This past weekend we’ve witnessed one of the biggest festivals in the world embrace the current state of affairs in the world and go digital. Tomorrowland’s stream just had to be something immense and oh boy, did it deliver!

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Welcome to our new home… Pāpiliōnem

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Before we head over to our experience during the festival, we believe it is important to address something that’s been often talked about which is the paid access for this stream. At 20€ a ticket and after witnessing the amount of work put into this, we find the price justifiable. Just like any real festival, there are many, many people and pieces that have to work together for everything to work, and more often than not, the vast majority of these people are never seen by the crowd. The world of Papilionem certainly required a lot of work from IT and design departments. Along with that, artists have to be paid for their performances and there needs to be servers and enough bandwidth to serve the People of Tomorrow that flocked to the servers, which costs a lot of money.

Something else that was argued was that Tomorrowland ticket holders should have been given a discount for stream access or even free access, something we’re inclined to agree more with given that those who spent money with the organization gave them a big sign of trust by keeping their tickets.

With all that aside, and with a virtual ticket in our hands, we headed over to the appropriate website just before the festival started and were greeted with a test page that gave users some tips for optimal stream conditions and that let them test their setup.

As the opening hours approached, we were greeted with the account setup, a quick step where you can set your nickname and nationality

What followed was rather impressive. Papilionem was presented to us as the venue for this virtual festival, which was an island, complete with all the streamed stages. Though this island you could scroll up and down, zoom in and out, and explore its terrains.

Beyond the several stages there were areas designated for things like a Tomorrowland quiz, their merch store, and even a drink and cooking area!

The show at the Mainstage kicked off with Oliver Heldens who did an absolutely smashing set!

We’ve had a few amazing standout sets, such as the one from Dash Berlin, Adriatique and Don Diablo, with visuals matching up the music perfectly.

As you can see, stage designs were on point, however it is rather difficult to transmit this either through video or screenshots.

Other amazing acts we’ve seen were Ran-D and D-Block & S-te-Fan on the harder styles, smashing the airwaves completely, San Holo and Netsky who both did a brilliant set, Sunnery James & Ryan Marciano who did a great opening on the second day, Adriatique and Charlotte de Witte delivering impressive sets, Eric Prydz bringing his signature visual experiences, along with Martin Garrix and Armin van Buuren doing generally good sets.

Long story short, this was a rather unique experience, once again raising the bar for live-streamed festivals, with an experience on par with Defqon.1 @ Home which was, so far, the best we had seen.

Papilionem was a custom built digital world that certainly threw everyone in the Tomorrowland mood, just as we are all used to, especially those who attend the festival. However taking the full digital/virtual reality route has some shortcomings – it makes it somewhat harder imagining being there, comparing to a stream recorded on site, and the virtual fireworks are extremely poor compared to the show Q-dance put on in their Defqon.1 stream. In the other hand it made it easier for them to provide multiple streams, something that’s lacking on other livestreams, while allowing them to go above and beyond in what concerns visuals and creating all the other experiences that are connected to the festival. In addition to that, textures, lighting and the general atmosphere of the virtual world was really great, except for the occasional visual glitches and small imperfections on some details like the leaves in the background of the Mainstage.

Another detail worth highlighting is the “fake crowd”. The organization actually took time to either record or look for recordings of crowds signing lyrics or melodies for big hits, and including them on sets. Artists in general also did a smashing job pretending they actually had a crowd in front of them, interacting with it either via gestures or with the microphones on stage.

Another interesting thing is that the organization stated in their FAQ that there would be a limit of spectators on each stage. We have not encountered any issues when accessing stages, and we cycled through a few of them multiple times during the day. They also stated that you couldn’t visit multiple stages at the same time, which we’ve tested and found it to be untrue, adding a lot to the value for money part of the ticket.

While the pandemic is still out there, this is the best it can get for these big festivals. And while we are mostly confined to our homes, things like this stream will definitely do well to entertain us all!

Did you had a ticket for this stream? Let us know your thoughts on it through our socials.

A special thank you to our reader Gil Valente for providing a few extra screenshots for this article!

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