Automation specialists Kinesys designed the motion control system for the Barco MiSphere low-resolution screens developed for U2’s Vertigo tour.

The screens are part of unique LED effects devised by show director Willie Williams for the tour. Conceived by Williams and designer Mark Fisher, the seven custom engineered trusses each carry 27 strings of 63 Barco MiSphere balls, totalling 1,701 balls per truss, weighing approximately 500Kgs each.

Each truss, specially designed by Brilliant Stages for U2, is a meter square in width/height and 5m long, with an open bottom. Each screen, fully deployed, is approximately 12.19m high x 4m wide. The screens travel rolled up inside the trusses.

Four of the MiSphere screens fly in across the diagonals of the in-the-round show, and the other three form a line across centerstage. All screens are strategically positioned to ensure that the entire audience receives a reversible image from anywhere in the venue.

The rolling mechanism for each screen is driven by a 4kW servo motor powered by a Kinesys Velocity variable-speed drive, allowing precise movement between 1 and 1,000 millimetres per second. The screens can be run out to their full length in under 15 seconds.

Kinesys had to develop the system without a clear design for the screens role in the show. This was one of the major challenges says Kinesys’ Andy Cave, "We had to give Willie all the flexibility he might need without anyone really knowing what the parameters were."

The Velocity drives are Ethernet linked to Kinesys’ proprietary Vector control software, running on dual rack-mounted PCs. Kinesys also supplied power and data distribution and a Category 4 emergency stop system. The Velocity drives are incorporated into the trusses making them compact and allowing them to run independently. They can be powered and run from any normal power supply.

Kinesys designed the system in December 2004, ready for prototype testing at Brilliant Stages and in Belgium in early 2005, followed by onsite rehearsals at GM Place in Vancouver from the end of February.

Brilliant Stages undertook all truss engineering and mechanics, while Barco, Innovative Designs, and XL Video engineered the video elements. Kinesys’ Andy Cave and Dave Weatherhead joined the team to work on automation. They worked closely with Jeremy Lloyd, who project managed the construction, and Kevin Edwards, who undertook the bulk of the mechanical design and drafting.