BlackTrax Brings Walking with Dinosaurs – The Arena Spectacular to Life

Dinosaurs come to life in an updated version of the 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-dollar production which recently received a massive technological update in mechatronics, visuals, lighting, and the latest in real-time tracking. The high-tech upgrades are provided and managed by UK-based company, Sonalyst, owned by Rory Madden.

Sonalyst is a market leading independent one-stop solution providing consultation, equipment & staff for concerts, theatres, television studios, and outside broadcast; film; exhibition; conference; corporate events; bespoke private parties and installations.

Sonalyst provides all the lighting, rigging, sound and communications. They also provide their technical expertise to solve any issues and improve the performance of the show, on both a technical and creative side.

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.

The show has been performed in over 250 cities worldwide, with 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.

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 shows 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.” said 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 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”, said Madden.

The BlackTrax kit was purchased from Oli Metcalfe at Dark Arts Creative, who packaged the system with 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 kit has 19 cameras spanning the overhead lighting truss, 15 active beacons, 40+ stringers, most have been installed into the dinosaurs.

When asked what the motivating factor was to use BlackTrax specifically, Ashley Simper said;

“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.”

“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, emphasises this. Everyone wants the best show they can have, and with this system, we have it.”