Once it was designed and engineered by “the dream team” of Willie Williams, Mark Fisher, Chuck Hoberman, and Frederic Opsomer, the high-tech, expanding video screen that visually stuns the audience during the U2 360° tour had to be moved. In other words, the 888 individual hexagonal panels that support 500,000 Barco LED pixels has to move in order to transform during the show, as it expands from seven meters to 22 meters high. That job fell to UK-based Kinesys and their K2 3D software control package.
“For us, the challenge was the fact that there are 40 different motors that move at the same time, yet had to run at different speeds to make sure the screen opens correctly. All the motors have to move in sync,” says Dave Weatherhead of Kinesys. In fact, there are 40 Kinesys Evo zero-speed chain hoists (16 2-ton and 24 1-ton) and eight custom-built 7.5-ton self-contained winches to move the 52-ton screen, which hangs on an oval truss that supports the chain hoists and electronics.
“There are very tight limits in terms of deviation or stray from the pre-determined path,” Weatherhead adds, noting that there is a team of three people on the tour automation crew for the screen. “They test each item before each performance. All the moves are done and then taken apart in reverse order,” he notes.
For Kinesys, “This is probably the biggest job we’ve done in terms of coordinating so many devices all moving at the same time,” says Weatherhead, referring to the 48 interconnected devices that it takes to move the screen. “Fortunately we had a good period of time before the first show to assemble and test everything.”
Kinesys also supplied the tour with control for 10 fixed-speed chain hoists controlled by an Elevation 24. These hoists fly four lighting trusses bordering the screen into position at the start of the show. During the show, if anything goes awry, the movement comes to a halt: “The screen stops moving if there is a problem with any one element,” says Weatherhead. “The scale of it is just huge. It’s so large you can’t look at any point and see the whole stage. It’s quite spectacular.”