Words and pixels by M. Scott Smith

Great video on Cirque du Soleil Ka 🔗

CNN has posted a video going behind the scenes of Cirque du Soleil's Ka production. It's a fantastic look at some of the high technology that makes Ka possible, including the moving stages. Another tidbit: The video doesn't mention it, but each performer's costume is embedded with an RFID and linked to a computer, which generates real-time 3-d visuals that are projected into the performer's environment. For example, as performers "scale" one of the stages as it becomes vertical, ripples are projected onto the stage as the performers bounce across it. The visuals are complicated by the fact that the stage is moving; the computer is synched with the exact automation of the stage, and adjusts the perspective of the visuals accordingly. You can see this effect several times throughout CNN's video.

A performer “climbs” the stage as the stage moves. As the performer’s feet make contact with the stage, real-time video projections are projected onto the stage, simulating puddles. Photo from CNN.


Other productions have used RFID’s embedded in costumes to perform automatic spotlight tracking, but Ka is the first production that creates a dynamic lighting environment with complex, real-time visuals tied directly to the performer’s actions. Photo from CNN.

Located at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, the Ka theater alone cost $165 million to build, making it the most expensive theater ever built. Despite all the high technology, some of the best moments in the show require little technology at all. One of my favorite scenes involves two characters making hand puppets against a light, telling a story against a "campfire." For a brief and captivating moment, all of the technology except for one light vanishes and the entire focus is placed on the talents of these two performers.

The $165 million theater is enormous and full of technology, but the theater becomes intimate in some of the simpler acts, such as this recreation of campfire storytelling. Photo from CNN.

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