©SEGA/©Crypton Future Media, INC. www.piapro.net Graphics by SEGA/MARZA ANIMATION PLANET INC. Organized by MAGES.
Hatsune Miku is the name of a vocaloid software and its character, which has been created by Crypton Future Media. Vocaloid software allows the user to type in lyrics and melody which will be sung by a voice synthesised from recordings of a voice over actress. Since its release, more than 100,000 songs has been created and published by its users. Users can use the artwork of Hatsune Miku if it is not for commercial use, so the users create not only songs but also illustrations and CG.
What is MIKUPA?
Through its popularity, many Hatsune Miku live events have taken place since 2009. The size of those events vary; sometimes hosted by fans and sometimes by companies. One of the bigger of these events is held by Tokyo based MAGES. Inc., the “Hatsune Miku Live Party,” also popularly known as “MIKUPA♪” MAGES. started MIKUPA in 2011, and in 2013, they had the first MIKUPA in west Japan and drew 5000 fans on March 9th, which is the official Hatsune Miku day.
At these events, the 3D CG character, Miku, sings on stage. It sounds pretty simple, but to make it succeed for this event, a huge amount of preparation is required. To be as realistic as possible, MAGES. installed a special acrylic screen on stage onto which they project Miku’s image. The screen is transparent, so that the backing band can be seen. This way, it looks like Miku is actually on stage with the band. The band plays live during the concert along with Miku’s voice track for a real live stage experience.
Pursuing Better Quality
Blackmagic Design’s UltraStudio 3D capture and playback device and HyperDeck Studio SSD recorder and player were used for MIKUPA. Yohsuke Ikuta at MAGES. and Ogikuboman at Ogikuboman Inc., who were involved in the video production aspect of the live concerts, spoke about how they used Blackmagic Design solutions in this live event.
Ikuta and Ogikuboman’s task is to realize what a stage director of MIKUPA wanted to do for the event. “We mainly finalize the CG image from CG artists to actual video to be projected on a screen. Also, we create some images to show on the LED screen on a stage. For example, pouring cherry blossoms petals on stage, or making some cool effects for when Miku changes her stage outfit, we understand what the director visualized and create actual videos and make them into files,” said Ogikuboman.
Ogikuboman said “the first priority for the technical aspect is outputting a high quality 60P image.” They had used a solution which only allowed them to output a 30P image in previous MIKUPA event. “We wanted the best quality video to project on the screen. 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
Blackmagic Design’s Media Express software installed on a Macbook Pro were connected to an UltraStudio 3D via Thunderbolt, and output video and audio. Then, the video was sent to a switcher via HD-SDI and audio was sent to Pro tools to sync up. Then through other equipment, the video was sent to a projector to be displayed on the screen.
“I was surprised to see how simple the system was to do this job. All masters came from the Media Express software!” said Ikuta. Four HyperDeck Studio were used for the event and two out of the four were used as backup players; “The main feeds were from the UltraStudio 3D, fed by Media Express on a Mac, and backup video was played from HyperDeck Studio so that when something unexpected happens, such as if computer trouble occurs, we can switch to the backup feed.” Also, Mini Converters HDMI to SDI were used to input HDMI video to HD-SDI service monitors on stage.
“It’s 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. However, there were constant changes and fixes right up until the last minute. We knew that we had to change some CG, render it, then bring it to the computer on the set up day. The combination of Media Express and UltraStudio 3D were 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 let us save time as all we needed to to do was simply copy the data onto SSDs.” Ikuta explained.
Ogikuboman said the compact size, easy to handle nature and cost effectiveness of Blackmagic Design’s solution as the reasons to use it for MIKUPA. 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 HyperDeck, 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 and 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.