LIVE Spring 2024 – Web

Welcome to the first issue of Live! Journey with us through cutting-edge XR studios, U2’s Sphere residency and a thrilling UK-based virtual reality experience. We also uncover the tools being deployed by musicians to make touring greener, as well as sitting down with Alexandra Payne, to discuss her impressive career and the launch of Outernet London. Also, don’t miss our exclusive guide to ISE 2024!

SUSTAINABLE TOURING We uncover the tools used to decarbonise live music

SPHERE OF INFLUENCE Explore the inspiring tech behind U2’s viral residency

INCREDIBLE INTERCOMS Learn the secret to a smooth live communication set-up

PLUS: Projectors Buyers’ Guide



REVEALED: How XR studios are revolutionising the creative process



H ello world!” were the first two words to be beamed from the groundbreaking screen of Sphere in Las Vegas. The greeting was, to some, emblematic of a new era for AV, and so it felt appropriate to echo it when introducing this first issue of LIVE ; a launch that coincides with a transformative chapter in this industry’s story. That story, as it happens, is one we here at Bright have wanted to be a part of for quite some time. But we knew whatever we brought to the table had to be bold, compelling and different. The way we see it, AV is integral to businesses of all sizes, and those businesses need a publication that can match pace with its accelerating growth. The clue is in the name: we serve as an international resource for all things live; covering everything from major installation projects, global tours and visitor attractions to the ways businesses and academic institutions are leveraging the powerful tech AV has to offer. Brought to you by the publishers of leading broadcast and cinematography titles FEED and Definition , our quarterly print and digital title reaches a knowledge-hungry audience of creative directors, event managers, business executives, stage designers, academic leaders and installers hailing from theatre, music, education, corporate and interactive entertainment markets. Sit back and immerse yourself in our first issue as we journey through XR studios, U2’s Sphere residency, as well as an adventurous, UK-based virtual reality experience. We will also expose the tools being deployed by musicians to make touring greener and sit down with Alexandra Payne to discuss her impressive career – plus the launch of an immersive entertainment district in London. Now go, read! Join us as we bring AV’s story to life. HELLO WORLD! “

EDITORIAL Editor Verity Butler +44 (0) 1223 492246 Senior staff writer Katie Kasperson Chief sub editor Matthew Winney Sub editors Martin Puddifer, Minhaj Zia Contributors David Davies ADVERTISING Sales director Sam Scott-Smith +44 (0) 1223 499457 +44 (0) 1223 499462 +44 (0) 7376 665779 DESIGN Junior designer and ad production Holly May Junior designer Hedzlynn Kamaruzzaman Senior designer Carl Golsby Magazine manager Lucy Woolcomb Design manager Alan Gray Design director Andy Jennings PUBLISHING Managing directors Andy Brogden & Matt Pluck FOLLOW US Sales manager Emma Stevens livemagsocial @livemagsocial

Verity Butler Editor



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Catch up with the latest projects, launches and installations rocking the industry


14 ISE GUIDE 2024

AV’s leading trade show is coming back to Barcelona. Check out our top tips for this year’s event


The tools and technology involved with Sphere’s opening residency from the legendary rock band


A new, location-based experience company is breaking new ground in the VR adventure space



XR is becoming an essential part of creative projects. Discover the studios pushing its growth


Any stellar show couldn’t work without proper communication. We explore innovative intercoms



2024 is looking to be a crucial year for AV – as told by our experts in this issue’s panel discussion


Our first Industry Icon is Alexandra Payne, who heads up creative at an immersive entertainment district


56 SUSTAINABLE TOURING A deep dive into the sustainability tactics being used by musicians to green up their touring practices

62 INNOVATOR PROFILES Meet the people behind the

projects: our quarterly questioning of the experts that make AV tick

72 THOUGHT LEADERSHIP Shure’s Criss Niemann reveals the best methods to streamline your corporate and education comms



This issue’s cover was designed by Carl Golsby and Andy Jennings at Bright Publishing

Projectors pose a problem: there’s loads of them. LIVE helps narrow down the best option for you









S tufish, an entertainment The Rolling Stones and Elton John, claims to have designed the ‘world’s largest kaleidoscope’ in Saudi Arabia. Displayed at the Leap Conference 2022, the 40x6m kaleidoscope, which has been aptly named Leapscape, is a part-LED, part-mirror foil installation KALEIDOSCOPE DREAM that showcases the country’s various types of environment. Stufish placed LED tiles on the architecture studio that has worked with the likes of Beyoncé, kaleidoscope’s floor and end wall, with mirror foil – Showtex’s Giantmirror – on all other surfaces, giving its visitors a completely immersive walkthrough experience. To ensure visual fluidity, Stufish created the various visualisations on 3ds Max software and tested its effectiveness with VR headsets. Built largely from foil, the installation only weighs 15kg – much less than it would if it were made entirely from LED tiles. Stufish has other exciting projects in its back pocket, including the ABBA Arena, a purpose-built venue for the band’s virtual Voyage tour. The company also contributed to U2’s Achtung Baby Live residency at the Las Vegas Sphere.




