That Lady Gaga & Intel Grammy Ad – Nothing In Life Is Free [OPINION]

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So, before you read this I highly recommend you go and read my article on the accusations that some have made of Lady Gaga and Intel. Read it? Good.

As I mentioned at the end of that article, I definitely fall on the side of Lady Gaga and especially Intel. Before I get into my opinions, let’s take a look some of the technology Intel provided (according to Business Wire), as well as a clip of her performance. You can also get a nice breakdown of how they achieved the various tricks here.

  • Digital Skin – An “animated face” was developed for Lady Gaga that enabled her to adorn a number of iconic looks all in a single performance in real time, to mind-blowing effect. Intel’s highest performing processors were used throughout the development of this part of the performance, accurately tracking her facial movements while the “digital makeup” was adapted and displayed onto her instantaneously through a projector powered by a 6th Generation Intel Core processor-based desktop.
  • Interactive Video – Lady Gaga was given the power to control how she appeared on a beautiful large LED wall. Her Intel® Curie™ module-based ring generated the real-time effects as she rotated and animated her wrists and arms, while Intel Xeon processor-based media servers generated the live content.
  • Robotics – Gaga’s beautiful rose gold piano took on a life of its own as three Intel® Atom™ processor-powered robot arms danced as one to add unexpected motion effects to a traditionally staid and steady instrument.
  • Interactive Holograms – An innovative combination of her Intel Curie technology-based ring and holographic display materials were used to allow Lady Gaga to generate a beautiful three-dimensional hologram of the music legend.

So, essentially, Intel used extremely expensive technology in order to bring this performance life. Each element of what was shown the Grammys cost Intel an obscene amount to produce, with their highest end technology being used.

Taking a look at the Vanity Fair article I linked above, you can see that one of the things they did was a “digital make up” effect to digitally show off the various looks that Bowie had throughout his music career.

This is something that they have used in tech art installations, but never in live performances. It’s hard to know exactly what technology that Intel used here – I can only go from the vague mentions in Business Wire and Vanity Fair.

But, let’s take a look at each segment of what Business Wire and Vanity Fair describe and roughly estimate the cost of this 10 song performance.

Digital Make-up: This used a “6th generation Intel CPU based desktop”. So here, we have an entire desktop being used, which most likely consists of high end RAM, motherboard, graphics card, and of course the Intel CPU.

No mention is made to the other components of the desktop, so let’s focus on this “6th generation” Intel CPU. The 6th gen of Intel processors range from $300-$600 per unit. Given the impressive effects on display, and the fact that this desktop is having to do on the fly live rendering and display, it’s safe to say that they were using the top end Intel® Core™ i7-6920HQ.

Tally so far: $600 without taking into account the other desktop components. Also keep in my mind they used cameras to display this “digital make up”, but it’s extremely hard to know what they used.

Interactive Video: This component actually consists of two seperate elements powered by two seperate pieces of Intel tech. The first piece is the real-time effects that were applied as Lady Gaga twisted and moved her arms. To achieve this, they used an “Intel® Curie™ module-based ring” This device, despite sounding pretty high tech in the link provided, is pretty cheap at $30.

Tally so far: $630

As I mentioned, though, the interactive video component had two pieces of technology powering it. To generate the live content for this section of this performance, they used  “Intel Xeon processor-based media servers”. The cost for a single Intel Xeon? Anywhere from $3,000-$6,900. Again, it’s safe to assume that they used their highest end tech. The wording from Business Wire implies the use of several, but I will assume only one is being used.

Tally so far: $7,530 if they only used a single Xeon.

Robotics: Three Robotic arms were used, powered by a single Intel® Atom™ CPU each. I won’t even try to estimate the cost of the robotics, but each one probably cost several thousand, but to keep it fair I won’t include these as I have no way of knowing their cost. But it safe to assume they added several thousand dollars to Intel’s tab.

So, in absence of that, let’s focus on the cost of three Intel Atom processors. The Atom line is, as you might expect, a series of micro processors, so they themselves aren’t very expensive. They range from $20-$85, but remember they used three of them.

Tally so far: $7,785 not including the robotic arms. 

Interactive Holograms: This one is gonna be almost impossible to estimate accurately, they again made use of the Intel Curie (as we know they are fairly inexpensive) but according to BW they also used “holographic display materials”. But it’s safe to also assume that an interactive hologram that looks good is not going to be cheap to pull off.

Final tally: Impossible to know for sure, but counting the unknowable (at least for me) things like the hologram and robot arms, we are probably looking at around $10,000-$15,000. And that’s before Gaga, or any of the staff have been paid. My estimation also ignores things like the cameras for display and the desktop components.

So – my point is this: After spending that amount for a fairly short performance, it seems more than reasonable that Intel run an ad for their efforts. As I say in the title nothing in life is free.

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That Lady Gaga & Intel Grammy Ad - Nothing In Life Is Free [OPINION]
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That Lady Gaga & Intel Grammy Ad - Nothing In Life Is Free [OPINION]
My opinion on that Lady Gaga and Intel ad shown at the Grammys, after her David Bowie tribute performance.