Janet Jackson has just completed her latest North American tour, Together Again, with tour direction, production design and technical direction by Eric Wade from Dallas, Texas-based Crossfade Design.
Eric has worked with the artist for two years, and he developed this show in collaboration with Jackson herself plus her long-term creative director, Gil Duldulao. Wade decided, together with his son Brandon who was on the road as lighting programmer & director, to implement a zactrack SMART real-time tracking system.
“We needed anything between 10 and 14 follow spots depending on the venue to ensure that Janet and her four primary dancers, who were integral to the show, were nicely lit and followed smoothly,” explained Wade.
Up to 25 Trackers were utilised on the show, with 10 active at any one time as the SMART system allows. Two each were used per person with the wardrobe department sewing special Tracker pockets into the costume shoulders which neatly concealed the devices.
A total of 26 moving lights were being used as zactrack fixtures by the end of the tour, including 12 Ayrton Perseo Profiles on the downstage truss, eight Perseo Beams on the upstage truss, and six Clay Paky B-Eye LED wash fixtures on the mid-stage ladders.
Wade commented that “the ease and flexibility of being able to rotate Trackers and add or swap lights as needed is fantastic!”
Before specifying zactrack on the tour, Wade utilised it on another large-scale show, after which he was fully confident it would work as envisioned for Janet Jackson.
He noted the “fantastic support and back up” from zactrack’s exclusive North American distributor, ACT Entertainment, during the whole evaluation process and initial shows, mentioning that Aaron Hubbard in particular “was ever-present to answer all questions and offer solid advice.”
Wade highlighted that a traditional follow spot set up would have needed more than a dozen units but with zactrack onboard, they needed only two house spots for the shows as backup and for special guest appearances.
There were approximately 400 lights in total on the rig, all supplied by PRG and project managed by Jason Winfree. PRG also supplied sound, video and scenic, with Crossfade Design delivering all the lighting control elements.
Troy Eckerman was the associate lighting designer and Keith Hoagland came in as a special guest LD / programmer, and as they both discovered how the system worked and integrated, everyone was able to get a great grasp on what zactrack could accomplish.
As lighting director and zactrack tech on the road, Brandon noted another benefit of zactrack, in simplifying the task of calling a large number of follow spots. “This part of the workflow is simply a lot smoother than before, you don’t have the idiosyncrasies of dealing with a different set of house operators each night and you can really finesse the spotlights more than ever before.”
Different zones were established for Janet Jackson’s dancers to enable the assigned lights to automatically fade in and out as they entered or exited the stage. “It is a great investment, and we will definitely be using it on future projects,” concluded Eric.