Ground-breaking Ringling Bros Circus Extravaganza Brings Well-earned Media Attention for BlackTrax Capabilities

Billed by its own publicity machine as “The Greatest Show on Earth”, the Ringling Bros circus in the US has been getting a lot of media attention recently for its bold efforts to adapt to changing audience demands in the 21st century. For its entire history, the circus’s emblematic performers have been its elephants, but concerns for their welfare led to them being pensioned-off mid-2016. Their departure left the show’s producers with some big shoes to fill.

What attracted the attention of such diverse media outlets as Forbes magazine, The Huffington Post, Mashable and TechCrunch was the complete re-imagining of the circus in this new show. For the first time this show had a single theme and was tied together by a narrative thread: a battle in space between the Ringmaster and the evil “Queen Tatiana”.
Entitled “Out of this World”, the show incorporates such core circus elements as clowns, acrobats, trapeze artists, lions, tigers, and horse riders, but presents them in a different context. To begin with, the entire arena floor is an ice rink, with many of the acts performing on skates. For the traditional animal acts there is a traditional circus ring set on top of the ice.

Once you have a nice reflective ice surface at the heart of your show, it’s relatively straightforward to use video projectors and image mapping software, to create the imagery of a circus suspended in space. As always, the major drawback with using projection is the requirement to light the performers without wiping out the projection with spill light. The problem is exponentially more complex in the circus, with performers filling the entire three-dimensional space of the arena, while simultaneously having rigid, glare and visibility requirements.

To enable the critical integration between the positions of performers, their equipment, the projection and the lighting would require every fixture in the all-moving-light rig to be continuously operator-controlled. And being the 21st century, that’s exactly what Ringling Bros did. The operator they chose was a full system of CAST BlackTrax to simultaneously track the real-time movement of up to 72 performers for the lighting and video control systems. It’s that impressive level of design, performance, show automation and integration that has attracted so much media attention to this seamless and innovative show.

Footnote: It was disappointing to learn in mid-January that that the operations of the two Ringling Bros touring companies are no longer considered commercially viable and will be closing in May 2017.


Read more about the Ringling Bros Circus and BlackTrax:


The Huffington Post:




Center for Elephant Conservation:

Ringling Bros and Barnum Bailey:


Contact: Katinka Allender
K-Communications & Associates