Earlier this month, the Los Angeles Times published an article about an interactive seating chart tool being developed for the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s website. Called Seat Buddy, the online tool promises to let website users get a better look at the inside of the concert hall as well as what Seat Buddy’s founder described in the article as the hall’s depth…
reports that Los Angeles Philharmonic chief operating officer, Arvind
Manocha, says the new system will give patrons a better sense of the
hall’s unique seating properties. Manocha is quoted as saying "People
are familiar with the outside of [Disney Hall], but seeing the inside
isn’t very easy." Amen to that. Ever since the hall opened, the Los
Angeles Philharmonic’s website has provided scant visual information
about the inside of the hall.
As such, the addition of the Seat Buddy feature will be a
welcome upgrade to what was previously in place. In fact, the Phil’s
website is looking and functioning much better than when it was
reviewed at the beginning of the season for the 2007 Orchestra Website
Review. I’m looking forward to seeing how the complete website fares in
the 2008 reviews.
Although the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s Seat Buddy isn’t
functional yet, I was glad to see the LA Times article point out that
Orange County Performing Artscenter rolled out the feature in late
January. As such, I took a look at what Seat Buddy had to offer and
came away with some mixed feelings.
First off, let me say that I think Seat Buddy is a really cool
idea and once the app loaded, it was fun to play with. At the same
time, Seat Buddy took over 30 seconds to load on a FireFox browser and
almost a full minute with IE7. I was a little disappointed that the
fly-through videos are selected using a regular 2D black and white seat
map. But the product delivers as promised and definitely left me with a
sense of a hall’s "depth."
In an odd way, that was also one of the drawbacks, especially
when viewing fly-through videos for seats toward the back of the hall.
The long videos let you know that you were far from the
action. I have no idea how this will come across at Disney Hall since
their design is quite a bit different than the hall in the Orange
County Performing Artscenter. Finally, the video quality used at the
Orange County Performing Artscenter felt over-compressed and was
noticeably pixilated. Nevertheless, Seat Buddy still ranks a 10 out of
10 on the "cool" scale and I hope the other issues are something the LA
Phil will be able to work out when the app is rolled out in the spring.
I couldn’t help but compare Seat Buddy to the only other
orchestra website app I know of that provides a fly-through feel of the
concert hall, the 3D Interactive Seating Model at the Nashville
Symphony’s website. Immediately, comparing the two is a bit of apples
to oranges as Seat Buddy uses video of the hall and Nashville’s Seating
Model is based on 3D CAD developed during when the hall was designed.
The Nashville app took less than five seconds to load in
FireFox and IE7 and doesn’t make the seats farthest from the stage seem
so far away as Seat Buddy. To begin with, Seat Buddy "flies" the user
from the stage to their seat whereas the Nashville model pivots the
hall around the user’s seat. Instinctively, I preferred the method
employed in Nashville and given the fact that it was a little easier,
and much faster, to use than Seat Buddy, users might get more out of
the Nashville model in the long run.
In the end, any orchestra would likely find themselves
in a good place if they employed either Seat Buddy or Nashville’s 3D
Interactive Seating Model. Watching orchestras like the Los Angeles
Philharmonic and Nashville Symphony take the lead in utilizing
technology to improve customer relations and boost ticket sales will
only put them in a better place sooner than everyone else.
In the meantime, I’m anxious to know what others think. Take a moment and visit Seat Buddy at Orange County Performing Artscenter and Nashville’s 3D Interactive Seating Model. What sort of impressions do they leave with you?