Cirque du Soleil: AXEL

VYV’s nimble media control system makes automation easy for Cirque’s touring show on ice

When Cirque du Soleil lighting project manager David Bergeron approached us for help with
Axel, their second show on ice, he needed a solution that could manage three things: tracking,
video, and lighting. PHOTON and ALBION work hand-in-hand to run all three, offering unified
controls for all visual effects and lighting automation. That made VYV’s complete solution a
natural choice.

We had worked with Cirque several times previously, but this was our first on-ice show together.
Tracking Axel’s fast-moving skaters and acrobats demanded a high-performance wearable
solution, one that would be low-profile enough to keep the artists focused. Executing their daring
moves requires precision; bulky equipment could be disruptive if not downright dangerous. Our
R&D lab teamed up with an industrial designer to meet the challenge.

Eight months of design and prototyping resulted in the most comfortable wearable IR emitter on
the market – the COPERNIC Performer Pack. This pager-sized black box’s rounded edges, light
weight (115 grams including the battery), and polished finish meant the stars of the show could
forget they were even wearing it. Plus, its straightforward inputs and sturdy clip made handling a
breeze for the crew backstage. For Axel we integrated COPERNIC Duo Buds, a pair of IR
emitters, one for each shoulder, with the Performer Pack. Strategically-placed cameras read the
distinct patterns, sending ALBION each individual’s position so the lighting and projection
systems could illuminate them.

For a touring show like Axel, the streamlining provided by automated lighting systems is crucial.
With just one day to load in and set up at each location, you need equipment that’s quick to
install. And when you project detailed content onto enormous surfaces, you also need down-to-
the-pixel perfection.

That’s where our automated calibration systems shine. Axel used ALBION to integrate both
Single- and Multi-view calibration tools, ensuring total coverage and exacting precision in record
time. At each new venue, placing all of our equipment, calibrating, and removing the calibration
gear took less than an hour. That included six Calibration lines, four calibration stands, 10 Stage
COPERNICs, 12 WUXGA Barco UDX 32 projectors, and 25 Optitrack Slim13e cameras.

Operability is also vital for a travelling show. Before Axel embarked on its 400+ performances,
our Montreal team trained Cirque’s show operators. We were also present at the first run-
through in case they needed extra help. They didn’t. Alexis Rivest, PHOTON Specialist and
Technical Director, was proud to see our tech make that possible. “It was deeply satisfying to
see Cirque adopt, appreciate, and achieve complex results with our easy-to-use product.”

  • Client:

    Cirque du Soleil

  • Director:

    Fernand Rainville

  • Production manager:

    Rémi Lemieux


    Hugo Hamel


    Adam Hummel


    Éric Champoux

  • MUSIC:

    Philippe Brault


    Nicolas Vaudelet


    Samuel Chouinard


    Patricia Ruel


    Geneviève Lizotte

  • WHEN:

    since September 5th 2019

  • WHERE:

    Worldwide Tour

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