This new integration saves users time during pre-production and allows them to make changes mid-production, avoiding overspending on reshoots. Cuebric claim that it ‘democratises filmmaking by removing the cost barrier’ – but the production industry has yet to realise AI’s true impact.

designs into Disguise and display them on an LED stage in a matter of minutes. Cuebric can produce photorealistic 2.5D scenes, either by generating content or importing images and separating them into layers. These are then depth-mapped in Disguise, resulting in a parallax effect.

Disguise is changing the game for virtual production with the integration of AI platform Cuebric. Creatives can now implement AI to develop virtual environments, allowing anyone to tell immersive stories – no matter their artistic or technical expertise. Users can import these computer-generated

A RECOGNITION FOR #GALSNGEAR #Galsngear, a movement to bring parity to women in technology, media and entertainment, recently saw its founder, Amy DeLouise, receiving the IABM M&E mentoring award, which recognises a person, group or company that has made an impact on the lives of new people in these industries. In IABM’s judgement, DeLouise has assisted by sharing her wisdom and skills, offering brainstorming and a sounding board, helping mentees develop a professional network, and providing a perspective for career/work strategies and options. DeLouise founded #Galsngear to support, amplify and train women in the industries and help them build the networks necessary for career advancement. “One of my passions is helping to educate, connect and elevate the next generation of people who’ll shape the M&E industry,” DeLouise said. “It’s an honour to have IABM recognise those efforts.”




Established in 2009, London-based World Heart Beat is an acclaimed charity that provides music education to young people. A specialist in live production, Vizrt will supply its Tricaster solutions to the organisation’s brand-new Wandsworth studio. This technology will help World Heart Beat to create and share content, lead remote learning sessions and modernise its recording studio. Every year, World Heart Beat mentors over 400 students from south London and beyond, with more than half receiving support from charity funds. It recently opened a second site in Nine Elms’ Embassy Gardens, advancing its ability to fulfil its mission. The charity requested Vizrt’s Tricaster Mini 4K video creation system and Tricaster Mini Control Panel specifically, in large part to stream live performances to a global audience. Paired with Birddog 4K cameras, the Tricaster Mini 4K will capture concerts in the 200-capacity venue, allowing World Heart Beat Embassy Gardens to ultimately launch a range of emerging artists into the music industry.


universities. The screen replaces four projectors and also ‘enhances the educational experience’, according to Torodd Lund, Caverion Norge AS’ business development manager AV. The LED screen features optical resin injection module (ORIM) technology, which improves precision between modules, provides a wider range of viewing angles, protects against static and minimises deterioration.

The Norwegian School of Economics (NHH) is bolstering its energy efficiency with a 9x2m LED screen from Alfalite. Based in Bergen, NHH called upon Caverion, Alfalite’s regional partner, to install a Modularpix Pro 1.5 LED screen with ORIM technology in the university’s largest auditorium, a 12,000 sq m space. The NHH project marks Spanish-based Alfalite’s first installation in Norway – and in one of Europe’s leading business



Wacken Open Air (WOA), is one of the largest heavy metal festivals in the world, hosted in Wacken, Schleswig-Holstein, Germany. This year saw some of the festival’s worst weather in many years. Elation’s Proteus series of weatherproof lights showed its advantages under the adverse weather conditions, with 72 Proteus Maximus and 48 Proteus Excalibur fixtures an integral part of the lighting design. For a festival of this size, the primary aim is to provide the most multi-functional set-up possible to suit the various bands, yet added focus is placed on the recognition value of the festival. “Visitors should know at first glance that they are at Wacken. The look and feel of the festival must of course be continued from year to year. This is a very clear wish of the organisers,” explains Jerry Appelt, a lighting designer who’s been associated with the festival for 20 years. This also included the long- distance effect from the two powerful main stages. “For Wacken, we always create an overall lighting architecture that works across the entire square,” the designer continues. “That’s why we still use the good old searchlights here, which you can see from the motorway 15km away.” A MEETING OF METALHEADS

