Our Tron Dance journey
Wrecking Orchestra, world's first Tron Dance show
I still think it was one of the greatest Tron Dance performances ever. It's just a shame their final show on Got Talent wasn't so great anymore.
We have a friend who is the owner of one dance school here in Slovakia; and another friend, who was a producer of Slovak awards (and worked on shows like Miss Slovakia, Got Talent, etc.). We’ve worked together on several projects before, including lasers and one, for Got Talent, which was even awarded by ILDA award (something like laser show Oscar) :
ILDA Award 2013 - Patrik Gluchowski laser show at Czechoslovakia's got Talent
Let’s build the Tron Dance system
These guys came to us with a video of a Tron Dance show and asked: "Can you do that?"
Our answer was quite simple: "Sure."
I must admit, we were really naive back then. We didn't have a clue about all the problems we'll be facing. But in a way that naivety was good too, we would probably never have started this, if I knew what disasters we would have to deal with and how much money we were going to invest. Then again, I guess that's the case for many businesses :) ...
"The Ultimate LED Strip" - unfortunately not in reality
Special LED strip
The project started with developing a special new LED strip. We didn't want to use EL strips, because our plan was to use the suits for huge events and concerts. The intensity of EL strip would not be enough for these events.
The aim for this new LED strip was to have a continuous light similar to EL strip, but with a lot more intensity. We produced the first prototype with 384 LEDs per meter! The intensity was great, the light was beautiful, but - the strip was easy to tear, just like a paper. Plus it was expensive as hell... We produced 2 more versions of prototypes for this LED strip. They were already a lot better, so we've decided to use those for our LED suits.
The final decision to really produce the system was made in early January of 2013. The show was scheduled for beginning of February, so we had about a month to produce suits, complete wiring, wireless DMX controllers and develop the controlling software. Quite interestingly, the software part was actually the easiest part. I knew we can upgrade LED Strip Studio software and it will be just perfect for the show.
The control electronics were also quite easy to develop. We've used wireless DMX to control the LED parts of the suit. We were also lucky to find one specialized Slovak company, which produced special battery pack for us. We really think the electronics are perfect for the job.
The first big problem came with the suit itself. The first decision was to stitch the LED strips to the suit. And it was really an unfortunate one.
We've received the LED strips one week before the show performance. It was really too late to make any wise decisions. The ladies who did the stitching on the suit had big problems with attaching the strips and not destroying them. They were not able to stitch the LED strips without crossing them with the needle. And it was incredibly time consuming to attach all the strips to the suits.
Day before the show I've spent 2 hours with the dancers from The Pastels group who were supposed to do the dancing. We've created the music-synchronized light show in LED Strip Studio. And I was really happy with how fast we were able to create the show. Robert Burian composed a special song for the performance and it was a really good trance track.
While I was sitting at the computer with the dancers, the ladies from tailoring were working on the suits for 48 hours straight and finished the stitching just 10 hours before the performance. We did first test of the suits at 2:00 pm on the day of the show. The test was not successful at all. 3 control electronics were destroyed because of the short-circuited LED strips (caused by the needle prick). The wires connecting the parts of the suits were too short, so the dancers could not move as they should. Luckily all members of our team were at the show, so we were able to fix the problems before 7:00 pm and the suits were ready for the Big Show starting at 8:00 pm. Or so we thought... But, well ... They weren't...
LED costumes waiting for the great performance.
At 7:30pm we did the final test of the suits in the dressing room. All was working fine, so I went to FOH (the show control center) and the dancers went to the stage. Our technician did the last test 5 minutes before the live TV show started. Unfortunately, that was when our portion of luck for the day run out. While the dencers were going to the stage, I received a panicked message to my earpiece: "Michal, one of the electronics is burned out and another is not receiving the signal, we don't know why”. I thought I'd start crying... Everyone from the staff kep askng me: "What's happening? Are they ready? Can we start?"
Before they made it to the stage, we'd lost 2 dancers already and I really didn't know what to do. If this had happened with lasers, I would be able to fill the black part live. But this is not an option with LED costumes, since the dancers and light must all be synchronized and prepared in advance.
Times like these are when you're forced to start praying... But we were truly lucky. One suit suddenly started to work when the dancers got closer to the stage. The dancers were (are) real professionals. The last minute they have improvised a change in the choreography and positions on the stage. And how did the show end up? You can check it out here:
Our first Tron Dance performance for Slovak Music Awards 2013
You can notice there are some black parts and one of the dancers suit stopped working while dancing. For us, it was a disaster. The choreographer, dancers and the producer were all angry (no surprise). We had lost few months of developing and sleepless nights, all for nothing. Plus, we'd lost so much money in the process... I don't remember ever being so sad in my whole life. And when I saw the disappointment in the eyes of our team...
Still got lucky
However, not everyone knew how the final show was supposed to look like. No one knew there were supposed to be 7 people dancing instead of 6. No one noticed the black parts. The show was a great public success. All the newspaper wrote about the fantastic beginning of the Music Awards. And many people wanted to hire the show for their events...
What's the moral of the story? Well I have a few:
- Don't do development under too much pressure, because it might not work out in the end.
- Too much excitement doesn't help. We looked forward to the show so much that we forgot to double check our steps (like we usually do). We worked like terminators - "nothing bad can possibly happen to us"... No surprise, we were wrong...
- Not everything bad is as bad as it first looks. Although we thought we did a bad job, people loved it. And we were able to continue the development and improve the system to what it is now.
And what went wrong? You'll find out in my next post :) ...