BlackTrax Helps Young Dancers Shine

Photos: Queensland Government, Creative Generation – State School On Stage.

Staged annually for the last 14 years, Queensland, Australia’s Creative Generation (CGEN) event was the biggest yet, with almost 2,000 schoolchildren being given the opportunity to perform in a professional environment on an enormous arena stage measuring 20 metres x 18 metres, with a 38 metre x 6 metre rear projection screen behind it.

Content delivery and projection mapping specialists IKONIX – who are based on Australia’s Gold Coast – were asked to help deliver the desired “Wow!” factor for the 5th successive year.

At the heart of the solution they created were 2 Avolites RX8 Ai media servers to deliver images to the rear screen, and two additional units controlling projection onto the stage. Equally central to their vision of the production were Notch real-time content generation and BlackTrax real-time tracking system, the latter provided by Atlanta-based Visional Productions, and supported by Visional co-founder Kyle Means. IKONIX also supplied Barco 4K resolution, 32,000-lumen projectors.

The use of Notch and BlackTrax was particularly important to Zachary Burton, co-founder with Richard Saunders of IKONIX and the operator at CGEN 2018, because it allowed their creativity free reign by enabling the use of on-the-fly and reactive content to complement the AutoBlend and AutoMap blending and warping functionality available with the Avolites Ai software.

Challenging and demanding

“The specifications for this year’s event were even more challenging and demanding than they had been previously,” recalled Zachary. “Not only did we find ourselves generating over 900 Gigabytes of content with custom content to suit the theme of each piece – but we also supplemented this with Notch generative content, and BlackTrax to track the dancers on-stage.”

In total, the CGEN show featured five pieces of Notch content, including particle trails, magic carpets and cracking floors, while up to seven BlackTrax beacons were deployed, tracking the dancers’ X/Y positional data – pushing the limits of what would usually be achievable with the Avolites media server (Avolites specially upgraded the number of beacons supported by Ai from four to eight for the event) especially as content was being generated concurrently.

In many similar situations, BlackTrax comes into its own because rehearsal time is always at a premium, so events cannot be choreographed and practiced to the nth degree – but BlackTrax allows for potentially unplanned movement to be seamlessly incorporated into a show, even if it is not expected. For CGEN, however, the IKONIX team had the luxury of appropriate rehearsal time.

“Rehearsal time was a key factor in introducing BlackTrax this year,” recollects Zachary. “Some of the more complicated dance pieces required a lot of timing, rehearsals and changes to accurately produce content – and time is something we usually lack, especially during the busy production and load in week. Giving the choreographers and dancers the flexibility to choreograph and dance to a show that tracks them is a big game changer in the way shows like this are produced.”


That wasn’t, however, the only aspect of the show that was unusual.

“A unique point of difference for us on this show was integrating different levels of sync with generative content,” Zachary explains. “We had dancers being tracked on stage as we moved to timecode and to free-run, and we had tracking and generative content jumping between the different levels of sync. This was made possible by the team at Avolites creating Notch timecode sync in Ai.”

Once again, BlackTrax enabled unprecedented levels of creativity in a high-profile live event – an advantage Zachary is quick to acknowledge, along with the debt he owes to Kyle Means’s support.

“Richard and I met Kyle through our work with different media servers and, especially using Ai on this show, we had a common understanding of what was required,” says Zachary. “Kyle came from the USA to Australia to assist in the programming, integration and operation during the show. He was very knowledgeable about BlackTrax and its integration with media servers, and a big asset to the show’s success.”

“And as for BlackTrax,” Zachary concludes, “it allowed us to focus on creating the content and allowed the dancers to focus on dancing – and took nothing away from our creative processes. As the two came together, BlackTrax allowed for seamless integration between the content and the dancing.”