Datacentric: The Stunts Of The CES 2018 Keynote Presentation

CES 2018 Keynote Presentation
(Brian Ach)

The CES 2018 opening night keynote presentation was all about data, from its importance in our lives to its power to transform the world. Held at the Park Theatre at The Monte Carlo Hotel in Las Vegas on January 8, the keynote immersed attendees in the future of data-driven technology, with help from live event experts, including executive technical producer John Halloran of John Halloran and Associates, executive producer and creative director Bill Welter of Clarity Creative, production designer Todd Ivins, and executive art director Gregg Stokes of Clarity Creative, who says, “We were challenged to create an immersive environment and to expose the audience to a visual pallet of real and stylized data.”

“From a production point of view, everything in the keynote could be traced back to being data-enabled, from stage automation to the kind of musical performance that utilized technology,” explains Welter. To immerse the audience in technology, the creative team deployed various exciting, visual elements, from a virtual reality “visor screen” to a web-like laser display of data.

Read about the presentation's set designvisual content, lighting design, and staging stats.


For the first time ever, the CES keynote was staged at a performing arts center, increasing the possibilities exponentially. “We went from the Venetian ballroom with 25'-high ceilings, which are very limiting, to 80' ceilings in the theater, which allowed for unlimited capabilities both theatrically and technically,” states John Halloran. With a proscenium arch and stage house, and almost unlimited possibilities for rigging, the creative team went all out.

“When we presented the overall creative to our client around June of last year, we figured that there was so much packed into all the designs they’d pick some of the creative options,” says Halloran, “but they came back and said they loved everything and to just go for it.”

The keynote presentation was jam-packed with entertainment, from the pre-show to the finale. “We had multiple musical instruments and musicians, a musical LED floor, drones, a dancer, and acrobats, all generating real time visuals,” says Stokes. “Every act had its own wireless network supported by a team of specialists that kept them communicating with the artists as well as the various image generation systems.”

Before the keynote, Algorithm and Blues, the world's first “data-only” band, performed via avatars, Ella and Miles, using Aerodrums and a Yahama piano, which sent data in real time to AI algorithms that processed the data and created new MIDI notes for the avatars to play on guitars. The avatars were projected on four 55' Tait Rollios, operated via Tait Navigator.

Next, twelve-year-old dancer Sophie Santella was accompanied by a kinetic light display of 250 LED cylinder light fixtures and 24 opaque LED spheres, rigged on Tait Nano Winches. With Tait Navigator, the kinetic light display traveled 60' perpendicular to the stage and moved as fast as 10' per second. Members of Zero Gravity Arts performed in custom-engineered LED costumes.

Twelve drones hovered over a keyboard in the LED floor. Through positioning technology, the drones moved up and down and the keys responded accordingly, playing a rendition of Chopsticks.

Tait’s 88 Nav Hoists lifted a 195' wide automated video screen for multiple transitions throughout the presentation. At one point, twenty-one 28' tall hexagon-shaped wall columns displaying content lined the back of the stage and ascended and descended to reveal an autonomous car that drove on stage.

“The single biggest challenge occurred when we were asked to fly the Volocopter onstage,” says Ivins. “It’s a 30' diameter, 7' tall drone helicopter.” The team had to figure out a way to get it on stage, fly 25', and set back down.

“It created a tremendous amount of design challenge as it really wasn’t on the radar or set into the show until October,” adds Halloran, “so we had a lot of shifting that needed to occur to make that work.”

For the finale, 110 drones were flown inside the Park Theatre, setting a Guinness World Record for the most drones flown indoors. Weighing a mere 2.5oz and specially manufactured to fly indoors, each drone had an LED light attached to its bottom and featured a custom location technology system that replaced the GPS array. “We had all the sensors all over the theatre that the drones were able to communicate with and figure out positioning and get the data back to go where it wants,” explains Halloran. The location technology system was also used to trace the virtual musicians, dancer, and some extreme gymnasts on trampolines.


  • Executive Technical Producer: John Halloran (John Halloran and Associates)
  • Executive Art Director: Gregg Stokes (Clarity Creative)
  • Executive Producer / Creative Director: Bill Welter (Clarity Creative)
  • Production Designer: Todd Ivins (Ivinsart Design, Inc.)
  • Technical Media Advisor: Gary Jaeger (Core Studio Creative Director)
  • Lighting Designer: Jim Tetlow (Nautilus Entertainment Design)
  • Lighting Director / Programmer: Kurt Doemelt (Nautilus Entertainment Design)
  • Audio Designer, FOH Engineer: Rich Halvorson
  • Laser Design and Integration: Kelly Sticksel (Fireplay Executive Director R&D)

Worldstage: Video Equipment and Systems

  • Senior Project Manager: James Sarro
  • Integration Project Manager: TJ Donoghue
  • Project Manager: Dennis Menard
  • Project Manager: John Denion
  • Senior disguise Media Server Programmer: Alex Bright
  • Video Director: Ken Stanford

Kish Rigging: Production Rigging

  • Production Rigger: Mike Cassidy

Mystic Scenic Studios: Scenery

  • Project Manager: Mark Marenghi

TAIT Towers: Staging and Automation

  • Project Managers: Ben Gasper and Brian Levine

4Wall: Lighting Equipment

  • Account Executive: Craig Teague

OSA Integrated Solutions: Audio Equipment

  • Account Executive: Paul Driggs
  • Project Manager: Peter Wiejaczka

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