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Wandering around a mixed reality world

Urban history springs to life in Essen 1887 

The ambitious assignment: create a one-of-a-kind touristic highlight for the heart of Essen (Germany). The result: a city tour that sweeps you away to times long past. No need for a time machine: cutting-edge mixed reality technology does the exciting trick. A dedicated, international team, 4DR Studios included, turned ambition into interactive reality. Welcome to Essen 1887! 

The expression ‘ground-breaking project’ fits Essen 1887 like a T. Where else do you get to discover a city by traveling back in time? The interactive tour was commissioned by Visit Essen, the town’s tourist information office. To put the city center of Essen on the map, Visit Essen sought collaboration with Neonreal, which specializes in augmented, virtual, and mixed reality projects. On their part, Neonreal involved 4DR Studios, after which the ball started rolling. 

Nowadays, technology, yesteryears ambiance 

Screenwriter and director Florian Siebert wrote the script, and famous German actors such as Henning Baum took on the roles of historical figures. Costume designers and make-up artists created the look and feel of the 19th century. Specific objects were scanned and digitalized through advanced technology, and historical figures came to life. Essen of yesteryear resurrected. 

Behind the Scenes in the studio

At our state-of-the-art volumetric video studio in Eindhoven, all these elements merged into a city walk through Essen 1887. The actors were one by one filmed in 3D, ensuring all movements and emotions were captured realistically to the finest details. An extraordinary experience for the actors as well: “I’ve worked in many studios, but this was an incomparable experience. The volumetric video technology is so revolutionary, the results so true-to-live. To be honest, I still don’t quite get what it is you do exactly, but I can’t wait to explore the final result!”, voices Baum the wonderment of the cast. 

Immersive holograms

Fortunately for the public, front stage, the technology is a lot simpler. At the start of the city tour that lasts almost two hours, visitors receive a mobile phone and special mixed reality glasses from Nreal. GPS does the rest and directs them to 24 historical hotspots in the city. Unlike virtual reality glasses, mixed reality glasses never lose sight of their surroundings. The virtual world only overlays the inner-city reality when sensors in the glasses recognize the digital tags. Mixed reality brings the realistic holograms of protagonists and historical sites of Essen 1887 to life.

Credits: Visit Essen

“Volumetric video enables us to convey all characters and their emotions three-dimensionally. As a visitor, you know you’ve entered a digital world, but you never wonder if the actors are truly filmed. Through our all-star cast, Essen 1887 tells a true tale. One that sticks,” director Siebert firmly believes.  

Interactive encounters 

That true tale of Essen unfolds on the funeral day of Alfred Krupp. Innovator and head of the renowned steel company. As Essen and its citizens were dear to his heart, the whole town turns out to pay their last respects. 21stcentury time travelers land in the hectic middle of this crowd. Innkeeper Hannes (Baum) portrays the city guide as an avatar, steering them through the history of Essen. 

On their journey, they meet historical figures like Wilhelmina Grillo, founder of the still lively Grillo Theater. The experience doesn’t stop at unique encounters with unique characters. Participants can also examine buildings up close and peek through windows. The advanced technology even allows crowning the holy Madonna personally. Living history in all its glory! 

Henning Baum in volumetric video

Sounds interesting?

Since Essen 1887 opened in April 2022, many visitors have gone on this unique city tour. A prime example of how volumetric video and mixed reality can bring history creatively and positively to life. Fascinated? Interested? In cooperation with the NBTC, we created a roadmap to make Location Based Augmented Reality actual reality. Request your copy here.