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What were those lights in the sky over SXSW? A heavenly 'Halo,' we found out

Earl Hopkins
Austin 360

Did you see those fluttering lights above the city's skyline Sunday and Monday night? We did, too, and we decided to find out how they all came together.

What you saw (or missed) was a promotional push for the new "Halo" TV show, which had a screening at South by Southwest at the Paramount Theatre on Monday afternoon. 

Over 400 drones flew over downtown Austin city Monday night to promote the new "Halo" TV series.

The small airships were used to form images of the show's title, outlines of iconic characters such as Master Chief and Cortana, and a QR code that, when scanned, lead onlookers to the "Halo" series' website to stream the show's trailer. 

More than 400 drones flew in formation over downtown Austin, elevating up to 300 feet high and 600 feet wide. That's about as tall as the Statue of Liberty and as wide as two football fields. 

Many SXSW visitors and Austinites posted to social media about the display and the hugely popular franchise's premiere later this month on Paramount+. 

While the drone show was the kind of spectacle Austin has seen before during SXSW, it doesn't look like others will take place at this year's festival, the first in-person version since 2019.

The Austin-Travis County EMS announced a temporary flight restriction in downtown Austin, limiting the use of drones until 9 a.m. March 20.

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"Active Temporary Flight Restrictions (TFR): ALL Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) drone flights are prohibited in a 1-mile radius of 6th/Trinity (301601N0974422W) from the surface to 1000FT AGL until Sunday 20th 09:00am," APD posted on Twitter.

Austin Police Department officials said the no-fly drone zone was already planned; the Federal Aviation Administration sets similar restrictions every year for large-scale outdoor events, including past SXSW festivals and conferences.

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Permits can be granted, and APD confirmed Wednesday that ViacomCBS and Sky Elements, the business that operated the "Halo" drones, had the necessary FAA licenses and waivers for the aerial showcase. A ViacomCBS spokesperson also confirmed that they worked with SXSW staff on the promotion.

"Halo" cast and production members were in Austin for the premiere and to talk about the TV show, which will premiere March 24.

Executive Producer Kiki Wolfkill said efforts to turn the video game into a series started in 2012 after the release of "Halo 4." Wolfkill said the show went through many changes, including the migration from Showtime to Paramount+. 

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"I'm still slightly in disbelief," said Wolfkill, who also oversees "Halo" franchise transmedia at 343 Industries. "There's still a part of me that can't quite believe it."

From the start, Wolfkill said the goal was to explore long-form storytelling on TV, and she and others are excited to continue building out the lore surrounding the Halo-sphere.

For more information, go to paramountplus.com