Yet another generative AI tool has been launched into the mix. This time, it’s a service that offers unbiased advice on digital signage to anyone holding a ChatGPT Plus licence. Digital Signage Advisor GPT was thought up by Jason Cremins, founder and CEO of Signagelive. Launching the industry-specific tool in the new GPT Store, Cremins commented: “Over the last few weeks, I’ve dabbled with OpenAI’s GPT Builder to create a Digital Signage Advisor that, hopefully, provides unbiased and non-company- specific advice for those interested in digital signage.” The specialist AI tool’s advice does not mention any individual company or product, as there are plenty of platforms, such as G2, where product comparisons can be made. Digital Signage Advisor is expected to improve over time with the release of future versions of OpenAI’s GPT product, and through the ability of its GPT Builder to further optimise responses by training the GPT model. AI BREAKS INTO SIGNAGE


AV projects with servers, digital displays and other essential products. ACT Entertainment covers six different markets: live events and experiences, pro AV and broadcast, retail and e-commerce, film and TV, houses of worship and industrial wire.

North American distributor ACT Entertainment has acquired tvONE, signalling further expansion into the professional audio-visual sector. Manufacturer of video processing, signal distribution and media playback solutions, tvONE provides




UPGRADING LOURDES The renowned sanctuary of Lourdes recently underwent a contemporary transformation, with the religious venue having recently embarked on a sonic journey. The recent project involved enhancing its sound system, using Active Audio and APG Speakers from Arbane Group. PROJECTIONS FOR POP STARS November saw Brazil’s Christ the Redeemer statue projection mapped with an image of a Taylor Swift T-shirt. The mapping of the vast statue took place in order to welcome the pop superstar for her visit to Brazil as part of her Eras Tour . Fans of Taylor had been campaigning Rio mayor Eduardo Paes on social media, asking for a likeness of the Junior Jewels T-shirt from Swift’s You Belong With Me music video to be used. MAPPING BATTERSEA A pair of Christmas trees drawn by David Hockney on an iPad were projection mapped onto London’s iconic Battersea Power Station over the festive period. The Bigger Christmas Trees artwork can be seen in a ten-minute animation on the station’s chimneys. DOCTOR WHO DAY LCI Productions collaborated with BBC Wales to deliver a nighttime, water-based projection to celebrate the 60th anniversary of Doctor Who . The AV spectacle included highlights from the last 60 years, including the Doctor, companions, foes and a shot of the upcoming Doctor, Ncuti Gatwa.


current limitations of one fixed-lens position on drones and other cameras. This addition in turn enables more dynamic shot composition for AR, XR and virtual studio workflows with greater simplicity during live broadcast events.

Pixotope has unveiled the addition of zoom capabilities to its through-the-lens camera tracking software – Pixotope Tracking: Fly Edition. This provides broadcasters and content creators access to zoom capabilities, beyond




NEW TEAMS PLAYER Huddly S1 is now officially certified for Microsoft Teams, adding to Huddly’s portfolio of Microsoft Teams-certified intelligent cameras for small, medium and large spaces. With USB plug-and- play and real-time editing through Huddly Director, Huddly S1 serves as a smart choice for organisations that are looking to enhance hybrid team collaboration. ISE 2024 TO DEBUT NEW LED DISPLAY ISE recently shared it will be unveiling a transparent LED welcome screen at the south access entrance to its Fira de Barcelona Gran Via venue. The 193 sq m display will become a permanent fixture – once it is inaugurated at ISE’s 20th edition running between 30 January and 2 February 2024. SOUNDING OUT NORFOLK The village of Thursford in north Norfolk turned its annual Thursford Christmas Spectacular up a notch this year, thanks to a state-of-the- art soundscape provided by D&B Audiotechnik. The system featured 143 loudspeakers covering the 40m-wide performance stage and is – to date – the highest-resolution D&B soundscape system installed anywhere in the world.


Fresh Entertainment, Gibraltar’s sole professional audio-visual company, stands at the forefront of the AV installation industry. Running for more than eight years now, the company has become synonymous with high-quality events and cutting-edge technology, which has been further demonstrated by the continuation of its collaboration with Elation Lighting.

Fresh Entertainment CEO Jonathan Collado has turned to Elation fixtures since 2012 to elevate a diverse range of projects in Gibraltar, from conferences to music festivals. “We’ve chosen to use Elation on all of our festivals and many other events and installations,” Collado describes. “The products are professional-standard and really stand the test of time.

