BlackTrax Brings Marvel Comics Closer To Its Audience At Super-Hero Speeds

BlackTrax Brings Marvel Comics Closer To Its Audience At Super-Hero Speeds

Spider Man swings through the air during a preview of Marvel Universe Live! at the Forum. Photo Credit: Jason Behnken/Staff, Copyright © 2014 The Tampa Tribune

Iron Man, The Hulk, Captain America, Spider-Man, and 20 other action heroes are all coming to an arena near you – and as a part of Feld Entertainment’s Marvel Universe LIVE CAST BlackTrax motion-tracking solution is bringing these favorite Marvel comic characters to life as never before.

Marvel Universe LIVE! is out on tour this month after debuting in Tampa, FL, premiering at New York City’s Barclays Center on Wednesday, August 13 and visiting 85 North American cities in its first two years before coming to the United Kingdom, with other global destinations to be announced. Produced by Feld Entertainment, this visually stunning multimedia production sees the Avengers, Spider-Man, and members of the X-Men in a live production for the first time – doing battle with some of their most notorious foes, in a show designed to wow audiences of all ages.

As you might expect, spectacular stunts, high-tempo action sequences, pyrotechnics, and jaw-dropping special effects are all part and parcel of the show’s design. But Marvel Universe LIVE!'s extraordinary visual impact is amplified by BlackTrax.

Hawkeye flies through the air duing a preview of Marvel Universe Live! at the Forum. Photo Credit: Jason Behnken, Copyright © 2014 The Tampa Tribune

BlackTrax Realtime Motion Tracking Solution

BlackTrax is the spontaneous means to the end. It delivers realtime precise x,y,z so the downstream technologies can deliver WOW – on time, on target.

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 already used extensively in event and entertainment production, and houses of worship. 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 BTBeacon (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.

Spider Man swings through the air during a preview of Marvel Universe Live! at the Forum. Photo Credit: Jason Behnken, Copyright © 2014 The Tampa Tribune

BlackTrax at Marvel Universe LIVE!

MODE Studios’ Bob Bonniol was hired by Feld Entertainment to handle video content and system design for the show, and whose previous live-event credits include Blue Man Group in Las Vegas and Electric Zoo NYC.

“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,” comments Bonniol.

The reason for Bonniol’s enthusiasm is not hard to see. 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.

Captain Marvel, Hawkeye, Thor, Spider Man and Iron Man meet at the Avengers' headquarters in a scene from Marvel Universe Live!, which was previewed at the Forum. Photo Credit: Jason Behnken, Copyright © 2014 The Tampa Tribune

The BlackTrax and d3 development teams worked together for this ambitious show, taking d3’s existing advanced projection simulation toolkit and integrating BlackTrax as to track data across enormous resolutions with extraordinary accuracy and limited latency, while still be manageable by the user. d3 servers were also used for parallel series of scene changes in show lighting. Indeed, BlackTrax, working through Martin Professional consoles, made it possible to use automated lights that pull zoom and iris (rather like spotlights) to track performers automatically from places where it was imprudent or unsafe to put follow spot operators.

“Marvel Universe LIVE! has characters flying through the air, speeding on motorcycles, flipping across the space, performing car stunts, and engaging in martial-arts fights. We needed a solution that could keep up with super-hero speeds. Only BlackTrax was up to the job.”

Bruce Freeman, chairman, CAST Group, believes industry gurus are only beginning to imagine what the BlackTrax Solution can do: “Early adopters like Feld Entertainment realize they can leverage new technology for competitive advantage and profit -- change the way they deliver their business to set themselves apart, which is exactly what we see first with Marvel Universe LIVE!.

There is humor involved in the show, and some of it is aimed at Wolverine. Copyright © 2014 The Tampa Tribune

“BlackTrax is about combining creativity + artistry + technology to deliver an intimate, totally immersive experience for each person in the audience. Industry veterans like Bob Bonniol are thinking outside the box and using BlackTrax to deliver content never attempted previously, you know the revolution in the entertainment production industry has begun.”

As well as enhancing WOW, BlackTrax increases the operational efficiency of a large-scale arena show tour such as Marvel Universe LIVE! that depends heavily on the prowess of its technical team that brings rigorous stopwatch process to setups and strikes – the only way to pull-off the rigorous touring schedule.  As Freeman explains, “BlackTrax pays for itself. On one hand, BlackTrax is a vital tool that shaves hours off setup time by using its proprietary automated calibration functions for numerous BlackTrax cameras, d3 media servers, and projectors, plus more than 75 automated lights paired to BlackTrax. It is vital they share the same 0,0,0 for delivery accuracy.

Loki, one of the villains, takes the stage and prepares for a showdown. Copyright © 2014 The Tampa Tribune

“On the other hand, BlackTrax’s realtime tracking mitigates endless hours pre-cuing, then rehearsing the artists to hit the 'xs' on the nanosecond, then overnight recuing sessions. Replacing repeatability with spontaneity unleashes creativity for artists and designers – look at Marvel Universe LIVE!’s complex fight sequences, which become seriously more spectacular because of the choreography with lighting and multimedia special effects.

“Feld gets it, they did it, and they raised the bar, and that inspires us.”

While it might be a stretch to assert that BlackTrax has actually enhanced the special powers of Marvel’s super-heroes, there is no doubt that Marvel Universe LIVE! is the most thrilling deployment yet of this ground-breaking event solution – and that many more exciting episodes of this particular technology story are still to be written and performed.

Check out the trailer for Marvel Universe LIVE!

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