BlackTrax brings Walking with Dinosaurs – The Arena Spectacular to life!
See the oldest known creatures that ever walked the earth come to life in the most awe-inspiring, high-tech way.
Toronto, ON. CANADA, February 14, 2019 – Dinosaurs come to life in an updated version of the stunning theatrical event, Walking with Dinosaurs – The Arena Spectacular. Originating in Australia in 2007, and on the road for many years, Walking with Dinosaurs – The Arena Spectacular is a $20 million production which recently received a massive technological update in mechatronics, visuals, lighting, and the latest in real-time tracking.
The high-tech upgrades are graciously provided and managed by UK-based company, Sonalyst, owned by Rory Madden. Sonalyst provides all the lighting, rigging, sound and communications. They also provide their technical expertise to be sure to use the ideal equipment needed to solve any issues and improve the performance of the show, on both a technical and creative side.
Having worked on countless massive shows, Sonalyst is the perfect fit in competency for what Walking with Dinosaurs needed to surmount any challenges.
The show is 1 hour and 40 minutes long with a 20-minute break, the total length is 2 hours. Internationally renowned designers worked with scientists to create 18 life-size creatures. Audiences watch the dinosaurs walk, hear them roar, and see their fight for survival and supremacy depicted in almost cinematic realism.
A few fun show facts:
- The show has been performed in over 250 cities worldwide
- Over 9 million people have seen the show since it started
- It takes a team of 3 people to operate 1 dinosaur
- Each large dinosaur weighs approximately 1.6 tons and costs about a million dollars
- 21 trucks (each 14.5 metres in length) are needed to move the production
Running one of the largest shows out there nowadays, it is important to have a set you can trust, gear and technology-specific, not to mention a solid team.
Lighting huge dinosaurs for maximum impact is not easy. Yet, lighting is what drives tension and awe. Whether it’s time to thrill the audience or amaze them, lighting plays a huge role and tracking is key to keep lighting on-target, anytime, in real-time.
The caliber of the touring tech team is second to none. On the road, the main team consists of four people. Dave Gibbon is the LX crew Chief, Emma Davis is the touring re-lighter and programmer, Chris Dawson who is the moving light guru and Ashley Simper on BlackTrax. The BlackTrax elements are fully integrated within the touring rig and the design throughout the show.
Two different approaches are used for the final design.
The first approach is the replacement of the follow-spot and operator with tracking, the main human character followed throughout the performance. Secondly, the more challenging implementation, creating environments around the dinosaurs.
“BlackTrax is first class. It was specified by John Rayment, the show’s Lighting Designer, as a replacement for the follow-spot operators. This concept grew further, including the texturing of the dinosaurs and its potential grew throughout the tech process to where we are now.”
– Rory Madden, owner of Sonalyst
Each dinosaur has a least one BlackTrax beacon with three stringers. This is doubled on the larger and more mobile creatures. This allows the designed ‘look’ to follow the dinosaur around the performance space.
BlackTrax looks after the pan and tilt of the fixture. The lighting console deals with the size, colour, gobo and focus of the fixture. The system is made of a GrandMA 2, GrandMA 2 Light, two GMA NPU’s. This setup is very effective at producing the same look every performance as it responds to the live operation and lifelike movements of the dinosaurs.
This is the first tour of Walking with Dinosaurs that BlackTrax has been used on.
“It was a no-brainer for Sonalyst to further invest in the latest and greatest technologies. BlackTrax is a fantastic example of the latest and greatest technologies in the live performance market.”
– Rory Madden, owner of Sonalyst
Incorporating BlackTrax has been a wonderful addition to the touring package. Without the need for individual follow spots and operators, it certainly makes life easier on the road. The BlackTrax kit was purchased from Oli Metcalfe at Dark Art Creative, who packaged the system with excellent attention to detail.
The lighting rig is:
- Robe BMFL’s (172 live fixtures)
- A scattering of MMX Blades (12 live fixtures) for set elements
- A floor package of GLP X4 bars (40 live fixtures)
The BlackTrax system is quite impressive:
- 19 cameras spanning the overhead lighting truss
- 15 active beacons
- 40+ stringers, most have been expertly installed into the dinosaurs, which gives us great tracking and consistency
We asked Ashley Simper what the motivating factor was to use BlackTrax specifically. His answer was concise and complimentary.
“I believe it’s where the industry is heading. For the complexity of what we’ve done here, it’s been a seamless transition. This has left no doubt in anyone’s mind that BlackTrax is a brilliant system.” – Ashley Simper
In the early days, before the show opened, there were some challenges as to where exactly to place certain stringers on the dinosaurs to give the best possible tracking. Thankfully, this was all solved very quickly and efficiently. The art of “try and try again” to improve the system in any way possible was very much apparent in the beginning. In a world with so much technology, it’s difficult for anything to be perfect.
“Would you use tracking again?”, we asked.
“Absolutely! BlackTrax is a system people won’t ignore. The scalability, consistency and ability for it to integrate almost seamlessly means it’s a system second to none. Removing certain elements, like human error, emphasizes this. Everyone wants the best show they can have, and with this system, we have it.”
– Ashley Simper
Where is Walking with Dinosaurs headed to next?
They have dates planned throughout 2019, perhaps even in a city near you. This production team works well together and has all the tools at their disposal to keep audiences amazed, show after show.
Thanks to the whole Walking with Dinosaurs team for taking the time to share with us some of their secrets to success on such a grandiose scale. We wish them luck as they continue taking this massive show on the road, long into 2019.
For more info:
Walking with Dinosaurs
Sonalyst is a market leading independent one-stop solution providing consultation, equipment & staff for concerts; theatres; television studios; outside broadcast; film; exhibition; conference; corporate events; bespoke private parties and installations.
Our staff work every day throughout the world building on over 40 years of experience in every discipline. Sonalyst can support your production with technicians, engineers & managers of many disciplines including Lighting, Sound, Video, Rigging & Production.
In addition to equipment and crewing services we also offer full sound design, lighting design and rigging design and have facilities for set storage and rehearsal space within our 70,000 square foot warehouse facility.
About CAST BlackTrax
Since 1994, CAST has delivered solutions to and for the entertainment production industry and special events and meeting industry. Based in Toronto Canada, we deliver to the world!
CAST BlackTrax is the multi-award-winning real-time tracking technology solution that delivers precise streaming 3D & 6D positional data to controllers for targeting the connected automated robotic technologies already used extensively in event and entertainment production, and houses of worship. Using proprietary IR and RF, BlackTrax delivers dynamic streaming positional data with six degrees of freedom (x, y, z, plus roll, pitch & yaw) to 3D & spatial audio, automated lighting, multimedia servers, and robotic cameras – all at the same time, in real-time.