Following the successful deployment of LiveSync in From the Sails: Light Years, the production company behind Art up approached us to determine if the same platform could be adapted for use in a drone show.
However, unlike projection systems connected to a media server such as the one used for the Sydney Opera House a few weeks prior, drone control software typically operates in isolation. They’re generally not built for integration with AV systems, and don’t require a network connection to function. Whereas LiveSync, by the very nature of what it is designed to deliver, works on the principle that everyone’s personal device can connect to it via the internet, and is intended for integration into a wider AV system.
The challenge for our team was to develop a software-based solution that could be effortlessly operated by the production team to synchronise the soundtrack to the drone show—and we had just 10 days to make it happen.
The short timeframe prevented the development of a fully customised integration with the drone control system. However, unlike the Sydney Opera House projection looping multiple times throughout the evening, Art up took place only once per night, removing the need for an automated sync message to be sent at regular intervals.
We developed an iOS-based control app through which the drone production team could trigger the audio. The first stage of this confirms the AV sync system is live, which then activates the web player on the viewer’s personal device. The second stage then begins the audio broadcast, designed to be manually initiated at the same time as the drone show. While the real-world capability of LiveSync has been demonstrated at a better-than-broadcast-standard of latency when fully integrated with a media server, this form of manual launch for Art up became a practical solution as the drone animations featured no moments of sudden or tightly synchronised movement in relation to the soundtrack.
"It's clear this is a very useful technology for large-scale public displays, whether it be a drone show, a projected video, a laser show, or anything similar. Anytime you need a simulcast audio soundtrack for many people across a wide outdoor area, this is a great solution. You don't need to be dealing with loud PA systems in public areas and their issues with audio delays. With this technology, you're 100 percent in sync. It doesn't matter where you are, whether 500m or even more than 1km away, you're still hearing the audio at exactly the right time."
– Rob Keniger,
Lead Mobile Engineer, Art Processors
Signage placed across the numerous public viewing areas prompted visitors to load the audio client by simply scanning a QR code or visiting the AGNSW website. At approximately 8:30pm the 400 drones launched above Woolloomoloo Bay, animating Reko Rennie’s artworks as they danced across the canvas of the night sky, viewable from as far as the CBD, Darlinghurst and Kirribilli.
Viewers could choose to use headphones for an immersive solo journey or use their device’s in-built speakers for a shared experience as Deborah Cheetam’s poignant soundtrack played via the LiveSync platform. The system also generated the audio for broadcast into the PA speakers on the Sydney Modern’s viewing platform, and for the simulcast audio on FM radio. Even if surrounded by multiple audio sources, the viewer always heard the audio in perfect live sync.
The user experience followed the same “low friction” principle of From the Sails: Light Years, enabling both ease of access to the LiveSync platform and minimal engagement to play the audio. A small information button provided further information about Art up, Reko Rennie, and Deborah Cheetam.