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Cirque Wows Audiences With Toruk Technology

Cirque Du Soleil opens its most technologically advanced show in Cincinnati this week complete with elaborate and realistic video projections, light tracking, and a phone app that encourages audience participation.

WVXU got a preview in Louisville where Toruk audiences knew something was going to be dramatically different after being told to keep their phones out and on. Through the First Flight app they entered their seat information and were prompted at different times when to participate. At one point, the phone's flash helped simulate a thunderstorm during the show. The phones also were used to provide a color background.

The Cirque du Soleil performance pushes the technology limit with its use of video projectors that transform this show, inspired by James Cameron’s Avatar, from desert to flood to mountains.

Credit Ann Thompson / WVXU
Sebastien Cousineau, Video Crew Chief, looks at the stage in 3D and can move the video to wrap around 3D objects.

Video Crew Chief Sebastien Cousineau sits in front of a bank of computers and controls 40 projectors with 200 scenes. He says everything is 3D based. He sees the stage in 3D and can move the video to wrap around 3D objects, which he says is very different from a normal show. "Most shows are made in 2D and we adapt the concept to a 3D shape. So this is actually the real thing. It's my first time working like this."

He's tracking many objects including the lights on the artists called BlackTrax. It tracks a beacon, in this case-embedded in a costume, and sends in real-time the positional information to lighting consoles and merges it with cues.

Production Manager Thomas Duchaine says, “It just opens the door to so much more effects. I believe it is the beginning of that technology. I believe in about 5-10 years we’re going to see really crazy shows using that technology as good as what we’re doing right here.”  

Toruk appeals to not only the Cirque crowd, but Avatar and sci-fi fans as well. Duchaine says the bigger the challenge the better.

“I’m not a very panicky person. I was very excited, first the challenge of a show in the Avatar world. I’m a fan as well. I’ve seen the movie like 95 percent of the planet and I was very excited to play in that world.”

Duchaine says the only thing the show doesn’t have is a hologram, but the 3D shape, formed by light, might be next. Toruk opens in Cincinnati on Wednesday.

With more than 30 years of journalism experience in the Greater Cincinnati market, Ann Thompson brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to her reporting. She has reported for WKRC, WCKY, WHIO-TV, Metro Networks and CBS/ABC Radio. Her work has been recognized by the Associated Press and the Society of Professional Journalists. In 2019 and 2011 A-P named her “Best Reporter” for large market radio in Ohio. She has won awards from the Association of Women in Communications and the Alliance for Women in Media. Ann reports regularly on science and technology in Focus on Technology.