When you think of VTuber concerts, you often think it’s being hosted either by Hololive or Nijisanji set in Japan; or how about when VTubers get invited internationally at big events such as those sponsored by large organizations.
You would not think that a new or existing agency in the West, particularly in the United States, will be able to pull this off. This is especially considering the fact that while the technology is certainly available, costs to maintain it are high.
That is until we have heard of NexStage Project.
The US-based multimedia project has announced that its debut VTuber group called “CodeX”, will be having its debut via a live 3D concert as well as a variety show on March 5 this year. CodeX is composed of talents Plumarielle, Zhuni Excel, Jax Riot, Ayla Yew, and Blair Labri. The concert will feature an original theme composed by popular music producer Circus-P.
NewsDrop has caught up with Jake Mandel Popovics, one of the executive producers for NexStage Project, to learn more the process of making this 3D concert possible, from the concept and execution.
Conceptualizing The VTuber Concert
NewsDrop: How long did the preparations take to conceptualize this concert project?
Jake: The concert was the very first idea that spawned the whole project. NexStage started formal operations in March 2022, but preplanning started back around November 2021. I spent the first 3 months calling different motion capture studios and technology providers to try and find out if it was even possible for us to pull off a live 3D concert.
After connecting with Motion Workshop as the provider of our motion capture hardware, we've been working on the tech side of the concert non-stop. Since we're in Unreal Engine, we really wanted to take advantage of its ability to render beautifully lit characters, while maintaining an illustrative anime style. Even before casting for CodeX began, we were working on the visuals for the concert.
The first video we uploaded was an early demo of our character rendering style. We've continued to iterate on both the rendering of our characters and environments, as well as the motion capture that will bring CodeX to life, over the past 8 months and we're really excited to show how far it's come.
Understanding the Hurdles Before the Concert
NewsDrop: Being a newly heard VTuber project, what particular hurdles have you faced in conceptualizing the concert?
Jake: It might be quicker to name hurdles we haven't faced. I think the average VTuber fan might not realize just how difficult and complicated putting together a live 3D concert is.
You rarely ever see 3D concerts outside of Japan, and when you do it's generally from a top streamer or huge, multinational agency, and there's a good reason for this. Realtime motion capture is still a very new and complex technology, which means it's highly prone to error and not many people know how to do it.
During the pre-planning phase I talked about above, I called pretty much every freelance motion capture studio in the US, and out of all of them, only 3 studios could handle simultaneous live capture of 5 characters. These are studios that work with AAA games, film, and TV, to give an indication of how hard it is to do motion capture like we are.
Probably the biggest hurdle has been doing the show live. Like I said, realtime motion capture is young, and prone to failure. Most VTuber concerts have moved to recording their motion capture, cleaning it up, and editing a nice prerendered concert they can stream. I think a huge part of the appeal of streaming is that it's an interactive medium. That's what really makes a livestream a unique experience.
Because of this the goal from the very beginning was to put on a truly live concert where the performers can see and respond to the chat. This is also why after the concert, the second half of the stream will be a chat-driven variety show. I think being able to put on a show like this is worth all the challenges that it's created for us.
What Makes NexStage Unique
NewsDrop: From your perspective, what separates NexStage Project from the rest of those who claim to have multimedia production?
Jake: I'd say the biggest thing that sets us apart from others who claim to have multimedia production is that we have 5 professional grade motion capture suits, a 3D pipeline, and the technological expertise that allows us to quickly turnaround 3D animated content. For us, livestreams and music are just the first step.
As we grow, we want to stick our hands into as many mediums as we can. On top of 3D animated content, we're also currently working with an indie animator to produce a short anime teaser for CodeX's debut. We hope to branch out into gaming, comics, and more animation ventures in the future.
On Setting the Precedent for VTuber Concerts, Future Plans
NewsDrop: With the upcoming 3D concert, what do you envision for NexStage Project as setting precedent in the US VTubing space?
Jake: We want to set the bar for how big you can go with a VTuber debut. As far as I'm aware, CodeX is the first group to have a near-simultaneous 2D and 3D debut, as well as the first to debut with a motion captured concert. I haven't seen anyone else debut at the same scale that we are.
We have five 3D character models rigged for mocap in Unreal Engine, a gorgeous stage, 9 songs including CodeX's original song produced by acclaimed vocal synth producer CircusP, a short independently produced anime, and a couple more surprises.
We want to throw everything including the kitchen sink into this debut, and then keep up the pace and continue putting out top notch content for fans to enjoy. We want to not only grow CodeX as VTubers, but also NexStage as a multimedia project.
NewsDrop: Aside from the live 3D concert, what are future plans for NexStage Project in terms of creating entertainment content?
Jake: I've already covered a lot of this in my earlier answers, but I'll sum it all up here. First, we have 5 incredible talents in CodeX who will be streaming and creating their own awesome content with our support. You can expect to see singing, music, art, dancing, and more from them. I'd like to especially call out dancing, which is content that we can uniquely create due to our highly scalable motion capture studio.
CodeX will be debuting with a total of 9 songs, including 2 originals, with plans for more already in the works. Post debut concert, we'll be releasing 3D animated shorts featuring the various misadventures of CodeX. We're producing a short 2D anime PV, which we'll be releasing shortly before the concert, a preview of what we hope will be more to come.
Long term, we want to produce even higher quality animated content, as well as branch out into games, comics, and other merchandise.
I've seen that fans of English VTubers want more than just streams, they want the same kind of exciting, highly produced, content that they see coming out of Japan. I believe that NexStage Project is equipped to create and deliver this kind of content to VTuber fans worldwide.
Thank you to NexStage Project executive producer Jake Mandel Popovics and producer Ben Manics for their assistance in making this story possible.