Conceived and directed by Channing Tatum, Magic Mike Live is an unforgettably fun night of thrilling, 360-degree entertainment based on the hit movies “Magic Mike” and “Magic Mike XXL.” This first-class experience features some of the world’s most talented guys performing heart-racing dance routines in front of, above, and all around the audience. BlackTrax can be found at the center of the action, helping to create the lighting aesthetic only found at a Magic Mike Live show.
We had the chance to speak with Don Gilmore, International Production Manager of Magic Mike Live Worldwide, and Paul Chadwick, Production and Head Electrician for Magic Mike Live Las Vegas, to ask them more about the involvement of BlackTrax Real-Time Tracking in the Magic Mike Live productions in Las Vegas, London, Berlin, the Australian tour (cut short due to the pandemic) and the upcoming North American Tour which launches in Miami in October 2022.
Following the success of Magic Mike and Magic Mike XXL, actor Channing Tatum wanted to tell the next part of the story by bringing to life a stage production inspired by the hit films, and with it a new kind of entertainment was born in Magic Mike Live. In every detail, from every seat type to the sound and lighting design, to each signature drink in the cocktail program and beyond, Tatum and the Magic Mike Live creative team meticulously curated the Magic Mike Live theater to provide an unparalleled evening of service and entertainment. The Magic Mike Live experience is lightning in a bottle and curation of what women are looking for in a night out.
Since its Vegas debut in 2017, Magic Mike Live has been an enormously successful show that has expanded around the globe. Before its opening night in London in 2018, the show was sold-out months ahead of time and raked in 7.4 million pounds ($9,052,420 USD) in advance sales. Soon after came the build in Berlin, which opened in January 2020, before Don’s team flew to Belgium where the venue for the Australian tour was being built. By March 1st, the venue, the largest Spiegeltent in the world, was deconstructed and packed into shipping containers to be shipped to Australia, and along the way, the pandemic hit.
The pandemic pushed back the opening of the Australian tour that was meant to open in Melbourne in June 2020. However, they alternatively wound-up opening in Sydney, right before Christmas 2020 before moving it to Melbourne. Upon arrival in Melbourne, a new variant of COVID hit, and the city shut down. Sadly, the show never went live in Melbourne because the city never opened again. The tent and its assets have been brought to North America now and will be used in the upcoming North American tour.
Gilmore’s first experience with BlackTrax was while working with magician Mat Franco in Las Vegas on his resident production Magic Reinvented Nightly at The LINQ Hotel & Casino. Lighting a magic show is unique because the focus and importance is on what you are not lighting, rather than as much as it is on what you are lighting.
With a focus on this technique, the Executive Producer and Creative Team felt that BlackTrax would translate well for what they wanted to do with Magic Mike Live in Las Vegas.
Gilmore commented: “BlackTrax was one of the most important developments in theater technology that’s come along in a long time. It solved one of the problems that had not been resolved until BlackTrax was created, the ability to put a follow spot anywhere you wanted, to use multiple lights, and to do it economically. At a permanent venue – to put a follow spot anywhere, not having to create places/space for an operator is huge.”
Now, Magic Mike Live company owns three BlackTrax systems, used throughout the world as an integral part of every iteration of the show.
Magic Mike Live Las Vegas is set up like an intimate club, with seats surrounding the stage, theater-in-the-round style. BlackTrax Real-Time Tracking used in Magic Mike Live has allowed Lighting Designer, Philip Gladwell, and his team to strategically position follow spots, which aren’t in typical places or in regular positions or angles, to get the right reflection or inky blackness that is sought after.
In the past, numerous follow spot operators would have been needed to get a result like using BlackTrax, except in the venues selected for Magic Mike Live, there is not the physical space necessary required for these operators. BlackTrax allows lighting designers to think differently about how performers are lit.
Chadwick explained: “BlackTrax is being used in an aesthetic way, not just in the traditional way. The ability to program the lights more directly was a driving factor in choosing BlackTrax and we were able to do a lot of interesting things using BlackTrax on top of pan, tilt, and intensity. There is no other product that can do what BlackTrax does. The system works beautifully, and the possibilities are amazing.”
Another advantage of using BlackTrax is it allows lighting positions to be placed up high, on the sides, and far back which allows tight zones of moving light to be achieved. The result permits the performer to move around freely, fully lit up, without light spilling into the surrounding black dark space while shining in that environment. This is done with the use of the BlackTrax features: Static or Dynamic Zones and Automatic Beam Sizing.
Static or Dynamic Zones can be drawn in the software BT wyg which connects to BlackTrax. Lighting Designers can draw a virtual zone of any size within the 3D representation of the real space. The spatial coordinates of the virtual zone are sent to BlackTrax for lighting fixture programming and can also be routed out to third-party integrations as needed (Media Servers, Spatial Audio Engines, etc.).
