Peter & Paul: What we learnt at BEYOND 2023

Last week we were at BEYOND, a conference about research and innovation in the creative industries. Each year hosts talks, panels and workshops from creatives and academics at the forefront of what’s next – from AI to immersive tech, creative education, and what audiences actually want from experiences – here are our 5 takeaways.


1.     AI is here. Embrace it (wisely).

From a dedicated panel on generative AI to coming up in nearly every other discussion at least once, it’s clear that artificial intelligence is here to stay. Overall it felt like there was a consensus on embracing and using things like Chat GPT and Midjourney as tools in the creative process – though it was clear that no-one was advocating they be used to replace actual craft.

Analogies of cars overtaking horses and people evolving and adapting to every new tech innovation to date were frequently thrown about, as the positives largely outweighed the concerns of robots-replacing-humans. There were, of course, a few caveats.

Artists will use these tools as they used drum machines and synthesisers in the ‘80s.” 
– from 'Generative AI and the Creative Industries: A Conversation'

We need to teach these machines and programs to learn the heuristics, how to compose and write music, rather than just plugging them with a few back catalogues. We should be tracing attribution where we can, with a system of payment to the original creator.


Recent campaign work for Frantic Assembly’s Kafka’s Metamorphosis. Paul Reardon X Perou, created using Midjourney and Runway AI. Music by Stefan Janik.


The excitement was around the possibilities of what AI can do to empower people – stories of tools providing disabled people with the ability to record music, write or design highlighted how if used properly, AI can help to democratise the creative industries.


2.    Storytelling comes first.

People are always looking for new ways to tell stories and engage audiences. And audiences want to experience something new, exciting, thought-provoking, and memorable.

“The audience doesn’t care how it’s made, they just want to feel something. 
– from 'CoSTAR launch panel discussion'.

For a creative technology conference, the creative definitely had precedence. The phrase ‘it’s not about using tech for tech’s sake’ was used more than once, with a panel on ‘Collaborations in Museum Storytelling’ agreeing that it’s the stories that need to come first – the idea should draw people in, rather than how it’s told.

Understanding the emotional response you want the audience to have was also the main driver for Svana Gisla, producer of ABBA Voyage. She talked about how they tried hard to hide the technology, wanting to be ‘generous to the audience’ by creating a realistic and emotional experience.

In the XR Stories Immersive Futures Lab, we were among others showcasing new projects using technology like virtual reality and spacial audio to tell stories. We were able to test and talk to people about a new app we’re developing called ‘Ground: Unearthing Hidden Stories’, using augmented reality to tell stories of the global food chain. A digital companion to a live experience by Trigger, the digital experience is about continuing the stories and engaging audiences beyond a one-time event.


3.    Parents need educating about creative careers.

Something we’re really passionate about is the importance of creative careers, so it was really interesting to hear ABBA Voyage’s Svana Gilsa also talk about how all of the main suppliers, from lighting to make up, took part in an education scheme as part of their contract. In March they delivered workshops to 1,200 local children, followed by a summer school.

She spoke about how creative subjects are the first things that get cut in schools, and it’s more that parents need convincing that creative roles are viable in the first place.

“Regeneration of talent is vital and it’s not happening.” 
– Svana Gilsa, ABBA Voyage

This theme continued the next day, with the CoSTAR launch outlining how part of what the network will achieve will inevitably lead to the creation of exciting well-paid roles for future generations.

It’s our job as creative businesses to work with education providers to help communicate the value of both current and future opportunities as these roles emerge.


4.    CoSTAR is a huge opportunity for SMEs.

CoSTAR was the big announcement of Day Two, looking at the five labs that have been awarded £75.6 million government funding for research and development in film, TV, gaming and live experiences.

“The purpose of innovation funding is to create what we can’t comprehend today.” 
– Chris van der Kuyl

It was interesting to hear about the reach this network will have, beyond the entertainment sector. How the creativity, problem-solving, testing and applying of new tech will have a ripple effect beyond the creative industries.

Importantly, the announcement talked about how the CoSTAR labs will allow SMEs to use the facilities and get their hands on technology that’s usually beyond their reach. Once open next spring, people will be able to work with labs to research and test new ideas to evolve their own practice and projects.


Production Park will be home to CoSTAR’s Live Lab, developing new tech for screen, stage and metaverse.

It’s brilliant to see our client Production Park announced as the home of the Live Lab, led by University of York. The facilities will be dedicated to developing new technologies for screen, stage and beyond, with R&D in virtual production, CGI, spatial audio, motion capture and XR.


5. Trends change.

This is the third time we’ve been to BEYOND and it’s interesting each year to see what’s trending, and then what actually happens in the year(s) to follow. NFTs seemed to be taking over a couple of years ago, with very little to be said of them now. Likewise the Metaverse seems to have moved into the background of the conversation.

It’s worth reiterating that creative ideas need to be the driver of innovation, not the shiny new technology. It’s how we approach every brief and project, so we’re glad this was the topic on trend for 2023.

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With thanks to Peter&Paul

This article was first published on LinkedIn by Peter&Paul, an open and collaborative creative studio based in Sheffield, and reproduced with their permission. View the original post here.