Touring audio and RF engineer Ali Viles is known as a legend in the touring industry. With a career spanning three decades, Viles has achieved unrivalled sound quality and steadfast wireless communications while on tour with a star-studded list of artists including Taylor Swift, Coldplay, Madonna, Bruce Springsteen, Bruno Mars, Guns N’ Roses, Lady Gaga and Adele. In addition to his engineering career, Viles runs Mission Control Limited, a consultancy business that supports 80-100 tours around the world at any given time. RF Communications is a massive part of this, and it was recently announced that Wisycom would be his main provider on this front. LEGENDARY ENGINEER TRIES OUT TRANSMITTERS


VuWall has unveiled its work with the SIMOS control centre for security and mobility in Stuttgart, Germany. “There are many parts and pieces to deploying a video wall system for a project of this scale and complexity,” comments Hans-Joachim Spies, founder and managing director at The VuWall system installed by Mevis. tv comprises 12 VuScape controllers, two VuStream E24 encoders and one VuWall application server – and this is entirely managed by the company’s award- winning TRx centralised video wall management platform. “As an integrator,” Spies continues. “It’s paramount that everything works together. VuWall’s ecosystem exceeded our high standards. It dramatically


Experiential technology company Cosm has recently teamed up with composer and new-media artist Ricardo Romaneiro to launch an immersive audio-visual symphony. Titled Liquidverse: Microcosm & Macrocosm , it is designed to be experienced in ‘shared reality’ at Cosm’s immersive entertainment venues worldwide.

reduced our integration time and even eliminated any concern about compatibility between the various products within the audio-visual and IP infrastructure. It’s an exceptional system for an exceptional project.”



Lamar University is one of Texas’ fastest-growing educational institutions when it comes to sports content delivery. Its expansion was continued with the addition of Riedel’s communication solutions to its stadium control room and a newly designed, 24ft broadcast trailer from Allied Broadcast Group. The new additions included an Artist 1024 digital matrix intercom, ten Bolero wireless beltpacks and eight RSP-1216 Smartpanels in both the control room and the mobile unit. “The flexibility of the system amazed me,” commented Scott Price, associate director for broadcast and AV at Lamar University. “When I tried out the headset, it was rock solid – without a hiccup or drop-out. The clarity was incredible!” LINKING UP LAMAR

Dock10 recently teamed up with the University of York for a joint research project to explore how AI can tackle a major challenge for programmes filming in virtual studios – simulating realistic light interactions. The project brought together leading AI researchers from the university and virtual production experts from Dock10, and has been awarded an embedded R&D grant from XR Network+. The XR Network+ project provides vital funding and support to researchers working in AI LIGHTING THE WAY

virtual production technologies, facilitating collaboration between academia and industry. Currently, it is challenging to achieve realistic lighting interactions for live TV productions – including sports programmes, game shows and music performances – that film in multicamera green-screen studios. The research collaboration explores how AI can help simulate accurate light interactions between physical actors and virtual environments in multicamera virtual studios.




We’re heading to Spain for our first-ever event, and it couldn’t be a better fit. With ISE showcasing the best in AV and integrated systems – and also celebrating its 20th anniversary – there’s plenty to see and do Words Katie Kasperson W e at LIVE are making our official debut at Integrated Systems Europe (ISE) this winter! From 30 January through 2 February 2024, ISE – celebrating its 20th year – will return to Barcelona, welcoming thousands of exhibitors, press members and everyone in between. The annual conference combines summits, stalls and speakers with a varied programme that’s centred around the obstacles and opportunities within the AV sector. Over the past few years, we’ve witnessed a transition to remote learning and hybrid employment, more ambitious stadium events and shifts towards virtual and augmented realities. In other words, everything is changing fast as technology advances and society transforms along with it. In our increasingly plugged-in, digital world, live AV solutions are more essential – not to mention commonplace – than ever before.

Over 58,000 visitors from across the world attended ISE in 2023 – will you be there this year?



GET SMART This year’s ISE will feature conferences on smart building and home technology, content production and distribution, education and sustainability, among other typically timely topics. From live entertainment to retail to venue-based experiences, each summit encourages upskilling, keeping working professionals immersed in current conversations and informed on industry advancements. Here’s what we’re most excited about: CONTROL ROOMS SUMMIT 30 January, 10.30am-2.30pm, CC5.2 With the unmistakable rise of automation, data and AI have been taking over control rooms recently. This summit will discuss these two phenomena, paying special attention to issues around cybersecurity. TECH TALKS & TECH TALKS ESPAÑOL 30 January-1 February, Various times, Hall 4, ISE Show Floor Stage Tech Talks – which are offered in both English and Spanish – are free-to-attend sessions, curated in part by the Catalan AV Cluster. Stay tuned on this one, as programme updates and speaker additions are still rolling in. DIGITAL SIGNAGE SUMMIT 31 January, 10.30am-2.30pm, CC5.1 The Digital Signage Summit promises to go far beyond just talking about pixels, instead exploring how Internet of Things devices are designed, displayed and operated, with a particular emphasis on how they feed off their immediate surroundings.

