Dinosaurs return with BlackTrax
Monday, 18 February 2019
dinosaursLighting huge dinosaurs for maximum impact is not easy
UK - Dinosaurs come to life in an updated version of the theatrical event, Walking with Dinosaurs - The Arena Spectacular (see LSi November for a production report). Originating in Australia in 2007, and on the road for many years, the production is a $20m-dollar production which recently received a massive technological update in mechatronics, visuals, lighting, and the latest in realtime tracking.
The high-tech upgrades are 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 appropriate equipment needed to solve any issues and improve the performance of the show, on both a technical and creative side.
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 realtime.
On the road, the main team consists of four people. Dave Gibbon is the LX crew Chief, Emma Davis is the touring relighter 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," says 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 grandMA2, grandMA2 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," says Madden.
Incorporating BlackTrax has been a major benefit 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 Arts Creative, who packaged the system.
(Jim Evans)

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