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Seven Seas Mariner® Leading the way in Theatrical Lighting Innovation

In any theater, lighting design is undeniably essential when bringing a production to life. From its most straightforward function of telling the audience where to look to its more dramatic role of using color, depth, and shadows to move storytelling, the audience would be lost without it.

In early 2022, Regent Seven Seas Cruises® decided to jump into the future of theatrical lighting by introducing a new robotic lighting system. Spearheaded by Michael Geiger, Manager of Technical Entertainment, the company partnered with QFactory Lighting to bring this new automated system to Seven Seas Mariner® first, making her theater unmatched by others in the luxury cruise industry.

This new-age robotic lighting system, Blacktrax, was created with the primary function of replacing manually operated spotlights for highly visible events like the Superbowl, rock concerts, and Las Vegas spectaculars. When QFactory joined Geiger on the Mariner project, the possibilities of what this new technology could do beyond simple spotlight replacement became the catalyst for their plans. 

"Blazing Boots" - Seven Seas Mariner

 "We wanted to do more than just replace the spotlights and saw exciting design opportunities for this specific application aboard Mariner," explains Travis McHale, Head of Creative Design and founder of QFactory. "BlackTrax has been used less often for purely theatrical pieces, so we decided to develop a unique process for Regent. Making the lighting design a living and organic part of the theatrical experience."

The BlackTrax lighting system responds in real-time to the performers by following infrared beacons which they wear. These beacons emit unique pulses of infrared light, similar to TV remotes. This light, invisible to the naked eye, is picked up by multiple cameras aimed at the stage. A powerful computer ingests the camera feeds and uses an algorithm to determine the precise location of each performer. This algorithm is like the GPS on our phones.

Alex Taylor, Head of Innovation for QFactory, adds, "The accuracy can be down to 1 mm – about the thickness of a penny! And the system is very fast – it can process all of the camera information and calculate the position of the entire cast in less than 1/50th of a second." Taylor continues, "the same technology (and software) is used for motion capture in Hollywood. It was first developed for James Cameron's Avatar."

"Blazing Boots" - Seven Seas Mariner 

As the system was being installed, Kai Alan Carrier, Director of Artistic Theatrical Entertainment, was introduced into the process to oversee the implementation of the new technology from a creative standpoint. "I feel lucky to be a part of a company that supports keeping up with new technology and is constantly pushing to be better. Having someone on the team like Michael Geiger who is passionately at the helm of this innovation is critical."

"We started with our Theatrical Costuming Department to decide whether the infrared beacons would be hidden on the performer's bodies, costumes, or even wigs. To do this, our Costuming Production Specialists suggested that our Props Department build a replica of the beacons, which we used for trial runs," explains Carrier. "Through these trials, and with our Stage Management team onboard, we determined the tracking devices could be worn over the ear and still be virtually invisible to the guests."

Once the performers were squared away, McHale and Taylor began the long process of programming and redesigning the shows. This includes reviewing the existing design for clever and exciting tracking opportunities and extensive programming hours.

After months of work by the QFactory and all departments involved, Taylor exclaimed, "The installation was a success! The shows are elevated and modern, bringing a specificity that would be impossible to accomplish otherwise! Almost every moving light in the theater is programmed to follow the performers at some point in our designs. The performer's faces are brighter and, therefore, more relatable, and understandable. The system even tracks the Cruise Director as he introduces the show."    

"The installation was a success! The shows are elevated and modern, bringing a specificity that would be impossible to accomplish otherwise!"

"Blazing Boots" - Seven Seas Mariner

When all was complete, the team had added 16 infrared seeking cameras, two high-powered computers, 18 infrared packs for the theatrical cast, four ultra-bright 'spotlight' fixtures, and an isolated network to run the entire system. Though Seven Seas Mariner® already had a highly capable lighting rig when they started, the task of refitting the infrastructure to accommodate this technology was arduous but worth it.

Technology in the theatrical industry is advancing rapidly. With the collective vision of Regent Seven Seas Theatrical team members, innovative partners like QFactory, and diverse creative teams, Regent Seven Seas is joining the race.