’s CELL stage

The next phase after filming was turning the many hours of 4k footage into a virtual world reminiscent Tomorrowland’s iconic utopian theme. This multi-faceted process required input from a range of different companies who specialise in these particular fields. Cutting edge technology firm StYpe oversaw the virtual effects and digital camera tracking, whilst the widely known platform Unreal Engine (used in games such as Minecraft and Fornite) enabled Tomorrowland to create “festival-like” features, such as a 3D landscapes and an interactive crowd.

All this, alongside many other complex and strenuous tasks were carried out before finally adding the finishing touches of fireworks, FX and crowd noise (courtesy of Tomorrowland staff), to emulate the real-life feel of being stood right in the thick of a festival atmosphere.

“Each stage has a 16-square-kilometre surface with 32,000 trees and plants. The landscapes for each stage have been custom-made to resemble elements of the festival grounds: the Core stage is situated in a forest environment, while the Mainstage has the natural amphitheatre landscape. The digital universe of Tomorrowland Around the World has 10 times more polygons compared to a modern computer game, pushing the limits of the most modern game engines and hardware.” 


The final hurdle after turning 300TB (or 329,853,597,770,307 bytes) of this digital footage into a party paradise, was ensuring users around the world could experience it in full effect. Tomorrowland enlisted DogStudio who also played a key role in the process as a whole, to support with ensuring viewers could tune in and navigate this virtual world no matter what browser or device they were using.

Tomorrowland claim over 1 million people tuned in across the weekend of July 25th-26th. After the success of the virtual show which married the leading lights in film, gaming and events, they’ve confirmed that this year’s digital milestone will not be a one off, and that they intend to see Pāpiliōnem return alongside the real-life festival madness in Belgium.

Need to get your digital festival fix sooner than next year? Thankfully Tomorrowland are throwing a special NYE show with the likes of Camelphat, Charlotte De Witte, ARTBAT, and Maceo Plex. Find out more here.

Check out the Tomorrowland Around The World after-movie below.

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