New digitized TV coverage available for viewing!
Mon Feb 27, 2006, 5:42 pm
New digitized TV coverage available for viewing!
Tommy: We're proud to announce that our next show will be held on Friday, March 24th in San Jose, California, as the closing ceremony of the Game Developers Conference. San Jose will be a special location because it is considered to be the heart of Silicon Valley and the birthplace of videogames. This will be the very first videogame concert ever held in Silicon Valley! Because it is during the Game Developers Conference it will also have one of our best meet & greets yet. Tickets for the general public will be going on sale at the beginning of the year.
We will also be returning to the Hollywood Bowl in 2006 to try and break our record of putting on the biggest videogame concert in the world. On July 6th we had over 11,000 people take part in our debut show. We are hoping to get over 15,000 this year.
When new and original live shows or events come out for the first time it always takes time to raise awareness and build an audience, especially when you are doing something unique that not many people have done before. Our goal is to put on an entertaining show each and every time which will help to build excitement and hopefully bring in more people each year we return.
Aside from the above mentioned places we are working on many more cities for 2006. We have a lot of exciting announcements that we'll be making within the next month or so. Anyone interested in keeping up to date on all of our tour dates and announcements can sign up for our mailing list on the front page of www.videogameslive.com
Jess: How hard was it to pitch VGL as a project? Did people "get it" right away or did they need some convincing that this would be a worthwhile venture?
Tommy: LOTS and LOTS and LOTS of convincing! Imagine, if you could for a second, calling up Japan asking for the rights to Elevator Action because we want to play it with a live orchestra. They must have thought we were nuts (and probably still do!). How about calling up Disney and saying… "Um yeah… hi… I'd like to build a life-sized Light Cycle that is going to zoom across the stage… Can I have your permission? And by the way…. do you have any schematics lying around?"
We had to write out every sequence in the show and send it off to people, we had to provide initial funding, attorney's fees, marketing plans, technical lists, budgets, etc., etc.. It was crazy! But now that we've done it and have now shown people what we are capable of it has been a lot easier to really push the envelope to make the show even more spectacular. Although I still haven't been able to get a hold of the people who own the rights to Bump 'n Jump and Moon Patrol! So if anyone out there has any leads or connections… hook us up!
Jess: How does this round of Video Games Live differ from your first few shows? Has any of the content changed or are you sticking with what works?
Tommy: When we play our video in exact sync with the symphonies and musicians (which no one else does) we work with the publishers and developers in getting brand new exclusive footage that no one has ever seen before (added in with the classic stuff that everyone has grown to love). For example, when we played the Hollywood Bowl in July we were showing previously unseen footage from game franchises such as Zelda, EverQuest II, Castlevania, Myst, Advent Rising and Tomb Raider. In our most recent shows in Seattle & Vancouver we did the same thing by going back and updating a lot of the footage from the Hollywood Bowl along with a new synchronized interactive moving light sequences for each segment. We always want to give the audience something to get excited over and really go "Wow! That was really special." Whether it's through the video, exclusive music arrangements, solo musicians, cutting-edge visuals, special lighting or unique interactive segments, there will always be something new and interesting to hopefully amaze people with. Another thing we do is change the performance slightly each time. For example, some people may see Tomb Raider one evening and EverQuest II the next. We have enough material to where we can interchange segments in every performance.
Aside from all of that stuff we are also signing up new franchises all the time. The great part is that now after our initial success at the Hollywood Bowl the publishers have been contacting us to see if they can get their new games and material in the show. As the industry and technology changes so will our show. We are currently developing some really high end cutting-edge technology with chip manufactures such as AMD to do things that no one has ever done before in a live performance. They have a whole group over there just dedicated to helping us achieve our highest goals. These are the same people who helped Steven Speilberg when working on War of the Worlds and George Lucas on Star Wars: Episode III.
