Bonniol has used disguise 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 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.”
BlackTrax Integration and Previs
Bonniol worked closely with his associate Pablo Molina to conceive new ways to use localised content. Ash Nehru partnered with Bonniol, Molina and Cast BlackTrax development team to use the tracking data “across enormous resolutions with extraordinary accuracy and limited latency,” Bonniol says. BlackTrax is a comprehensive tracking technology solution that delivers precise 3D and 6D positioning in realtime from BTBeacons (attached to performers, vehicles and moving scenery) to controllers for automated/robotic technologies.
“We’ve been working with BlackTrax for some time. For our needs, it is the most advanced system that we know of.” Nehru reports. “On prior shows we had tracked 10-12 BTBeacons, but Marvel Universe LIVE! requires 60. It was a learning experience to scale up and develop a system that could be easily managed by the user. But that has set us up well to provide solutions for other large-scale projects. Cutting-edge projects like Marvel Universe LIVE! really brought this feature we were already developing in disguise to a mature level so this will be something everyone will be able to benefit from soon.”
A disguise system was also deployed during the previz process. “Since the show required an extended development period for content we were going to have to demonstrate easily and accurately what it would look like for Marvel, Disney and the Felds,” explains Bonniol. “I engaged The Antfarm to create most of my content, and we placed a disguise server there at the beginning of the process. There were so many challenges in the content development process: understanding spatial relationships, making perspective work for multiple locations in the arena, sorting out how effects would transition among surfaces. disguise proved invaluable not just for client approvals but also for the content team to visualise all of these challenges and efficiently find solutions.”
“Viewing the content in 3D as they created it meant they were always working in a 3D environment and able to make critical decisions long before show time,” says Nehru. “When you use the disguise previs function the savings in sweat, stress and money can be astronomical.”
Dynamic Soft Edge Launches
disguis also developed a new projector blending tool, which makes its debut with Marvel Universe LIVE! and will be standard in the system moving forward. “Typically, when you have multiple overlapping projectors there are bright areas where they overlap,” Nehru explains. “So you have to use a mask to blend them. It’s a manual and static process; you can’t have surfaces that move through the projector beam. With 27 projectors on Marvel Universe LIVE! this would have been impossible.”
disguise had already been developing a solution to this problem. Marvel Universe LIVE! is the first large-scale implementation of this feature, called Dynamic Soft Edge. “With Dynamic Soft Edge we can generate masks automatically and dynamically so we’re able to move projection surfaces through multiple projector beams and come out with a flat colour,” says Nehru. “This has huge implications for productions with moving scenery where there were always restrictions before.”
Bonniol says that “tracking scenery and performers through three dimensional space, having the server system understand how this was happening and be able to adjust on the fly how the projectors were blending and projecting the content is a deceptively simple thing to ask for but devilishly complicated to achieve. We asked for a very difficult thing to be achieved, and in the end it was.”
disguise also offers a quick projector calibration tool called QuickCal – a huge advantage for a touring production with 27 projectors. “Each venue requires recalibrating, which takes five to ten minutes per projector,” Nehru says. “With 27 projectors, some of them moving-head projectors, more than 50 different calibrations have to happen in a few hours. The disguise media server is the only system that can handle this quickly and efficiently by allowing multiple people to work in parallel on separate laptops.”
Bonniol calls disguise his “media server of choice when faced with sets that need projection mapping. I find disguise programming interface to be intuitive and powerful and, right now, I think it’s absolutely the best choice for a media server that provides robust tools and process for mapping video onto non-traditional shapes and structures.”
Emmy Award-winner Joe Stewart is the production designer for “Marvel Universe LIVE!” and Norm Schwab is the show’s lighting designer.