The individuals on the LED screen appeared to control the movements of the AirOrbs.

they just start?’” The solution involved performers, but in a

nontraditional way. “Andree said, ‘Let’s do it with the

performers, but it’s not that interesting when they just walk

around on stage; it looks a little shaky. It has to be

smooth.’ Then he got the idea to use the IO Hawks [hoverboards],

so it seemed like the performers were floating

with the AirOrbs floating as well.”

Verleger and his animation designer, Wolfram

Zwanziger, put the movement of the orbs within a scenic

design program, so they were able to see, and program,

the AirOrbs in the three-dimensional space of the

Mercedes-Benz set.

In the past, AirOrbs have been programmed individually,

without specific animation tools. That wasn’t necessarily

the best approach here. “There is a digital world created

by Andree with position data; it would be stupid to

program it twice. So we had to find a way to get this

position data out of the software,” adds Mugrauer. After a

few weeks, the team at Airstage got the positional data

from Verleger’s software into their flight control program,

which was connected to time code and linked to the video


The AirOrbs were tracked in real time by 27 infrared

cameras positioned around the room. Mugrauer explains,

“When the AirOrbs are flying, they have four LED IR

markers and an active LED light; the cameras catch this

invisible LED light. When one AirOrb is flying in front of

another AirOrb, it might not be seen by the camera

anymore, so we need a camera on the other side. Each

orb has always to be seen by two active markers; with

only one marker seen by a camera; it’s not precise in its

localization. We always make sure that two or three

markers are visible.” The camera locations were tested in a

flight simulation program. Mugrauer adds, “Every tracking

camera has its own slave PC, which is recording all the

positional information from the camera and sending this to

the master control PC.”

The AirOrbs performed perfectly. “When Oliver Schrott

first contacted me about this unique project, I knew

immediately that Airstage was being asked to push its

boundaries even further,” says Airstage chief sales officer

John R. Barker. “Although I was quietly confident that our

team would pull it off, I felt a distinct mixture of pride—and

relief—at the end of the perfectly executed show.”

The video imagery and the performers weren’t the only

visual elements that interacted with the AirOrbs. Burgos

explains, “We used lasers in a part of the show where the

Orbs interactively connected with the LED walls, coming

out towards the audience while pulling out the laser beam

with them. The idea behind it—and the idea for

Mercedes—was that we are connected; we used the

lasers to represent connectivity.”

To make sure that the lasers and AirOrbs worked

together, laser vendor tarm Showlaser, of Bochum,

Germany, visited the Airstage facility for testing. “They had

the AirOrbs in different colors and, for Mercedes, they

used them in white, which was the only color that worked

with the lasers,” says Sascha Kwasny, assistant general

manager at Tarm.

Tarm provided 45 custom DMX-controlled diode lasers,

Photo: Ralph Larmann

64 • November 2015 • Lighting&Sound America

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