The 16th annual fashion show hosted by Miami University (Ohio) Fashion & Design department students was like none other this year. Suspended for two years due to the coronavirus pandemic, the 2022 show staged by juniors and seniors used Prestige AV & Creative Services’ zactrack Smart system to give a completely different look to the fashion runway. ACT Entertainment is the exclusive distributor of zactrack systems in North America.
“The student fashion show traditionally has a really tight budget and is lit with tons of static PAR cans and big light washes,” said Shawn Bernstein, Lighting and Rigging Director for Cincinnati-based Prestige AV, who has done numerous fashion shows at the University. “Students lost two years of shows to COVID-19, and the seniors in charge wanted to do something different, something that would set them apart from any class before them. They had a bigger budget, so we suggested having a dark runway and using zactrack Smart and automated fixtures as followspots to follow the 75 student models down the runway and back.”
For more than three decades, Prestige has produced thousands of special events, corporate meetings, conferences, trade shows, banquets and conventions, providing set design, equipment rental, technical expertise, professional installation and creative production. Bernstein had long been searching for an automated follow system, which could be deployed in large ballrooms where the bulk of events take place.
“There’s no ability to use spots in ballrooms, but we needed to create that look on stage for events with projection, scenics and LEDs – we needed to dial in spots to make those elements really pop,” Bernstein explained.
He researched several automated follow systems and just before the pandemic, Bernstein discovered zactrack and felt “this was it.” Once live events began, Bernstein looked at zactrack again and with new projects on the books, Prestige AV made the investment in a zactrackSmart system.
zactrack uses state-of-the-art, Ultra-Wide-Band (UWB) real-time radio tracking technology on a frequency spectrum available worldwide without any licensing for the end user. Radio tracking transmits through common stage materials and is undisturbed by any effect or weather-related interference. zactrack offers high accuracy and speed in 3D space and uses a unique and patented fixture alignment algorithm to deliver unparalleled accuracy to any moving fixture around the stage. A single zactrack server can control lighting fixtures, video effects and 3D sound simultaneously. It integrates with any stage network and works with the lighting designer’s console of choice.
Bernstein showed videos of zactrack usage on other shows to the fashion students who “fell in love with it” to showcase the 16 collections to be presented in the Millett Hall basketball arena. A stage with a 75-foot runway and projection screen background for content and scenics was built and ropes of flowers and vines were suspended above the runway to highlight the floral theme.
“Four automated fixtures followed each of the student models as one walked down and back up the runway while the next model entered and began her walk in the opposite direction,” said Bernstein, who served as Lighting Designer and main Programmer for the show. “Backstage we leapfrogged the fixtures to the next model seamlessly. Only for the complete collection walk at the end did we bypass zactrack to create a wash over the entire runway.”
A total of 20 automated profiles were controlled by dual zactrack Smart systems networked together to gain processing power to control more fixtures and trackers on the models. “We sat down with ACT to figure out how to do this, and ACT’s Aaron Hubbard supported us as the main zactrack tech for the show,” Bernstein noted. “Everything worked perfectly.”
This year 1,500-2,000 family members, friends and alumni attended the fashion show – the biggest turnout to date. “There was a lot of excitement for the project and the students this year after missing two years of shows,” Bernstein reported. “The students were amazing and did a fantastic job. They were thrilled with the results, and the alumni considered it the best-looking show they’d seen.”
At Prestige, the fashion show “opened some eyes among the sales and creative staffs about how zactrack works and how it can give very different looks to our shows,” Bernstein explained. “Personally, it helped confirm what I’ve been saying for years: that this is the product the industry has needed, this is the future. While a number of manufacturers have introduced automated follow systems, zactrack’s technology has created a stable, high-quality product. We think zactrack will go places with us and with the industry. It will become the next industry staple.”