In fact, when we needed new MCP (Master Control Program) footage for our Tron segment which would interact with the music, lights and stage show production, AMD brought in one of the teams that worked with Mr. Lucas on Episode III. I worked closely with Disney on all of the approvals… including creating a life-sized moving Light Cycle that zooms across the stage during some of our performances. It's really great to have that kind of excitement and dedication from the entertainment and technology industries behind you. In fact AMD is so dedicated to our show that they even give us a new $2,500 Ferrari AMD powered laptop to give away during each performance.
Jess: For your first few shows, there was quite a lot of critical acclaim, however most reviewers seemed to focus on the basics behind the productions ( ie: it was a videogame genre type of event...niche-based, etc...), but you've hinted that it's so much more than that. Can you tell me more about the heart and soul behind Video Games Live?
Tommy: Absolutely! The emotion of what goes on at a Video Games Live performance is the hardest thing to put on paper or to show in a trailer. We've designed the concert to be an overall celebration of videogames and the community surrounding it. We get the audience involved by having things like costume contests (and bringing the finalists on stage), unique and playable game demos, prizes and give-a-ways, interactive audience segments with the orchestra and game footage on screen as well as designer and composer meet & greets after every show. This concert celebration is for the fans and to help raise awareness for the amazing videogame music out there. I've been a videogame composer for over 15 years and have seen a lot of changes take place in regards to game audio. From our roots up til now hasn't been that long a time, yet the technology and music have skyrocketed on every level.
After every show we played this year we would get bombarded by e-mails and letters from non-gamers, moms, girlfriends and grandmothers thanking us for turning them on to this music and helping them to understand why others are so captivated by our industry.
Aside from the festival and celebration aspect of Video Games Live we do a lot of things in the show that people wouldn't expect. We're not interested in just playing random game music with a symphony and showing a few still images or short unsynchronized video clips. We're much more focused on pushing the live entertainment envelope and the content that videogames provide is a perfect match. We really want people to experience something new and something they've never seen or heard before.
One example of this is our Medal of Honor segment. The Medal of Honor series deals with a very serious subject matter… World War II. What the Medal of Honor series does so well in their games is tell a soldier's story, to make them human and real. It was something that Steven Speilberg wanted from the beginning when he first started the franchise. To do this franchise and subject matter honor we chose to create a video that uses real-life black and white footage from World War II. We chose one of the most powerful and beautiful pieces of music written from the series and show a very emotional side of war and how it affects everyone involved no matter what country you live in. We have received so many positive responses from this segment and it's something we are really proud of especially since videogames always seem to be getting a bad rap by some new politician looking to make a name for themselves.
One of the biggest reactions we get during the show is during our interactive sequences. During the show we invite random audience members up on stage to play a classic game against each other (one at a time) while the orchestra is playing and changing the music interactively on-the-fly in real time depending on what the players are doing on stage. They battle it out for 90 seconds each to see who the winner is and who gets to take home that laptop. The audience is really great! They really get into it and cheer the players on. It's a lot of fun! It was quite challenging coming up with a system that has over 70+ musicians all being able to instantly change on exactly the same beat. With the help of AMD and the way we designed the sheet music (along with different conductor gestures and colors) we are able to pull something like this off which has never been done before in a live performance.
Jess: What type of reactions do you get from fans/concertgoers after they've seen your show?
Tommy: As I mentioned earlier, the non-gamers are the ones most surprised by the performances. When they see the incredible graphics in the video sequences and the emotional power that the orchestra conveys it really opens their eyes to what videogames have become… and where they are going. Parents think that Finding Nemo and Toy Story have pretty cool graphics… their faces after they see the likes of Warcraft is pretty priceless.
From a videogame fans perspective, they are really the ones who get the most excited. The amount of noise they make before and after each segment always takes the symphony players by surprise. I love watching the orchestra members from the side of the stage give each other strange looks when they hit the last note of something like Zelda and the place goes beserk. They aren't used to that kind of reception for the music they play. It really goes to show people how popular videogames have become and how they have evolved into our culture. The goal is two-fold. Not only is it a great way to introduce the non-gamer to our world, but it also gets a younger generation interested in the arts and live symphony performances. It's great to see people come dressed up in formal evening wear like it was a prom. It shows how much people care about this music and how special a night it truly is. Of course it's always cool to see people show up in their favorite videogame T-shirts or a Link costume!
