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Eric Church Celebrates the Return of Live Music Using BlackTrax
Canada – Eric Church set out on The Gather Again Tour this autumn with the intention to unite fans and celebrate the return of live music, promoting his most recent Heart & Soul albums. Church is furled by the energy he receives from the audience and his interactions with them. Now, he doesn’t have to worry about being at certain mic positions for certain moments. With the format of The Gather Again Tour, special moments can be created anywhere on stage at any time during the show, thanks to BlackTrax!
While The Gather Again tour shows take place in arena-sized venues, the stage is set up in an intimate, in-the-round style where the audience surrounds the performer from all sides. It’s a set-up that needed a brand-new stage from the ones that Eric’s used to performing on for prior tours.
The design brief mandated that 64 automated followspots (the ROBE BMFLs) simultaneously tracked the eight different targets, eight fixtures allocated per target. An Eric Church concert is a high energy performance where performers are moving quickly and end up all over the stage. Butch Allen, the show’s production designer, worked very closely with TAIT (staging and automation vendor for the tour) to develop a new flying camera system, now called the Navigator Camera System. BlackTrax sends positional information to TAIT via RTTRP-M so the flying cameras can automatically track Eric Church in real-time.
Throughout the show, the Navigator Camera System flies the length of the arena, capturing a 360-degree view of the stage and the audience surrounding the stage while also tracking the performers via BlackTrax. The results are stunning, and many of the shots and moves would be impossible to execute without the help of BlackTrax.
The Gather Again Tour was already an extensive and complicated production, and this took it up a notch.
“We love working with BlackTrax. What it adds to the show is so far beyond any other spotlight / automated keylight system I've ever seen. The whole team was surprised by the degree of accuracy. In the preliminary talks, we thought 'millimetre' accuracy was a marketing ploy. It was not! I've never seen anything in entertainment lighting this precise,” said Gavin Lake, touring lighting director, Eric Church Gather Again Tour.
Typically, Gavin dedicates two to three hours each show day to update key position focuses that can’t be left in the hands of a spotlight operator. Now he doesn’t have to worry about any of those, he has confidence the BlackTrax system is going to work.
Gavin says he used to prepare himself mentally and emotionally for the challenges of calling four to 12 spots each night, in a very spot cue-heavy show. Now he can focus his energy on the overall flow and look of the show.
The Eric Church Gather Again Tour has an extensive set up and tear-down regime, in addition to having a short window between weekend shows. The crew has limited time to get ready, to change the network, and they do it twice a weekend. Roth calls it ‘typical’, but it still requires an extensive amount of work noting the ability for the team to pivot, 'seamless', despite any obstacles met.
“Once we decided to use BlackTrax, the hardware support in terms of helping us detail the network, was 110 per cent. The software support, same thing, the field technician we hired through the BlackTrax team, John Taylor, was a Rockstar. There was a time crunch across the whole show and the BlackTrax team integrated well, exceeded expectations and they did it in a short time frame with some logistics pressures. Very happy with the service,” stated Robert Roth, Christie Lites account executive, Eric Church Gather Again Tour.
Roth has said the BlackTrax products and support have exceeded expectations. The Gather Again tour goes through July 2022 and the BlackTrax system is in use until at least then. Roth anticipates future BlackTrax use by saying: “When the product matches the vision of the design team they are working with, they will be including BlackTrax in those future productions.”
There’s no doubt that if you are one of the lucky ones to get a ticket to The Gather Again Tour, that you will be swept away in the energy, enthusiasm and technology making it all possible. With a powerful team of creatives and contributors involved, these bring the magic, show after show, city after city.
photos: Anthony D'Angio
4th February 2022
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