BlackTrax, d3 Technologies solutions for innovative production of Marvel Universe LIVE!

Action hero spectacular will visit arenas across the UK and US.

David Davies

Cutting edge solutions from BlackTrax and d3 Technologies are integral to the new touring production by Feld Entertainment, Marvel Universe LIVE!, which will be bringing Iron Man, The Hulk, Captain America, Spider-Man and 20 other action heroes to arenas across the US and UK over the next few years.

Spectacular stunts, high-tempo action sequences, pyrotechnics and jaw-dropping special effects are part and parcel of the show’s design, with the BlackTrax Realtime Motion Tracking Solution doing much to amplifier the show’s visual impact.

BlackTrax is the multi-award-winning realtime tracking technology solution that delivers precise streaming 3D & 6D positional data to electro-mechanical controllers for targeting the connected automated robotic technologies. Using proprietary IR and RF, BlackTrax delivers dynamic streaming positional data with up to six degrees of freedom (x, y, z, plus roll, pitch & yaw) to 3D & spatial audio, automated lighting, multimedia servers, and robotic cameras – all at the same time, in realtime.

Any object or performer tagged with the FCC and CE certified BT Beacon (patent pending), which comprises a gyroscope, accelerometer, and tiny wireless radio, to which an IR LED is attached (The Tracking Point), is tracked inside the predefined space at over 100 frames per second by multiple overhead BTCameras. The orientation of the object/performer is communicated by RF directly to the BTServer. The BTBeacon’s inertia measurement unit provides redundant 3D positioning via its tiny radio transmitter should the IR line-of-sight between the BTBeacon and BTCams become obfuscated.

MODE Studios’ Bob Bonniol was hired by Feld Entertainment to handle video content and system design for the show. “We knew from the beginning that we needed to track scenic elements and characters to create the convincing scenic locations and combat effects that would amaze the audience… I felt confident from the start that BlackTrax would be the answer,” commented Bob Bonniol.

By attaching BlackTrax Beacons to cast members, Bonniol and his team use the dynamic positional data of each Tracking Point (there can be nearly 200 unique Tracking Points onstage at any one time; each has an unique tag number used to establish a relationship with downstream technology). Tracking Points provide accurate target data for the d3 media servers used to drive the production’s projection-mapped backdrop.

Projections allow characters to seamlessly travel between The Avengers’ tower and Loki’s fortress; they showcase Tony Stark’s lab, a landslide in the Himalayas and the top of the Statue of Liberty.

Ash Nehru of d3 Technologies says the size and complexity of Marvel Universe LIVE! represents an “unparalleled” usage of d3 media servers for projection mapping where scenic locations and effects map the set, props and arena itself.  “There hasn’t been a show of quite this dramatic scale before with this kind of high-quality content,” said Nehru. The production is believed to feature the largest, most sophisticated video projection rig ever taken on tour. It utilises 27 Barco HDF-W26 DLP projectors, each with 26,000-lumen output.

Bonniol had used d3 servers on a world tour for Mexican singer Paulina Rubio and a Vancouver Opera production of Mozart’s Don Giovanni, and his experience convinced him that, with d3 Technologies’ support, he could meet the unique demands of the show.

“We knew we had to track moving scenery, props and performers with mapped content. We were going to be the main ‘engine’ for imparting locations, combat effects and environmental effects, and also for taking the audience on astonishing transitional journeys to get us from scene to scene. We needed a serving system that would do all of this, as well as move from city to city and efficiently be re-aligned,” said Bonniol.