IT & Network Infrastructure : U2 Turns to Dell to Keep Massive Concert Stage Rattling and Humming

 
 
By Chris Preimesberger  |  Posted 2011-06-24
 
 
 

Dell Nerve Center

In an obscure tent, way at the back of the stadium, U2's video and sound directors manage all the lights and video from 15 cameras to go with prerecorded video and graphics for the two-hour-plus stadium "U2 360" concert. It's all controlled using off-the-shelf Dell workstations and monitors.

Dell Nerve Center

Cool, but It Can Get Intense in There

U2's IT crew, which has been working together for many years, is in its second year of using Dell's workstations to control the stage lighting and direct all the live cameras for display on the seven-story video screen. U2 uses fast-paced video sequencing to go with its music, moving back and forth between live video, prerecorded video and customized graphics. There's constant mixing going on involving all three video elements—for the entire length of the concert.

Cool, but It Can Get Intense in There

60,000 U2 Fans See Each Move These Guys Make

Every slight move that is made in the makeshift data center makes a difference onstage at the U2 concert. Graphic depictions of the expanding video screen (center, right) and its backup (left) are constantly being watched, because the huge, seven-story video screen changes size and shape during the show.

60,000 U2 Fans See Each Move These Guys Make

Alien Spaceship, Giant Crustacean, or U2 Stage?

If you chose No. 3, well, you'd be correct—but you couldn't be blamed for thinking this huge structure was one of the first two on the list. When the sky goes dark and the lights and video go on, however, everything changes very quickly.

Alien Spaceship, Giant Crustacean, or U2 Stage?

Quietly on the Sidelines

One of the 15 camera operators (left), whose station is built onto one of the four huge legs of the concert stage, gets set up prior to the concert. The IT control room for the show, featured earlier in this slide show, is inside the small tent just to the right of the cameraman in the picture, just below the press box at Angel Stadium in Anaheim.

Quietly on the Sidelines

Stage, Close Up

The 54-ton stage, designed and built by specialists in Belgium, resembles either a large spacecraft or a humongous, long-legged crab that encompasses most of a regulation baseball field. Those curved gray masses hanging down are treble-level amplifiers aimed at the audience; the bass amps are located underneath the stage itself, where the band stands. All the stretched fabric and orange "buttons" light up and change colors during the show.

Stage, Close Up

A Few of the 60K Fans on the Scene

All concert-goers on the floor of Angel Stadium had to stand for the duration of the concert, but they all had close proximity to the performers.

A Few of the 60K Fans on the Scene

Going Acoustic

Guitarist Edge (left) and lead singer Bono (right) perform the only acoustic number of the evening.

Going Acoustic

The Show in Action

U2 itself (bottom) is dwarfed by the seven-story stage and video screen. The two orange, lighted legs are the two farthest from the camera in this shot; the closest two of the four legs aren't visible here.

The Show in Action

Bono Among His Followers

U2's lead singer likes to get up close and personal with his fans, and they love him for it.

Bono Among His Followers

The Video Screen Begins Its Transformation

As Bono performs, and special graphics are overlaid by the crew in the IT tent, another IT crew member begins stretching out the video screen, as shown in the next few slides.

The Video Screen Begins Its Transformation

Starting to Break Apart

Ever so slowly, portions of the mosaic-like LED video screen start expanding downward, to the amazement of the audience.

Starting to Break Apart

You Can See Where This Is Going

It takes a few minutes, but the screen continues to pull itself apart to reach all the way down to the stage itself.

You Can See Where This Is Going

Stretched Out to the Max

When the video screen is finally fully extended, it resembles a huge, brightly colored beehive. The music continues right on through this stage transformation without missing a beat, which turns out to be a crowd-pleaser.

Stretched Out to the Max

A Final Overview

The view from the cheaper seats (well, even those still command a nontrivial price) shows the concert spectacle in its entirety.

A Final Overview

Rocket Fuel