ISE gives visitors a first look at a host of brand-new products and developments

Find some amazing, never-before-seen tech at each booth



EDUCATION TECHNOLOGY SUMMIT 1 February, 10.30am-2.30pm, CC5.1 The pandemic and online education brought one undeniable fact to the forefront of our minds: individuals have different learning styles. The Education Technology Summit will consider how to design tailored experiences that will meet the various needs, preferences and abilities of an increasingly diverse student population. LIVE EVENTS SUMMIT 1 February, 10.30am-2.30pm, CC5.2 We couldn’t call ourselves LIVE if we weren’t passionate about live events. To that end, we’re really excited to see the entertainment industries returning in full force. From a range of engaging visuals to immersive audio, we simply can’t wait to see what fresh, exciting opportunities are in store. ISE combines summits, stalls and speakers with a varied programme centred around the latest obstacles and opportunities in the AV sector”

Visitors to ISE always come away inspired by what they have seen – or heard



HIT LIST Located at Fira Barcelona Gran Via, ISE offers 60,000 sq m of floor space, housing hundreds of exhibitors who are separated by technology ‘zones’ – from audio, lighting and staging to unified communications. You will find us wandering the stands, creating new connections and conferring with old friends. Be sure to check out the following brands: 7TH SENSE Booth 5G110: 7th Sense is a technology innovator that specialises in media playback, pixel processing and show RIEDEL Booth 5F350: Founded in 1987, Riedel designs, manufactures and distributes innovative real-time networks for video, audio and communications. Its products are used for broadcast, pro-audio, event, sports, theatre and security applications around the world. BLACKMAGIC DESIGN Booth 4K700: Blackmagic Design creates some of the world’s leading products for the feature filmmaking, post-production, television broadcast and AV industries. control, by providing a toolkit of advanced products that enable storytellers to fulfil their visions. ATOMOS Booth 5E420: Atomos is a video technology innovator. When launched

The technology zones cater for all interests and appetites

Brompton innovations include the Dynamic Calibration approach to LED panels and the award-winning G1, the most powerful receiver card ever to go into an LED panel. SONY Booth 3E300: Sony is set to return to ISE to share its vision of creating experiences through technology. With solutions on display for a range of sectors, Sony will be showcasing how smart AV tech and integrations are changing the way we collaborate in addition to its growing ecosystem of partnerships. ABSEN Booth 3P300: Absen is renowned for its high-quality products, global presence and full-service capabilities. It is unveiling its innovative LED solutions designed for different applications covering both rental and fixed installs. ROE VISUAL Booths 3C300 + 3C700: At ISE, Roe Visual is set to unveil Coral, its latest LED innovation, representing a significant leap forward in display technology. Coral promises unparalleled visual experiences – boasting advanced features and cutting-edge design. ON THE UP In 2023, ISE welcomed more than 58,000 unique visitors from 170+ countries, with 39.5% of attendees in senior leadership positions. This year, the event hopes to see even higher numbers and more engagement from the audio-visual and systems integration industries. If it’s your first time at ISE, don’t fret! The website is chock-full of information, including a dedicated ‘New to ISE’ page for interested exhibitors. Whether you’re an engineer, events organiser, gaffer, camera operator or something else, there’s a lot to be learnt. See you there!

more than a decade ago, the brand combined high-quality touchscreen monitors, removable storage and Apple ProRes to dramatically improve the video quality captured by almost any camera. BROMPTON TECHNOLOGY Booth 3A750: The market leader in LED video processing for the most demanding applications used on the world’s biggest live events – and for virtual production in film and TV.

Mike Blackman, ISE’s MD, is looking forward to the event’s 20th year

ISE 2023 welcomed visitors from 170+ different countries



Enhancing connectivity Ever since its founding more than 25 years ago, North Point Ministries has expanded from its core venue in Georgia. With help from Riedel, it was able to streamline communications in line with its growth

