Ammonite Studios: Uniting creative and technical realisation

Ammonite Studios underlines the importance of storytelling, disclosing the creative and technical expertise required to create unique experiences for audiences without forgetting the founding principles of performance.

Ammonite unites creative and technical realisation for clients.

Technology can be pivotal in a production, yet devoid of a compelling narrative, it becomes a novelty. In a bid to counteract this – by blending technical mastery and creative ingenuity – London-based Ammonite Studios and its founders Jon Lyle and Rob Casey have been instrumental in creating some of the most extraordinary productions in recent memory while honouring the fundamentals of theatre. “We believe that our background in theatre has meant that we can bring this level of detail, discipline, and storytelling to other mediums within the live events sector in a truly ground-breaking way,” Lyle and Casey informed TPi.

Among Ammonite’s impressive portfolio are projects including award-winning West End and Broadway shows, Les Misérables, Frozen The Musical, Back to the Future, and Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. This year, Ammonite is part of the stellar creative team behind the West End’s highly anticipated technical masterpiece, The Picture of Dorian Gray starring Succession’s Sarah Snook.

Collaborating with Australian Video Designer, David Bergman, Ammonite used innovative video design and trailblazing technology to bring to life 26 characters, never seen before in London’s West End. “It’s key to put storytelling at the centre of conversations and decisions; technology can play a critical role in a production, but without the story, it becomes a gimmick,” asserted the duo.

“When we are designing a show, we keep the capabilities of the current technology front and centre, which means we push the expectations of audiences every time all in collaboration with fantastic designers, producers, technicians, and engineers.”

Lyle and Casey also highlighted their focus on sustainability within projects. “We have found that it is often in the physical delivery of the design that the most impactful environmental shift can occur,” the designers said, highlighting the materials used, the method of shipping, or the travel arrangements of the crew as focus points.

Continuing to push boundaries, Ammonite has recently produced The Performance Laboratory at London’s prestigious Royal College of Music (RCM) and Imperial College London, which combines state-of-the-art acoustics, simulation technology and visual graphics to allow students and musicians at RCM to refine performances in real-world, dynamic conditions with reactive virtual audiences. The Performance Laboratory strives to shorten the stride from practice to performance. According to Ammonite, often, training is in sterile environments. As a result, people can hone their safety skills, but they might fall apart in the real world. “The Laboratory looks to recreate stressful conditions in a controlled environment that can be used to improve their coping mechanisms,” they noted.

The Performance Laboratory was a project of two halves. The first was opening the possibilities and boundaries, and the second was packaging that down to an experience students and professors could intuitively navigate without training.

“Creating the simulator software required numerous departments and subcontractors to contribute small elements; we began by creating a template for the experience, how it is navigated, its behaviour, and the variables that can affect each stage of the journey,” the designers recalled.

“This was written out in full form and then contracted into script by the engine builder. It became essential for identifying the assets we needed to assemble, including 3D modelling, motion-captured performances, GUI interfaces, audio effects, vocal and facial captures and ADR.” It’s clear Ammonite prides itself on being a studio that weaves creative design with technical realisation.

“We are constantly questioning our work in the design phases for feasibility and methodology,” they commented. “The brilliant thing about the two being so interwoven is they also work in reverse; we keep on top of the latest technology by visiting tradeshows, reading trade publications, and visiting and creating relationships with suppliers. This knowledge allows us to feed this into the creative process to be able to break boundaries by utilising the latest technical innovations within our designs.”

As with many creative studios, some of Ammonite’s most exciting projects on the horizon are inevitably embargoed. However, the firm are said to be “really excited” about the “level of diversification” within its growing portfolio. “We are looking forward to the rest of 2024 and what the future holds!”

Words: Jacob Waite

Photo: Ammonite Studios