New Windsor, NY—July 6, 2009—Immediately upon entering the venue, audiences attending U2's 360° Tour will realize that they are about to experience a truly unique event. "The goal always for me is when the fans come into the stadium they see something the like of which they have never seen before," explained Willie Williams, Show Designer & Director. Working closely with Architect Mark Fisher and Production Director Jake Berry, Williams has realized that goal and created a structure that is the largest ever designed for a concert tour. The sheer size of the set created a challenge, in that the fixture positions were a significant distance from the stage. So, Williams turned to the PRG Bad BoyTM.
"The throw distances that we are dealing with are much longer then you would normally ever deal with for all the lighting positions, never mind the lights around the stadium," said Williams. "Even the closest lights to the stage are an 80-foot throw and the ones on the legs are nearer a 100-foot throw. There is no way you could use old school moving lights, plus I needed a light that would not just reach and wash but would be able to have texture."
In December, PRG arranged a fixture demonstration at Wembley Stadium so that Williams could evaluate the Bad Boy and other lights in a real world environment. "What I found interesting about the light is that PRG started with the application in their fixture design, which was to create a light for large scale shows, arenas, stadiums," said Williams. "That has been their master stroke, to start with what the light is intended to do and really work towards that particular goal. When you are at the back of Wembley Stadium, you need a light with the gas to get to the stage."
Williams decided to use the Bad Boy as his only automated light for illumination, with his final design calling for 196 fixtures. The Bad Boy easily handles distances from 80-feet to 400-feet. It was a bold choice to base an entire design around only the Bad Boy and Williams had to wait until the lighting system was powered up for the first time at the Barcelona rehearsal venue to know for certain that his idea would work. "Even when I got here, we still had a few days before the system was turned on where I was biding my time. I was a little antsy waiting to see what these things would do under show conditions. I think it is fair to say they are absolutely remarkable."
Lighting Director Ethan Weber understood Williams' initial concern. "There is nothing else-spot, wash lights-everything you do is with the Bad Boy and coming into rehearsals it was a light none of us had ever used before," said Weber. "When we turned them on it was pretty obvious it was the right way to go. We have all been very impressed. Many of the fixtures are a few hundred feet from the stage and not only are they very bright but their zoom allow us to go from pinspotting the band to lighting a stadium audience with relatively few fixtures. I don't know of any other light that can do this. So far they've been very reliable-impressive, considering we've had them on for long hours in the Barcelona sun."
Williams' lighting design is fairly straightforward, considering the complexity of the overall production design. While Weber handles all the automated fixtures, lighting associate Alex Murphy calls all the followspot cues for the 25 spots, and controls the LEDs in the set with the PRG MboxTM Extreme Media Server. PRG's Concert Touring group supplied the entire lighting package for the tour, which also included the PRG Series 400TM Power and Data Distribution System. The S400 combines power, DMX and Ethernet data through a single custom-designed trunk cable. The data system includes Ethernet switches with the ability to route any DMX universe to any DMX output connector in the system, along with complete electrical isolation. As a result, lighting systems can better accommodate the growing need for data and use less cable and technicians can re-route signals from the user menus without making physical changes to the system.
The power and data system for the U2 Tour was designed by System Crew Chief Craig Hancock, who worked closely with Jeremy Lloyd and Nick Evans of Fisher's Stufish studio integrating the lighting system into the actual structural system. Chris Conti, PRG product manager, also worked closely with Hancock on the layout. Conti explained, "All together we have a total of 24 universes of DMX. We have S400 racks at the bottom of each leg of the structure, which are in custom dimmer carts that Craig designed. They also contain S400 main breaker racks, dimmer and relay racks, strobe distribution racks, communications, etc. There are two carts of S400 and two dimmer carts up on catwalks in the roof structure that handle the power and data for the pylon."
That balance between complexity and simplicity is the key to Williams' sophisticated designs success. To maintain that balance, everyone needed to be on the same page, working towards the same result. Tim Murch, PRG account executive, noted, "They really have brought together wonderfully qualified people, starting with the incredible Jake Berry and of course Willie and Mark. It is incredibly well organized; thanks in large part to them. It is a very heads up situation with coordination between every single department."
Williams is very pleased with PRGs efforts on behalf of the tour. "At the end of the day it is about people and if you don't have the right people it is just not going to happen," he stated. "I am absolutely delighted. They have been really good. Both Tim Murch and Robin Wain (PRG account executive) have been fantastic. You can't do this by second guessing; I just have to have complete faith that people are doing what they are supposed to be doing. You really have to trust."
For more information on PRG, please visit www.prg.com.
About Production Resource Group—Production Resource Group, LLC (PRG) is the world's leading supplier of entertainment technology solutions, including lighting, audio, video, scenery, and automation systems. PRG serves a wide range of markets, including theatre, concert tours, trade shows, corporate and special events, television and film, and themed environments. PRG provides its services worldwide through more than 17 offices in North America, Europe, and Asia.