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Inside 'O': The technological magic of Cirque du Soleil

Seventy-five performers use a 1.5 million gallon pool in Cirque du Soleil's "O" show. Above and below the water, tech keeps the show afloat.

James Martin
James Martin is the Managing Editor of Photography at CNET. His photos capture technology's impact on society - from the widening wealth gap in San Francisco, to the European refugee crisis and Rwanda's efforts to improve health care. From the technology pioneers of Google and Facebook, photographing Apple's Steve Jobs and Tim Cook, Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg and Google's Sundar Pichai, to the most groundbreaking launches at Apple and NASA, his is a dream job for any documentary photography and journalist with a love for technology. Exhibited widely, syndicated and reprinted thousands of times over the years, James follows the people and places behind the technology changing our world, bringing their stories and ideas to life.
James Martin
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The "O" Theatre at the Bellagio in Las Vegas, home of "O" by Cirque du Soleil for more than 18 years.

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The custom built 'O' stage

The "O" Theatre is built around a 1.5-million gallon pool that drops 17 feet below the rest of the stage. The theatre and the massive water tank were custom-built for Cirque during the construction of the Bellagio, before the casino's opening in 1998.

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Underwater

"O" features spectacular synchronised swimming, high dives, acrobatics and aerials, all of which takes place in, around and above the 1.5-million gallon pool.

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Rehearsal

Synchronised swimmers rehearse their routine in the afternoon, ahead of their nightly performance. There are two shows a night, five nights a week in the 1,800-seat theatre.

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Safety divers

There are 14 safety divers in the pool for the duration of every performance of "O." Two of these divers wear full face masks so they can speak to the control booth during the performance.

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Breathing underwater

During parts of the show, performers need to stay under water for as long as 90 seconds at a time. Regulators allow swimmers to breathe underwater during the performance, and 24 underwater speakers allow the SCUBA-certified performers to hear music and cues.

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Coming down for air

One of the "O" safety divers holds breathing regulators for the performers.

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Props behind the scenes

A giant umbrella, which serves as a boat in the "O" production, sits backstage.

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Lifting the stage

The 53 by 90 foot stage is segmented into four parts, controlled by sophisticated hydraulic lifts. The seven lifts can raise the stage from the floor of the pool, 17 feet below, to 18 inches above water level.

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Controlling the hydraulics

The hydraulic controls backstage.

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Up in the rafters

Stage level is just the beginning of the "O" performance. The show takes place from the depths of the 17-foot pool to 60 feet above the stage -- a team of four high-divers leaps from that height in every show.

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High divers

High above the stage, four divers prepare to leap into the water below.

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In control

Up in the lighting booth, crew control every element of the show, with a view of what's going on backstage on the screens above them.

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The carousel

This massive rotating carousel in the scaffolding high above centre stage raises, lowers and rotates performers and props.

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The lighting control booth

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Working on the high grid

A technician works high above the stage, more than 60 feet up, preparing for the night's show.

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Setting the stage

Two hours before the show starts, the final props and set pieces are moved into place.

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Waiting for their cue

Performers wait for their cue beneath the water.

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'O'

The final performance, featuring costumes by Dominique Lemieux.

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