Eric Church Celebrates the Return of Live Music Using BlackTrax
Eric Church set out on The Gather Again Tour this fall with the intention to unite fans and celebrate the return of live music, promoting his most recent Heart & Soul albums. Church is fueled by the energy he receives from the audience and his interactions with them. Now, he doesn’t have to worry about being at certain mic positions for certain moments. With the format of The Gather Again Tour, special moments can be created anywhere on stage at any time during the show, thanks to BlackTrax!
While The Gather Again tour shows take place in arena-sized venues, the stage is set up in an intimate, in-the-round style where the audience surrounds the performer from all sides. It’s a setup that needed a brand-new stage from the ones that Eric’s used to performing on for prior tours.
The design brief mandated that 64 automated follow spots (the ROBE BMFLs) simultaneously tracked the 8 different targets; 8 fixtures allocated per target. An Eric Church concert is a high energy performance where performers are moving quickly and end up all over the stage. Butch Allen, the show’s Production Designer, worked very closely with TAIT (Staging and automation vendor for the tour) to develop a new flying camera system, now called the Navigator Camera System. BlackTrax sends positional information to TAIT via RTTRP-M so the flying cameras can automatically track Eric Church in real-time.
Throughout the show, the Navigator Camera System flies the length of the arena, capturing a 360-degree view of the stage and the audience surrounding the stage while also tracking the performers via BlackTrax. The results are stunning, and many of the shots and moves would be impossible to execute without the help of BlackTrax.
The Gather Again Tour was already an extensive and complicated production, and this took it up a notch.
“We love working with BlackTrax. What it adds to the show is so far beyond any other spotlight / automated key light system I’ve ever seen. The whole team was surprised by the degree of accuracy. In the preliminary talks, we thought “millimeter” accuracy was a marketing ploy. It was NOT. I’ve never seen anything in entertainment lighting this precise.” – Gavin Lake - Touring Lighting Director, Eric Church Gather Again Tour
Typically, Gavin dedicates two to three hours each show day to update key position focus’ that can’t be left in the hands of a spotlight operator. Now he doesn’t have to worry about any of those, he has confidence the BlackTrax system is going to work.
Gavin says he used to prepare himself mentally and emotionally for the challenges of calling 4 to 12 spots each night, in a very spot cue-heavy show. Now he can focus his energy on the overall flow and look of the show.
The Eric Church Gather Again Tour has an extensive set up and tear-down regime, in addition to having a short window between weekend shows. The crew has limited time to get ready, to change the network, and they do it twice a weekend. Roth calls it ‘typical’, but it still requires an extensive amount of work noting the ability for the team to pivot, “seamless”, despite any obstacles met.
“Once we decided to use BlackTrax, the hardware support in terms of helping us detail the network, was 110%. The software support, same thing, the field technician we hired through the BlackTrax team, John Taylor, was a Rockstar. There was a time crunch across the whole show and the BlackTrax team integrated well, exceeded expectations and they did it in a short time frame with some logistics pressures. Very happy with the service.” – Robert Roth – Christie Lites Account Executive, Eric Church Gather Again Tour
Roth has said the BlackTrax products and support have exceeded expectations. The Gather Again tour goes through July 2022 and the BlackTrax system is in use until at least then. Roth anticipates future BlackTrax use by saying “when the product matches the vision of the design team they are working with, they will be including BlackTrax in those future productions.”
There’s no doubt that if you are one of the lucky ones to get a ticket to The Gather Again Tour, that you will be swept away in the energy, enthusiasm and technology making it all possible. With a powerful team of creatives and contributors involved, these bring the magic, show after show, city after city.
We at CAST Group must give credit where credit is due. Props to our own staff and support for receiving rave reviews on such a huge production. It’s always great when teams come together and find a solution efficiently, especially within a limited timeframe.
“The product support and training we received from Dekkar, William, and Nic was AMAZING. They guided us through the setup and integration process every step of the way. They were all very quick to respond to any question that arose every step of the way.
Also, the dedication and brilliance of Robert Harrison and John “Jeb” Fields should be mentioned. All of us jumped headlong into BlackTrax implementation with very short notice, and if it wasn’t also for them, I don’t think we could have pulled it off!” – Gavin Lake – Touring Lighting Director, Eric Church Gather Again Tour
- Butch Allen: Production Designer
- Gavin Lake: Touring Lighting Director
- Robert Roth: Christie Lites Account Executive
- Robert Harrison: Touring BlackTrax Technician
- John Fields: Touring BlackTrax Technician
- John Taylor: BlackTrax Onsite Installation Technician
- Dekkar Densham: BlackTrax Channel Manager, Interactive
- William McDaniel: BlackTrax Technical Team Lead
- Nicholas Lau: Training & Product Support Specialist
- x12 BlackTrax Sensors (SX13)
- x8 BlackTrax Beacons
- x64 ROBE BMFLs
- TAIT Navigator Camera System
Photos by Anthony D’Angio
More about TAIT
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About CAST Group of Companies Inc.
Established in 1994, Toronto Canadian-based software and hardware developer, CAST Software is a member of the CAST Group of Companies Inc. CAST Software serves its core markets in entertainment production, special events and meetings.
CAST’s award-winning flagship software products are wysiwyg – lighting design and previsualization suite, and Vivien – Event Designer and the new real-time tracking technology, BlackTrax.
All products are designed and created in-house and supported by an established global distribution and re-seller network.