Virtual Audience Using Adobe AIR

A pre-recorded audience listens AND responds to your performance

A pre-recorded audience listens AND responds to your performance


The Virtual Audience allows the user to practice in a virtual reality performing in front of a living, breathing  virtual audience.

11/12/12 update- If you are interested in the V.A. download, please see this post.

The initial faculty request was to create a DVD with loopable video that would allow a music student to practice in front of an audience that did the distracting things that audiences do, cough, sneeze, whisper, etc.  In theory this would allow the student to be desensitized to audience distractions. We satisfied the faculty’s initial request by making a DVD. But, I asked to go a step further,  and make a more interactive version by using Flash’s ability to sense user’s movement and sound using a web camera’s lens (as the audience’s eyes) and mic (as their ears).

When Flash senses movement from the camera, it tells the audience when the student has “taken the stage” and Flash prompts the audience to act accordingly: welcome clap.  We shot fourteen segments of distractions. Audience members coughing, sleeping, answering cell calls, etc. During the performance, random clips of video load that represent audience behavior. Or, distractions. When Flash hears that the music has stopped for a few seconds, it tells the audience to clap in response to a performance ending. And, like a real audience, you don’t know how they will react. Sometimes the performer receives a polite clap, sometimes a more enthusiastic applause, sometimes a full standing ovation.

We are using Adobe AIR as the deployment method for a few of reasons:

  • Though streaming the video from Flash Media Server is an option, for quality and processing consistency, this needs to be a desktop application
  • we wanted to avoid creating two different versions
  • Air has a seamless update framework. This allows us to easily push updates to the user without them have to do much more than allow the update to occur

We actually tested the VA in various settings (from HUGE screens, to life size projectors to video goggles). It had a chilling (but good) effect when I “took the stage”.

During the development, we realized that the VA could be used by other areas of the university that “perform” in front of an audience. Namely speech communication and theater. Both programs require students to think on their toes and concentrate on performing a piece that they may be very familiar with performing in a quiet setting, with no distractions.

Future versions will be available using Flash Media Server and will feature video shot in HD format. The HD format will provide finer quality video when the audiences is projected on to large format screens or viewed on larger monitors.

See a 5 minute demo of the Virtual Audience

This entry was posted in Interactive, learning activity, Music, training, Video and tagged , , , , , , , by Britt Carr. Bookmark the permalink.

About Britt Carr

I am the founder and Creative Director for Advanced Authoring, a company dedicated to making learning more interactive and engaging, and sometimes even portable. I have spent the last 15 years consulting as an Instructional Designer and Technology Specialist for multiple universities' Learning Technologies units. I was responsible for helping faculty and teaching staff include learning objects into their courses. In this role I help faculty develop both personal and distance learning websites, interactive media, and advanced presentations technology. From my innovative work in the field, I have been recognized by Adobe Systems as a worldwide Higher Education Leader. Before assisting universities, I worked as an Internet Strategist for Macromedia, Inc. I created and managed Macromedia’s Innovation Award program which highlighted web developer’s talents and ground-breaking use of rich media in the education and e-Learning fields. I am a certified Macromedia Flash Designer and hold a B.S. in Broadcasting from Northern Arizona University and a M.Ed. in Educational Media and Computers from Arizona State University.

7 thoughts on “Virtual Audience Using Adobe AIR

  1. The VA asks you to select a number of “movements”. What does that mean?

    If I want to tell a 6 minute story as opposed to a 12 minute story to the audience, am I supposed to select a different number of “movements”?

    • The VA was originally intended for musicians that practice and play classical music. Movements refer to parts of a classical piece of music. Movements are typically represented by a pause in the music and a new theme or feel.

      The VA “listens” for the pause in between movements. And that’s how it keeps track of where you are.

      If you have two movements – there will be one pause between them. The second pause indicates to the audience that you are finished.

      If you are speaking, there will be no “movements”, so to speak. So make sure that you speak loudly – so the computer can hear you well. If there is a 2 second pause, the audience will think you are done and begin clapping.

      Check your audio before you start- and make sure that the audio AND that camera are working. You shouldn’t have any problems if they are working correctly.

      Let me know what you think.


  2. Hi, I just want to say I think it’s great that you have made this available for everyone. I know there are companies that make similar software for virtual audiences etc. for various purposes and I’m sure it’s very expensive.

    I’m having a problem though with the audience not recognizing sound it seems. There’s no reaction when the sound stops. Everything else works fine, it recognizes movement so it starts as it’s supposed to. Also it doesn’t seem to make a difference if I choose performance mode or practice mode it behaves the same. My web-cam seems to be working as usual. Any ideas on what the problem could be?


    • Lynch:
      I hope you can get this working right.

      You might try MSN messenger or Skype preferences to make sure your mic and camera are working and make sure your input or recording volume is turned up. Then, close them. Computers generally only allow one program at a time to access the mic and camera.

      Performance mode counts the “pauses” in your playing or speaking as a movement. If you are playing a song that has two movements, the audience counts one pause between them. When they hear the second pause, they will clap. Practice mode never triggers the final applause. It’s just random clips that load in for a random amount of time.

      Hope that helps.

      If you keep having problems let me know and I can provide more specific help. Please include your OS.


    • Mike,

      I was showing the VA this afternoon and one things dawned on me that I forgot to mention.

      If you have your microphone turned all the way up, the mic might be picking up ambient noise (traffic on the street outside, fan in the room, a TV). You might need to do some tuning so that the VA can hear you when you speak, but not hear ambience when you stop speaking.
      To test if this is the case, start the Virtual Audience, ket it run for a few seconds, and either:
      A) unplug your microphone, or
      B) use the sound setting to mute it
      This will cut the sound source – and force the audience into one of three applause modes.

      Hope that helps.


  3. Britt,

    I tried muting and unplugging the mic to try to force an applause mode but it doesn’t seem to make a difference, still no applause mode. The web-cam does recognize movement to trigger the welcome applause. It does this in performance mode and practice mode. My OS is XP Home.


    • Mike:

      You’re not in Practice Mode are you? Practice Mode uses the camera, but doesn’t use the mic.

      If you are in “Movement” mode, and the VA still doesn’t hear your mic, that could mean that perhaps your webcam mic is picking up the ambient audio.

      If this doesn’t work, write me at, leave your number and I’ll give you a call.

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