I think the best way to really answer your question though is to let the people who have seen the show tell you in their own words. We are so grateful to all of the fan support we receive after each show. Here is just a small sampling of some of the posts you can find on our message boards:
"A great evening of music and memories. The music was great the non-musical portions were great, even the video guests were well presented. I sat with my son remembering the games we played together as he grew up and the games we play now. Awesome family experience. I hope this becomes a returning show, as I would like to see it again. Thanks for the excellent evening."
"That was just... wow. Amazing! Me and my friends cornered Tommy before he got inside and had a chat with him about OCRemix and the Chrono Symphonic CD. I got a hug (and an autograph) from him! *fanboys over it and drools*. Definitely coming back next year. Best night of my life."
"VGL: one of the greatest nights in my life EVER. I still remember screaming out "DIG DUG!!" as everyone else was screaming "HALO!". That was so much fun. I also made some new friends there, so that was cool too. Can't wait until VGL 2K6 to make even more new friends and meet up with some of the ones I had made this year."
"Sunday night's VGL performance has got to be one of the best performances I've ever seen. The music and video clips had so much variety and I learned about some new franchises and their music. I never thought I'd see Myst again, especially in a concert. I'm looking forward to future performances."
"Video Games Live isn't like any other concert, It's like everyone there is family and we all like to play videogames and hear videogames. VGL ruled in Seattle and I will be going next Year! Peace out guys, Great Job!"
"The costume contest was great, the show was *awesome* and the meet & greet was a blast!! It's after midnight and we're still psyched up! A huge heartfelt *Thank You* to Becky, Tommy, Jack and everyone else who made this possible. Can't wait to tell everyone I know about it--it was a night we will never forget!"
"VGL Is the best thing that ever happened to me."
Jess: What type of future do you have planned for Video Games Live?
Tommy: We will continue to build the show and franchise so we can bring it to as many people as possible. We unfortunately had to cancel a lot of cities we were planning on going to in 2005. It's a very tough challenge and uphill battle to bring something as unique as this (and that a lot of people don't understand) to a wide market in your very first year. Things like Cirque, Trans Siberian Orchestra, Blue Man Group, etc. had to build slow and raise awareness over many years. I blame myself for wanting to jump out of the gate so quickly because I wanted to bring the show to everyone we could as soon as possible.
My father always told me to always try to climb the highest peak and shoot for the stars… which is exactly what we did when we put on our first show ever on the most prestigious stage in the world with some of the greatest musicians in the world (LA Philharmonic Orchestra). I think after the huge success of that show everyone got a little over-ambitious. We personally felt so bad about the cancellation that for a limited time we actually sent out free programs and T-shirts to anyone who contacted us. We even spent our own money shipping out hundreds of items because we know how disappointed everyone must have felt. We know because we were the most disappointed ones! But that is all in the past and we now understand what exactly we need to do in order to succeed like we did at the Hollywood Bowl and the other places we played like Seattle & Vancouver.
We would like to see Video Games Live eventually becoming the Barnum & Bailey or Woodstock for a new generation. Games, music, technology, visuals all coming together to form a unique concert experience. We see something like this being a permanent attraction in places like Las Vegas or Orlando. Our goal has always been to create a really fun and exciting show that the whole family can enjoy… whether you play games or not.
Jess: If you had to pick one thing from VGL as your favorite-what would it be and why?
