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Les Mills uses 3D virtual set to train instructors

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Les Mills uses 3D virtual set to train instructors
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BodyPump, BodyCombat, BodyAttack, BodyBalance. Anyone who goes regularly to the gym will probably have heard these terms at some stage. They are the names of some of the most popular exercise and fitness classes in the world. But what you probably don’t know is that they are all registered trademarks, and that not all sports or fitness centers can offer them. That’s because they all belong to Les Mills.

Les Mills is the world leader in group fitness activities. It all started when four-time Olympian Les Mills opened his first gym in Auckland, New Zealand, back in 1968 because he wanted to make training more accessible to the general public.

Today, Les Mills workouts are delivered by 140,000 instructors in 17,500 centers in 100 countries around the globe, and are available as live sessions, in streaming, virtual, immersive classes, on demand or as content integrated in the applications of clubs and gyms.

What gives the brand its true edge over its competitors are its group classes which change their choreography every three months. An instructor shows customers how to do the movements in group so that they make the most of their physical routines without the sense of repetitiveness. But not all gyms can offer these classes. To do so, they have to pay a monthly rate to guarantee their instructors ongoing training.

Precisely for the latest training of its community of instructors in Spain, Aefa Les Mills, Les Mills’ official agency in Spain, wanted to set in place a different and attractive project that could be done remotely due to COVID restrictions. For this purpose it contacted MappScreen, the audiovisual management and content creation company, which proposed using a virtual environment to recreate the experience of live workouts with the maximum reality and proximity with instructors possible.

MappScreen then went on to design a virtual set at MTK Space’s installations in Barcelona using the Unreal Engine 3D creation platform and run on the Notch real-time graphics tool. The lighting, screens and cameras on the set were virtual and animated, and were controlled remotely by Artnet and Midi.

Using different 4K cameras within this virtual environment (crane cameras, and cameras controlled remotely by Xbox One), Les Mills training was delivered in real time via streaming thanks to StreamNinja’s ultra-low latency WebRTC technology which enables streaming with just 0.5 seconds delay and in 4K.

To manage the 4K signals, MappScreen decided to use the Christie® Spyder X80 video processor. “It’s the ideal hardware for managing all input and output signals, monitoring and recording,” explained Xavier Cruz Rubio, CEO of MappScreen, the company looking after the content creation, the execution of the event, the streaming and recording. “Now it would almost be impossible for us to imagine complex events of this kind without the Spyder X80,” he added.

Four inputs and six outputs of the Spyder were used to control both the signals of the 4K cameras which recorded the event, as well as the Notch servers, renderized cameras, a vMix video mixer and the streaming server.

"The truth is that the Spyder integrated to perfection with all the systems we used for the event,” claimed Xavier Cruz Rubio. “As always, its strong point was being able to manage all signals in 4K without losing resources as happens with other systems available in the market when working with 4K."

"Other systems force us to use various linked units in order not to lose resources when everything is 4K. But with one single Spyder X80 we can do it all in 4K effortlessly, and that makes it truly unique. What’s more, its interface is very intuitive and easy to learn. It allows you to do so many things it almost seems like it has no limits."

Thanks to this investment in technology and innovation, instructors from all over Spain were able to discover and learn the new Les Mills choreographies. The training was transmitted in real time via streaming to over 50,000 people who followed the sessions on social media.

"Given the complexity of the technology involved, this event was a real challenge," said Xavier Cruz Rubio, before concluding, "we are delighted to have been able to offer a creative and innovative solution adapted to the current situation, recreating the experience of Les Mills workouts with utmost reality."