Drones are small, lightweight, can change colors in an instant, and have been used by some of the biggest names in entertainment, including Canadian rapper Drake, rock band Metallica, and worldwide sensation Cirque du Soleil.
And this year, as the music swells and the crowd goes wild, pop icon Céline Dion raises her arm and summons over a hundred micro drones into the air to dance alongside her during her iconic hit "My Heart Will Go On."
This is how millions of fans around the globe have been introduced to Swiss startup Verity's Lucie micro drone.
Technology for designing and creating is nothing new. But as tools like 3D printers, modeling software, and drones become increasingly available to creatives, we're seeing how technology changes our ability to tell complex stories and surprise audiences.
That's exactly what Yves Aucoin was looking for when he went to design her latest world tour. As Dion's lighting designer for over 30 years, he's seen the legendary singer and entertainer through numerous tours and a residency in Las Vegas, producing concepts that allow her to communicate with fans and appeal to audiences worldwide.
Working with Dion for so long has led to some unique challenges: namely, keeping things fresh and unique while designing new concepts for songs that are as old as some of Dion's fans. Yves' focus on how to keep her performance engaging while keeping the attention on what fans are there for -- her music -- led him to explore new technology.
From thousand of gallons of water to 104 twinkling drones
When Yves designed Dion's production for her Las Vegas residency, he included a water feature that would send thousands of gallons spilling around her during her timeless classic "My Heart Will Go On."
Although the water effect in Las Vegas was spectacular, it wasn't possible to bring it on the road (imagine pumping in and draining thousands of gallons of water in venues around the world each night!) So Yves thought creatively: how could he reproduce the look and feel of water on tour?
Yves decided to partner with Swiss-based startup Verity to produce choreography reminiscent of the water. The drones are lit in a spectacular blue and move up and down in a pattern that feels like the coming and going of waves on the beach.
Entertainers and robots: a match made in heaven?
At the end of the song, one drone comes down and nearly lands in Dion's hand before being launched back into the sky. It's a fun moment of suspense as the audience wonders if she'll catch it or if it's just going to dance around her.
Fans have added an additional layer of symbolism to this moment, discussing how it feels like she's sending a message up to husband, producer and collaborator René Angélil, who passed away in 2016.
Regardless of the deeper meaning, this final moment is a perfect example of the creative potential of technology for entertainment. As technology continues to provide fascinating tools like drones to creatives, we'll keep seeing new ways of interacting with them. Drones can be dressed up in costumes just like any other performer -- perhaps we will start seeing them becoming characters in our favorite acts?
What every creative and entrepreneur can learn from production designer, Yves Aucoin
Yves explains how he's "made a lot of money making mistakes," and it hasn't kept him from trying new things. His advice to get on the road, work hard (he cites working eighty to hundred hour weeks), and not being afraid of messing up.
He says he "tries to be a translator" for Dion's creative concepts, producing multiple designers that fit her creative requirements and allowing her vision to guide the production.
In the end, the drones are only a two minute moment in a two-hour-long show, but they're a big part of what keeps fans talking long after the night is over.