N orth Point Ministries’ Whether in-person or online, over 50,000 people attend services and sermons to receive leadership messages weekly. As the number of locations and services grew, the need to communicate and transfer audio and video across multiple locations became more essential. North Point hosts two main services every Sunday at all eight campuses, as well expansive eight campuses spread out from its main worship centre at distances ranging from 20 to 40 miles. as unique settings for preschool, elementary, middle-school and high-school students. To support all of these events, North Point needed to connect its remote campuses with a single, reliable system to support both independent and combined services at each site. Linking up the campuses Addressing this challenge, North Point made the decision to adopt Riedel Communications’ intercom and signal distribution solution, replacing an older system. The new Riedel system, comprising four Artist frames across three campuses, 26 2300 Series SmartPanels, six 1200 Series SmartPanels, 56 Bolero wireless beltpacks, 11 antennae and a Performer digital partyline, immediately improved audio quality. Riedel Connect IP VoIP interfaces link the remaining campuses to the central Artist frame, thus enabling precise control over communication “MediorNet TDM allowed us to be the most flexible and cost- effective per- channel solution”

Effective communication is essential for coordinating services at each site

easy conversion between IP, SDI and HDMI signals, granting convenient access to sources and displays. Within a VirtU 32 frame, 21 MuoN devices – along with other COTS switches – handle signal conversion and processing, including up/ down/cross conversion of HD and UHD. MicroN intelligent signal interfaces support MADI for efficient audio channel management, ensuring synchronised audio and video delivery across campuses during concurrent services and events. A significant solution “While our intercom upgrade with Riedel systems had a significant and positive impact on the many people involved in services and events, MediorNet allowed us to combine our campuses on a single connected system,” says Matthew Drury, production systems engineer at North Point Ministries. “As a routing solution, MediorNet TDM proved to be the most flexible and cost-effective per-channel solution for interfacing video signals with a large number of audio sources in a single venue, while being able to connect multiple venues within a single campus. Moreover, it provided the processing capabilities we needed to align multiple signals at each site to the same message,” he concludes.

within the production team, working from anywhere. During the pandemic, North Point utilised the flexibility of the intercom system to host outdoor services and events. By extending the installed intercom system to a temporary outdoor venue using a network switch, engineers facilitated safe gatherings for church members and maintaining connectivity. The Riedel MediorNet system, which incorporates audio embedding and de-embedding, frame sync, frame delay and multiviewing, serves as the primary bridge between audio and video systems at each campus. Audio and video travel between campuses over dark fibre on a SMPTE ST 2110 routing network. To manage this network, the North Point engineering team converted three control rooms to sit natively in the SMPTE ST 2110 environment. Eight FusioN IP converters at the edge enable



Sphere’s premiere residency

featured celestial floor- to-ceiling graphics and soaring surround sound, with the venue attracting both international praise

and criticism Words Verity Butler



Working with such a large volume of content was a challenge, especially as it had to be in sync with the music, in real time”

show equivalent to an entire hour of streaming television. Upon the completion of the roof’s steel frame, 6000 cubic yards of concrete were then pumped onto the roof, forming a ten-inch layer in thickness and weighing 10,000 tonnes. With the roof finally completed in 2021, crews then turned their attention to the 730-tonne steel interior frame supporting the LED screens and audio system. A second topping, for the exosphere, took place on 24 May 2022, followed by the installation of the interior and exterior LED screens. The latter were illuminated for the first time ever on 4 July 2023 during the Independence Day celebrations, and once again went viral. It astonished onlookers, lighting up the sky with a display of dazzling fireworks, patriotic stars-and-stripes animations and a message that simply said: ‘Hello world’. For U2’s residency, creatives from the content agency Treatment Studio leveraged Disguise’s Designer software to previsualise and refine visual content on their computers using a digital twin of the Sphere stage. “Both our software and hardware were used to power the content on Sphere’s wraparound interior LED screen,” Kirkup continues, “which lined 15,000 sq m of the dome’s interior. “Designer helped sequence the visuals into a timeline of beats and bars, before importing audio to lock visuals to the beat. 16K content was then split and distributed across the 23 Disguise GX 3 media servers used for the show.” It didn't take long for the team at Disguise to discover that, when it came to a project like Sphere, they needed to enhance their already top-of-the-line media servers. This meant each one was upgraded with a 30TB hard drive. BUMPS IN THE ROAD This project, in all its extravagance and technical prowess, became problematic. Aside from Sphere’s pricey construction, it’s quite unsurprising that installing the world’s largest LED screens wasn’t the easiest of tasks. “Working with such a large volume of content was a huge challenge,” Kirkup continues. “Especially as it needed to be in sync with the music, in real time.