Tommy: Wow… that's a difficult question to answer. On a personal level I'd be lying if I said that the music I did for Advent Rising didn't give me special chills each night we played it… but I would imagine that any composer would say that about his own music… so it's totally unfair and biased of me to pick that one. I'd say I'm really proud of putting together the arrangement for the Classic Arcade Medley and the Interactive Symphony contest. They seem to get the biggest reaction from the crowd as well. Seeing my VGL business partner and fellow videogame composer Jack Wall (Myst 3 & 4, Splinter Cell, Jade Empire, etc.) up on stage conducting the orchestra is also really exciting… especially when we do his Myst segment! As host of the show I really like coming out on stage and interacting with the crowd and feeling the joy and excitement when a new segment is announced or played for the first time. I'm also proud knowing that the industry has really gotten behind us and the concept. During the show you'll see people like Hideo Kojima (Metal Gear), Yuji Naka (Sonic creator) and Koji Kondo (Mario & Zelda composer) among others. For our Seattle show we had the entire Halo team come up on stage to take a bow and a lot of them made themselves available to the public after the show. There are concerts out there that charge the audience extra to meet industry people. We're about celebrating and promoting the industry, not charging a premium for it.
Jess: How long did it take to develop VGL from conception to audience?
Tommy: As a huge fan myself, I've waited my entire life for something like this to happen. In fact I used to tape record my favorite Intellivision & 2600 music, splice it together and play it back for my friends in the neighborhood while I would play air guitar and have the game visuals going on behind me. Over four years ago Jack and I decided that if no one else was doing this in North America, then we were going to. Never before had the music for games like Halo, Metal Gear Solid, Myst, Kingdom Hearts, EverQuest, Warcraft & Medal of Honor, been performed anywhere in the world let alone North America. We were happy to be the first concert over here to combine so many popular franchises into one experience.
It took us nearly 3-and-a-half years to get to the stage of the Hollywood Bowl. A lot of that time was spent trying to convince publishers and developers of the concept. Creating the actual show itself, although a lot of hard work, was the easy part because we already had this vision in our head about what we wanted it to be. I would say that the hardest thing for us initially was getting all of the approvals for music, arrangements, video content & marketing materials.
After all of the hard work and roadblocks we went through we can look back now and feel pleased and honored knowing that we put on the biggest videogame concert in the world and continue to break new ground like being the first game concert in places like Seattle and Canada. Our next goal is to bring it to the rest of the world no matter how long it takes us.
Jess: What gave you the idea behind VGL?
Tommy: The time was right to promote all of this amazing music that the game industry has been doing over the last 25 or so years. When I first got into the industry most game music was nothing more then a variety of bleeps and bloops (except for Mario Bros. that always rocked!). I've seen the industry grow up so much and so quickly over the last 15 years. I'm sure it's like the film industry was in its beginning stages during the 1920s and '30s. Game music has never garnered the same respect as film scores or other forms of symphonic music. Now the reality is that most game scores are just as good if not better than a lot of films out there. We felt it was time to celebrate the achievements of our industry and its amazing music. By adding all of the special elements we have to the show, we've even taken it beyond what most people would expect to see or hear at a game music concert.
Jess: Any other earth-shattering projects you have planned for the future?
Tommy: Our main focus right now is building Video Games Live in 2006. Careful planning of each market we plan to visit and teaming up with the right people who will understand our vision and help us to build awareness so we can return year after year with new and exciting content.
In closing I'd just like to say thanks to IGN for helping us to get the word out there about Video Games Live. IGN has always been such an important part of the videogame community and its fans. I'd like to offer you guys an exclusive look into Video Games Live so I got approval from Bungie to show you the entire Halo segment from our show. This was shot during our rehearsals in Irvine, California right before our first Hollywood Bowl debut. The only place this video exists until the end of the year is right here on IGN Insider. I hope everyone enjoys it and I hope that I'll be able to meet everyone when we come to visit your city soon. Anyone interested in getting a hold of me can visit my message boards at www.tallarico.com.
Video Games Live: Giving moms NES-thumb the world over. For those of you that want to find out more about Tommy and his work, visit his sites at: Tommy Tallarico Studios, Inc. (www.tallarico.com), Video Games Live (www.videogameslive.com) and Game Audio Network Guild [G.A.N.G.] (www.audiogang.org).