“The 888 LED panels move apart from their neighbors in a very organic way as the screen expands and starts to grow, and audience tries to figure out what’s happening,” explains Matt Davis, a senior designer at Hoberman Associates and project director for their work on creating this groundbreaking, transformable LED screen, which was built by Barco and its subsidiary Innovative Designs. “The programming allows for the video images to be distorted as the screen elongates and stretches, or not, as you like. Once it stops being static, there are whole new options for the video content. The screen becomes a graphic geometric monster and the band is inside of it.” To add to the effect, the LEDs on the edge of each screen can be used as rings of lights spinning around the images. “They are having fun with it, learning what works,” Davis adds. “It’s great to see what people are doing with our creation.”

As Mark Fisher wrote, “Unlike any of the structures that Chuck had built before, the scissor mechanisms would have to break apart into pieces that fitted into scenery carts that would themselves fit onto airfreight pallets and into trucks. And it would have to be completely assembled in less than eight hours, sometimes on the morning of show day.

“The final design of the video screen divides it horizontally into four tiers, and vertically into 24 columns. Each column is made up of four panels, one for each tier, each panel being approximately 3m long x 1.5m tall when closed. Each tier of 24 panels packs into eight scenery carts. Each panel is attached to its neighbors on either three or four sides, the joints are moment connections either at the hinge points or at the mid-points of the scissor beams. The panels are suspended from a mother truss that houses the 36 chain hoists employed to expand and contract the Hoberman screen scissor mechanism. The chain hoists are programmed to follow a position table created by Buro Happold, holding their positions to within 5mm as the screen articulates. The mother truss also houses video power and distribution racks. The truss is suspended from the main octagon truss of the superstructure by eight winches, each carrying a load of four tons.”

Chuck Hoberman, founder of Hoberman Associates, states, “The expanding video screen fuses technology, design and architecture. It’s a video display that becomes something else, a living theatrical event. This project has been a true feat of engineering, accomplished by a fantastic team of architects, engineers and artists. We are thrilled to be a part of the U2 concert experience and give every fan in every seat of the stadium a clear and unique perspective of Bono, the Edge, Adam Clayton and Larry Mullen.”

“I knew we got the job right when I saw the show in Milan,” says Davis. “There was a stunned silence by the audience, then they get it, and the stadium explodes in thunderous applause.”

The Video Screen: Vital Statistics

The screen is made of 1,000,000 different pieces:
500,000 RGB pixels
320,000 fasteners
30,000 connecting cables
60,000 off-the-shelf items (connectors, bearings etc.)
90,000 custom-fabricated components
25 km of cable inside the structure
3 km of aluminum profiles
Weight of video screen “frietzak”– 32 tons
Weight of video screen mother truss – 20 tons
Video screen flown weight – 52 tons
Total video screen weight including distro, automation & winches – 74 tons