Pre-programmed behaviors and cues can be triggered if the performer enters or exits a zone. An example of this would be when a performer leaves a virtual zone on stage, all the lighting fixtures assigned to them autonomously douse out, or when they re-enter the zone, the lighting fixtures autonomously fade back in. The zones can be static, like in Magic Mike Live, or become dynamic, by attaching them to a moving BT Beacon.
Automatic Beam Sizing is a unique feature that can automate and lock the desired beam diameter of a lighting fixture, even down to the size of a pinhead. Users can program BlackTrax to automate zoom and iris to automatically maintain a consistent beam diameter. BlackTrax will already know each fixture’s iris and zoom capabilities because of BT wyg’s comprehensive lighting Fixture Library.
The use of colour as an aesthetic in the show is a colour chase using the BlackTrax system. The lights remain with a static intensity, following a performer. As the performer moves through the zones, the colour of the light changes.
IMMERSIVE AESTHETICS FOR THE AUDIENCE
Production designer Rachel O’Toole is responsible for creating unique environments in each venue that perfectly balances spatial constraints with the curated aesthetic that’s signature of the Magic Mike Live show experience. It is a testament to her skill that you can walk into each of the four venues, and they are all different, but they are all noticeably from the same universe.
• Las Vegas (Original Venue: Hard Rock Hotel & Casino): Former nightclub reconfigured to accommodate an in-the-round production with an eccentrically shaped mezzanine level.
• Las Vegas (Current Venue: SAHARA Las Vegas): Former convention space extensively remodeled to hold a multi-level, in-the-round theater with an adjacent pre-show cocktail lounge. Like the original venue in shape with the addition of performance balconies that wrap around the theater, ziplines that allow the performers to traverse across the room in seconds, and more.
• London: Cabaret theater with two seating levels and a thrust stage, making it the only Magic Mike Live production not performed fully in the round.
• Berlin: Magic Mike Live’s largest venue at 1250m², also a former nightclub space.
• The Arcadia: The largest Spiegeltent in the world, created specifically for Magic Mike Live to perform its full production in the round for more than 600 guests per show while touring.
Gilmore stated: “BlackTrax allows us to customize a rig for each space with lighting that is distinct to that production. Phil [Gladwell’s] lighting is one of the key components in the trademark aesthetic of Magic Mike Live, it is almost like another character in the show. It emphasizes these beautiful environments we have built and helps drive the visual energy of the performance we have created but also helps carry the narrative arc of the show, by constantly altering the mood in the “feel” of the room.
What BlackTrax does is allows us to do is work in these different spaces with completely different staging, so when you see 2 or 3 different Magic Mike production, they’re different but you certainly know you are seeing Magic Mike Live, show with all the amazing lighting and production values you would expect, in a familiar creative vocabulary. You would not be able to recreate the environment without BlackTrax. It is one of the most important arrows in our quiver.”
In the show’s first Las Vegas venue at Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, Paul Chadwick would be sure to refine the calibration of the BlackTrax system at least once a week. A full calibration would be done if the position of the BT Sensor was changed. Calibration enables BlackTrax to determine the relative position of the BT Sensors and lighting fixtures in relation to each other, in a 3D space. This enables real-time tracking with lighting fixtures with pin-point accuracy.
This refinement of recalibration was greatly reduced when the show moved to the Sahara in 2021. This is thanks to the release of a new software feature called ‘Continuous Calibration’ released as part of BlackTrax: 2.3.3. on Aug 31, 2018. Once the BlackTrax system has been successfully calibrated in full, the BT Sensors can be set to use ‘Continuous Calibration’, which runs in the background.
Continuous Calibration allows the BT System to use the real-time motion of the BT Beacons onstage during live performances to maintain and/or improve the BT Sensor calibration. This removes the need for BlackTrax operators to conduct refine calibrations manually as they would have done before. Paul is now finding that after five or six weeks he needs to undertake a refinement of calibration, rather than the previous weekly necessity.
From a daily operational standpoint, the time to prepare before each show is minimal. The costumes are loaded with the BT Beacons from the charger, the system is turned on, Chadwick opens the displays and checks the BT Beacons and system status to be sure nothing has been changed. If he has any trepidation, he might get a BT Beacon and some BT Stringers and walk around the stage to assess the real-time tracking quality. 10-15 mins before each show are all it takes for maintenance and the BlackTrax system is good to go.
Equal parts empowering and exhilarating, Magic Mike Live is a 360-degree stage spectacular featuring daring dance routines, thrilling acrobatics, and live music that provides an unforgettably fun night of entertainment that is guaranteed to bring on the heat and leave guests feeling inspired and ready to ignite the magic inside themselves. Over the last five years, the level of commitment, tenacity, effort, and work ethic of the Magic Mike Live team is astonishing. Their ability to pivot when needed along with strong teamwork are the reasons Magic Mike Live is alive and breathing.