Celebrations to ring in the Year of the Pig got a little help from some drones.
As part of CCTV Chinese New Year Gala, 88 tiny drones flew above the stages as popular Chinese singer Sun Nan and up-and-coming pop star Jason Zhang sang “The Distance of Time” alongside 50 performers dressed as blossoming cherry trees.
CCTV, which is considered by some a propaganda tool, is the predominant state television broadcaster in the People’s Republic of China and is funded in whole or in part by the Chinese government. The CCTV New Year’s Gala, which is a yearly special program for the Chinese New Year, is the most-watched CCTV program — and the most watched TV program in the world given China’s huge population. This year’s show garnered a reported audience of 1 billion viewers.
The drones used were called Lucie micro drones, designed by indoor drone systems designer Verity Studios in partnership with Chinese ‘smart entertainment company’ Keey Meedia. The Chinese New Year performance featured 88 Lucie micro drones flying from the back of the stage designed to look like Chinese lanterms, to dance above the 50 performers dressed as blossoming cherry trees.
Here’s what it looked like:
The drones were designed by the Swiss company Verity Studios AG, which is the same team responsible for getting 8 drones to fly in sync with each other in a routine every night on stage for the Broadway incarnation of Cirque du Soleil called “Paramour.” Verity also provided the drones seen in rapper Drake’s 2018 Aubrey & the Three Migos Tour.
Here’s a behind the scenes look at how Verity does it:
Verity is one of just a handful of companies that have positioned themselves as leaders in drones for entertainment. Though hard to call it a “competitor,” it’s most similar rival is Intel, which has pioneered the field of light show drones. Intel’s drones have served as nighttime entertainment at events such as the Olympics Opening Ceremonies, Coachella and Walt Disney World. Light show drones are considered to be more environmentally friendly than other forms of nighttime entertainment such as fireworks.
Of course, not all drones mix perfectly with entertainment productions. Enrique Iglesias famously injured his hand while trying to catch a drone that was flying around on stage as part of his show. Lady Gaga’s Super Bowl halftime show performance in 2017 featured hundreds of Intel Shooting Star drones, though that show received criticism after fans realized the drone display was pre-recorded and superimposed on TV again later.