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Drones Light show at Super Bowl LIII Halftime Show Kevin Winter, Getty Images
Intel’s Flying Lantern Shooting Stars in the Super Bowl's first-ever live drone light show at Super Bowl LIII Halftime Show

Monday Musings: From Drones To Disney

As 2019 gets underway, I have been musing about a few things. Aerialists. Drones. Projection mapping. Immersive experiences. The 2018 Christmas Spectacular at Radio City Music Hall is a prime example of production values on steroids. Obscura Digital, a very hip design firm started in 2000 in San Francisco, created impressive, immersive video for this show. They were bought by The Madison Square Garden Company in 2017, putting a projection-mapping company on the New York Stock Exchange, in a kind of roundabout way, and thus, their collaboration with The Rockettes. An interesting business model…

Which also got me thinking about how much has been inspired by Cirque du Soleil. Would there have been aerialists in The Rockettes’ show without the impact they make in the Cirque shows? And the extensive video in Zarkana at Radio City was a harbinger of things to come for The Rockettes. Cirque du Soleil was also an early adopter of drones. In their Broadway show, Paramour, drones were disguised as lampshades dancing around the stage, thanks to the Swiss technology of Verity Studios, whose drones are very small and weigh about 50 grams (under two ounces).

projection mapping Radio City Music Hall Christmas Spectacular

Photo of The Rockettes in the 2018 Radio City Music Hall Christmas Spectacular

Drones are hot things now: the Super Bowl LIII Halftime Show with Maroon 5 featured Intel’s Flying Lantern Shooting Stars in a show designed by Bob Barnhart; Drake and Metallica tours featured Verity drones; and even cruise ships, where the folks at Mode Studios used them in Fantastic Journey aboard the Caribbean Princess, once again turning to Verity Studios. Intel’s tiny drones were also seen recently dancing with the Rockettes. So what’s next in the drone technology, and how do they keep from becoming stale or ho-hum? As programming and technical capabilities keep growing—watch for drone updates in this space—will the storytellers keep finding new?

Speaking of storytellers, the folks at Disney have been master storytellers for decades. This article in Orlando’s Orange County Register talks a little about some of their new approaches to storytelling, and how Universal Studios and other entertainment venues are increasingly using new technologies to entertain their visitors.

In this short video, Disney creative director Steve Davidson, art director Lisa Bradley, and lighting designer KC Wilkerson talk a bit about the process used in the brand new show, Mickey’s Mix Magic, which just opened at Disneyland:

On a more practical level, the other day I was thinking about training ideas for LDI2019, and was wondering about some basic electrical courses. Then, as if he read my mind, Steve Irwin posted a link to an article titled: “What is the Difference Between Neutral, Ground and Earth?” on a site called You might want to bookmark the site; it’s full of good info to keep you grounded as you navigate ohms, amps, and watts.

jessica paz sound designer

Photo of Jessica Paz

Another thing we’ve been talking about is the need—or desire—to have more women in the entertainment design fields. Broadway finally had an all-female design team for the recent production of The Lifespan Of A Fact, for which I did a Q&A with each of the five designers (seach The Lifespan Of A Fact at, and last summer’s Shakespeare In The Park at NYC’s Delacorte Theatre had an all-female design team for Othello. Listen in as sound designer Jessica Paz talks about the experience in her in1 Podcast with Cory Pattak.

More musings next week…

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