venue like no other, Sphere started life as a drawing: a circle with a stick man inside. Over the course of seven years, that drawing gradually, and expensively, transformed into a colossal venue at a towering 366ft, making it the largest spherical building in the world. Designed by Populous, construction for Sphere commenced in 2019, with the opening initially targeted for 2021. The project couldn’t have started at a worse time, with Covid-19 and its resulting supply-chain crisis causing major disruption and costly delays to its construction and opening date. At last, $2.1 billion later, Sphere opened its curved doors in September 2023, with Irish rock band U2 beginning a 36-show residency, titled U2:UV Achtung Baby Live at Sphere. This is almost $1 billion more than initially forecasted by MSG at the start of the project. And, among the many technical partners involved was Disguise. “Many don’t know this, but Disguise has worked with U2 since their Vertigo tour in 2005,” introduces Peter Kirkup, solutions and innovation director at Disguise. “We collaborated with Fuse, the production company that works with U2 on their shows, who installed our servers into the show venues.” Back then, it was challenging for the band to envisage how low-resolution content would look on big LED video screens. That’s when Disguise founder Ash Nehru wrote code to help them previsualise that content. This originated Disguise’s flagship Designer software, used on shows together with Disguise servers ever since. U2’s debut Sphere show quickly went viral. Reels, TikToks and posts circulated the internet demonstrating dazzling footage from inside the 18,000-seat venue, which displayed ethereal clouds of fluttering birds and rolling landscapes. Clearly, this inaugural residency served a purpose: to boast every lavish bell and whistle used to create this landmark experiential venue. THE STORY BEHIND THE SCREEN Sphere features the world’s largest LED screen, built with 268,435,456 pixels – equating to 72 vast televisions. That makes every minute of content in the

IMMERSIVE ALL OVER Out of the 18,000 total seating options available at the Sphere, 10,000 can provide an immersive experience, using a specialised sound system that’s capable of making guests ‘feel’ sound vibrations.



Most music venues are sports venues. They’re not built for music or art. This was built for immersive experiences in cinema and performance”

be in sync with the music, in real time. During a live show, we can’t just press play and let the visuals go from there. What if U2 decided to do an extra riff, or bring on a special guest?” Sphere’s first residents also emphasised how it was built for creativity, so the visuals needed to enable rather than restrict their artistic vision. U2 frontman Bono explained in an interview with Apple Music’s Zane Lowe: “Most music venues are sports venues. They’re not built for music or art. This was built for immersive experiences in cinema and performance. There are no speakers; the entire building is a speaker. So, wherever you are, you have the perfect sound plan.” This highlights the degree of creative responsibility of those heading up the venue’s visual capabilities.

“We needed to enable creatives to change the content on the fly,” describes Kirkup, “so that it is always blended well with the music of the show. To do this, snappy rhythmic edits and some extra looping segments were developed, and our software helped to swap them in whenever needed.” POWERFUL PARTNERSHIPS An enormous variety of other technical partners were involved with construction of Sphere, including Saco regarding the installation of two of its signature features. Those were its 160,000 sq ft interior LED display plane and also its 580,000 sq ft exterior, which is called the Exosphere. “Sphere’s LED displays redefine the meaning of immersive,” asserts David Dibble, CEO of MSG Ventures. “On the interior, never had an LED screen combined this immense scale and field of view with this level of clarity. At the same time, the exterior is a dynamic canvas that has already become a real global landmark.” 7thSense, the company behind the in-house media server and pixel processing systems powering internal and external LED displays, has worked with the MSG team since 2011, when the company’s award-winning technologies were used as part of the Christmas Spectacular Starring the Radio City Rockettes in New York. Since then, 7thSense and MSG have produced several other project installations. “We trusted the team to work closely with us and push their tech even further to meet the unique demands of Sphere,” continues Dibble. “The result is an experience that takes audiences from just watching content on an LED screen to feeling like they’ve been transported to new places,” he concludes. “With the opening of Sphere in Las Vegas,” expands 7thSense CTO Richard Brown, “we were excited to introduce our new Performer range including the Actor media server, the Juggler pixel processor as well as Conjurer – our generative media solution. “Developed over several years with a focus on the evolving landscape of video technology – and considering the new, challenging workflow requirements

BRINGING HOME THE BACON U2 wrapped up its first leg of the U2:UV Achtung Baby Live at Sphere residency in November 2023 – with unprecedented box- office results. Figures from the Billboard Boxscore reported that U2’s 17 Sphere shows grossed $109.8 million and sold a whopping 281,000 tickets.

associated with a project the size of Sphere – these products are intricately designed to leverage SMPTE ST 2110 IP video streaming. “7thSense’s Juggler pixel processors handle combining playback media with other video sources to create overall compositions that tell larger-than-life immersive stories. The integration of these products into Sphere is a leap forward in our journey of innovation. I am immensely proud of our team and everything we have accomplished to help bring Sphere to life.” Without a doubt, the completion and launch of Sphere marked an evident



