What is performance capture, the tool behind Abba’s reformation?

Abba will return to the front of the stage in a rather new form. The star group of the 70s will begin a concert tour where hyperrealistic virtual avatars will take the place of the members of the group.

40 years after separating, the legendary group Abba will reform for the release of a new album and a series of concerts. The group behind Dancing Queen and Mamma mia announced his return on September 2, 2021 through a press conference broadcast live on YouTube. But the band members will not come in the flesh for their concerts, Abba’s tour will use avatars created thanks to the performance capture.

The group remains very mysterious about the course of these concerts which will take place ” between the virtual and the real »According to Ludvig Andersson, executive producer of this new tour. The opening event will take place in a concert hall in London built for the event, but on stage it will be virtual characters (obviously nicknamed “Abbatars”) who will perform the greatest titles of the group. To achieve this technical feat, Abba called on Industrial Light & Magic (ILM), a special effects company that has worked on most of the Stars wars and on the series The Mandalorian.

Behind Abba’s reformation, the magic of performance captures

For 5 weeks, the members of Abba donned dedicated motion capture outfits and were filmed by 160 cameras as they performed the titles of their upcoming concerts. ” We recreated the Abba of the great era in the form of virtual characters. We then used performance capture technologies to animate them and make them look very real. ”Explained Ben Morris, ILM’s Creative Manager.

The members of Abba virtually “recording” their concert. // Source: Abba – Youtube

The performance capture (game capture) is a technological evolution of the motion capture (motion capture) which allows not only to virtually transcribe body gestures, but also facial expressions or finger movements. All of this simultaneously. Thus, the 3D avatar of a person can more faithfully reproduce all the facial expressions and emotions of the actor or actress who interprets it. It is this technology that was used in particular to animate Gollum in the series of films. The Hobbit or the character of Caesar in the new trilogy of The Planet of the Apes. Video games like Detroit: Become Humans this tool is also used.

A virtual Abba from the 70s

The basic operation of game capture is pretty straightforward on paper. An actor or actress dons a jumpsuit with lots of microsensors whose position will be analyzed every second by a plethora of cameras. This makes it possible to analyze and understand the movement of people in their environments. At the same time, a dedicated camera will capture facial movements, thanks to another series of sensors placed directly on the face of the actor or actress. All this data is then integrated into a 3D creation software which will transpose the real movements on a virtual avatar.

In the case of Abba’s virtual tour, it’s not just about recreating the way the band moves and sings, though. The band will also “appear” on stage as they were in the 70s. The avatars have been molded to look as closely as possible to each member of the band as they were 40 years ago. A sort of virtual makeover created through the analysis of old period photos. The result looks like it came straight out of a video game, but the resemblance to the 1979 Abba is quite striking.

Part of Abba in the form of virtual avatars. // Source: Abba – Youtube

The combination of performance capture and these hyperrealistic avatars allowed, according to Ludvig Andersson, to recreate ” every little mania, every emotion, the soul of all members “. ” What you will see when you come to the concert will really be us Added Benny Andersson, Abba’s composer.

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