2017-12-07

AU2017 Influencer Event

It has been awhile since I have posted myself, so I am honored to be able to host another guest post for a fellow AutoCAD Influencer, Frank Mayfield. 

Here are some past guest posts:


After a year of anticipation, AU 2017 has come and passed, and with it, unparalleled learning experiences, along with connecting and reconnecting with new and old friends.
For all its glitz and glamour, Las Vegas is actually a perfect venue for 10,000 geeks to congregate, as its scale and opulence is all powered by its underlying technology. And that technology, after all, is what we’re all about.
Nowhere is this more evident than at the Ka Theater in the MGM Grand. It was my privilege to join an illustrious group of AutoCAD end users, along with key members of the product and marketing teams for a rare, behind the scenes, look at the inner workings of the Ka Theater.


[This dragon greets you to the entrance of the Ka Theater at the MGM]

On Monday afternoon, a full day before AU officially started, our group of “Influencers” enjoyed a lively shuttle ride down Las Vegas Boulevard to the MGM Grand, where we were treated to a wonderful reception with our Autodesk hosts. They knew, as we were soon to, that to fully appreciate the magnitude of the Ka Theater, you must see the Cirque De Soleil “Ka” show itself. So, after the reception, the entire team was treated to this incredible production. We returned to the Venetian later that night, jaws agape from a truly magnificent show. Had that been the entire experience, it would have been more than enough, but our story doesn’t end there…


[A pic of a panoramic photo, showing the theater and the incredible moving stage]

The adventure continues instead the next morning, when our group heads back to the MGM for our exclusive, behind the scenes tour of the Ka Theater. Upon our arrival, the promise of a caffeine pick-me-up was cut short by a long line, and a short time frame.


[AutoCAD Influencers: Shaan Hurley, Lisa Feldhammer, Alyson Moses, Lynn Allen, David Cohn, Rick Ellis, Curt Moreno, and way in the back, Donnie Gladfelter and Rob Maguire]

Soon we found ourselves in the front row of the theater, house lights up, and listening to our guide, the show’s Director of Automation, Mark Castle. He described many of the intricate details of the show and how the moving stage works. The stage production was designed in 2004, and we got to see some of the original drawings – all done in AutoCAD.


[Original 2004 AutoCAD drawing of the Sand Cliff Deck]

Our tour then proceeded three floors down, into the bowels of the Ka Theater. We ended up behind the moving stage, known as the Sand Cliff Deck. This stage is truly the star of the show, as it is able to raise and lower 75 feet by a vertical gantry crane. It can also rotate in three axes with the help of four hydraulic cylinders. During the show, this deck may be level, rotate 360*, or tilt up a full 90* - or anywhere in between!


[Looking down at the Sand Cliff Deck from the stage level]



[Looking back up to the theater level from behind the Sand Cliff Deck, 3 floors below]

The Sand Cliff Deck gets its name from a scene in the show where the deck is covered in a special granular cork material which simulates sand. The effect is spot on, but as Mark explained, the cork is the most difficult aspect for the crew, as at the end of the sand scene, the deck literally tilts forward toward the audience, spilling the cork from the stage, and it gets everywhere, including in the machinery. Cleaning up the sand is the most arduous task between shows.
One thing you may not think of while watching the show, but which does strike you from the vantage point shown above, is that the movement of the stage is nearly silent. I could recall the night before being able to hear the performers' footsteps and movement on the stage. It was explained that this quiet movement is accomplished by all of the hydraulic machinery being housed outside of the venue.
Our group continued the tour with another elevator ride; this time six floors up to the show’s control room. The entire show is electronically controlled from here. A relatively small space, our group was squeezed in tightly as we learned about how they manage the show.


[Linda Sellheim, Leah Friedman et al squeezed into the control room. On the right, the view from the control room.]

Soon, we found ourselves in the practice room. Full of equipment, mats, and harnesses all similar to what is found in the production, the performers spend many hours here honing their skills.


[All of the smart AutoCAD Influencers may look at the practice vertical peg deck, but the dummies must look away]

The final stop on our 90-minute tour was the costume department. On our way in, we saw harnesses for the acrobatic performers, their costumes, and as you see below, cabinets lines with perfect head models of each performer who wear a custom fitted mask.


[If you ever wondered how to get ahead...]

As the costume managers were describing this, I couldn’t help but wonder if a more modern way of accomplishing it might be better? Scan the performer’s head and 3D print it? Even better, scan the head and virtually create the mask, then 3D print that? I’m willing to bet some others in our group had the same thoughts.
One thing we did learn was that the costume department is a very busy place. They’re responsible for creating the costumes of course, but each morning, there is a rack full of things that need to be mended, and they also take care of all the laundering. Plus, backup costumes and alterations are all part of their day’s work.


[The Influencer group listens intently as the costume managers explain their job]


[Never one for being in the spotlight, Lynn Allen does her best to blend in…]

After an hour and a half of awe inspiring behind the scenes technology, our tour came to an end. I want to thank Autodesk, and specifically the AutoCAD team for putting this together for us.
I’ll leave you with this thought, if you ever get the chance to see the Cirque de Soleil Ka show, I highly encourage you to do so. Not only will you be thoroughly entertained, you may remember this post, and think about all the behind the scenes technology that was designed in AutoCAD. Until our next Influencer adventure, farewell for now.


[The AutoCAD Influencer group outside the Ka Theater]


Frank was most recently the CAD Manager for the Oil, Gas and Chemical division at Benham in Tulsa, Oklahoma. In this role, he oversaw all aspects of the AutoCAD, Plant 3D, Navisworks and CADWorx environments.

He has been using AutoCAD since 1986 (v 2.61). Frank is an AutoCAD Certified Professional, a volunteer with AUGI as a forum manager, and a contributing author for the AutoCAD Blog. He is a member of the AutoCAD Customer Council, Autodesk User Panel, the Product Delivery Council, Product Research Community, and the Autodesk Advisors Community.

He was part of a select group invited by Autodesk to attend the inaugural CAD Manager Summit in 2015. As a top-rated member of the AutoCAD All-Star Mentor program, he has provided live guidance and answered questions for over 2,500 in-trial users in more than 50 countries worldwide.

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