Lighting technology allows for creativity and mobility in magic stage production
BlackTrax, the real-time motion tracking solution from CAST, assists the star of Magic Reinvented Nightly in creating one-of-a-kind experiences for nightly audiences at the LINQ Theater at The LINQ Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas.
“We implemented the BlackTrax system for a consistent angle of key light on the magician throughout the 90-minute show,” enthuses Stephen Terry, the production’s lighting designer.
In the design phase, follow spots were discussed originally, but the LINQ Theater had very limited locations for follow spots. The angle from the booth position is very flat, so following the talent solely from this position was not an option. As the talent performs a lot of his illusions out in the house, close up to the audience, so IMAG is used via the screens onstage.
“Using the BlackTrax system with moving lights as follow spots from the lighting positions enabled us to light the talent very reliably and successfully.”
The perfect production workflow
The BlackTrax system uses infrared tracking cameras and infrared emitter Beacons worn by the talent and the moving lights follow the emitters. CAST BlackTrax provides the tracking hardware and software as a whole system, and in this particular show, BlackTrax works in conjunction with wysiwyg lighting design and previsualization software to create ‘zones’. Using wysiwyg, you can draw a block in the 3D space to designate a specific location and assign a trigger action to it. BlackTrax then applies that to the real space when the talent physically enters that specific Zone, which BlackTrax can then execute whatever actions have been programmed, like automatically changes a lighting cue or automatically change the lights that are tracking the person wearing the sensor.
Terry has full control of the intensity, beam shape and size, as well as the color. BlackTrax controls the pan and tilt, as well as the zoom and iris to keep the beam of the light consistent to the size the designer wants no matter how close or far a performer gets from the light source.
In terms of the lighting equipment used, Terry chose the PRG Best Boy as the key moving light to follow onstage talent. “I went with this unit mostly because of the quality optics and color temperature balance, but I also wanted a unit that was quiet, and quick. The Best Boy proved to be a great choice.”
The show was programmed on a Grand MA 2 full size and runs on a Grand MA 2 lite now. BlackTrax uses Artnet to talk to as well as to listen to the MA console.
“The main benefit, creatively, when deciding what technology to use was freedom,” adds Terry. “Once we had BlackTrax dialed in, we were able to give the magician the freedom to go anywhere and be consistently lit well. This allowed me and the lighting team to focus on designing the look and feel of each illusion around him without worrying about the angle and quality of light being cast.”
At seven shows per week, the production’s audience is comprised of fans and patrons looking to experience a high caliber production while in Las Vegas. “Since the show is highly enjoyed by people of all ages, we’ve seen everyone from young adults, families with children, bachelor/bachelorette parties, seniors and more; the show really lends itself to a wide audience,” adds Terry.
“I’d definitely use this system again if it was appropriate to use on a production. I still believe that there are fewer things in the lighting world more valuable than a great follow spot operator. However, when you don’t have the ability to have them; and especially when you can't get the angle of the key light on a performer from anywhere except where only a moving light can go - BlackTrax is a lifesaver and the only reliable solution out there that works every time without fail!”
Lighting and integration of BlackTrax seamlessly required a lot of hard work and attention to detail. This project could not have been possible without a great LX production team:
- Associate Lighting Designer: Kimberlee Winters
- Production Electrician: Sean Finnegan
- Electricans: IATSE Local 720
- Grand MA 2 Programmer: Hillary Knox
- BlackTrax Operator: Dustin Points At Him
- BlackTrax Team: Cameron Verstegen and Marty Cochrane