READY TO TAKE CONTROL Audio and visuals are one thing, controlling them is another thing entirely. TSL Control was deployed as a modular hardware and software solution for U2’s Sphere residency. Through a virtual panel, users were able to programme a visual signal flow between independent routers managing several low-compatibility control solutions. Operators gained confidence with a virtual router that controls multiple crosspoints on a dynamic multiviewer, clearly showing the signal paths. By then overlaying this on Sphere’s screen layout, they were able to achieve precise from different manufacturers, surpassing the limitations of control, ensuring accurate failover switches for certain designated sections.

milestone in AV for approaching live music and entertainment venues. However, with the scrapping of a similar venue proposal for London’s Olympic Park, as well as headlines claiming that a key executive for the Las Vegas Sphere had quit, the future seems turbulent for the groundbreaking venue. This is all on top of a meaty $98.4 million loss since opening, which further exacerbates matters. Nevertheless, for AV pros and businesses alike, Sphere remains emblematic of the seismic shift taking place in the immersive entertainment market right now.

WATCH ME Zane Lowe interviews Bono and The Edge from U2



Tour de force The perfect symphony of on-stage robotics for a global megastar wanted to introduce video and lighting; Mead was charged with looking after both. Doing the maths However, it was on Sheeran’s Mathematics Tour that the team

P hil Mead is a video director at Colonel Tom Touring (CTT), with the enviable job of going on the road with Ed Sheeran. His big break came most unexpectedly, when he was working as head of electrics at Lighthouse, Poole’s Centre for the Arts, back in 2010. “A show designer by the name of Mark Cunniffe came into the theatre and asked me if I wanted to go on tour and work on concerts instead,” Mead recalls. “I’d spent six years at the theatre and the time had come to explore and further my opportunities.” Having worked on several tours for the likes of Stevie Wonder and Sir Elton John as a lighting tech, Mead was offered Sheeran’s + (Plus) Tour in 2011. Cunniffe

behind the scenes decided to push the boundaries even further – this time not only challenging the skills of the people involved, but also pushing the abilities of the current technology at their disposal. “The tour production team didn’t want to see any camera operators out front,” Mead continues. “Everything had to be streamlined, to blend in and give the audience a clean and immersive experience. That’s not a problem when you are filming Ed Sheeran on a normal end-on stage, but this was in the round. We knew that a camera crew with long lenses and sports jackets out on the six masts was inevitably going to break that design brief.”

The team had to raise its game, as the next project involved making video for one of the world’s best-selling artists. “The + Tour design became heavily dominated by video screens, so we took on a video director with some cameras to do it justice,” he adds. “I was the head of video/engineer on that tour.” On the following ÷ Tour , the show designer created a video installation to wrap around Sheeran. It began in arenas, but was designed to scale to play larger venues. “We introduced IMAG screens and scaled up the height of the stage installation to play stadiums,” says Mead.

“Everything had to be streamlined to give a clean and immersive experience”

Panasonic PTZ cameras like the UE150 proved the perfect partners, capturing Ed Sheeran on the big screen with precision

The next stage Mead and his team had some enormous decisions ahead, namely how production would work with no operators allowed near the stage. “In previous tours, we employed four Bradley Engineering CamBall 3s and three Sony broadcast cameras, but that was no longer an option,” he says. “The obvious answer was to expand the robotics.” Mead decided to look at a mini pan– tilt–zoom (PTZ) camera: “The two options we had were a small-form-factor PTZ or a broadcast head on a PTZ head, which would be remotely operated,” he adds. However, there was no such dilemma for Mead when it came to sourcing the kit and asking for advice. “We’d been using CVP at CTT to service our lenses,” Mead explains. “We have got a lot of Canon lenses with Sony broadcast heads. CVP is just a fantastic partner, in part due to its terrific client base. Service is great, and that’s pre- and post-sale. If anything unexpected happens, the team deal with it and turn things around quickly. I’m very happy with their attention to detail.” Its customer service prowess was evidenced when Mead’s team went to the video equipment specialist for this project. The crew was introduced directly to Ben Arlow and Alistair Brierley from Panasonic Connect – set up by Michael Groom, account director at CVP. “The Panasonic team came to our warehouse in Wiltshire for a demo day,” Mead goes on. “We looked at two high- end PTZs. One was a Panasonic UE100, which we tested at the facility with some basic shooting. Then the UE150, which I love the look and size of, and the fact it’s all networkable with fibre options is a huge plus on this tour design. The UE150 The ambitious Mathematics Tour has been running since April 2022, with more than 100 planned shows across four continents

CVP is home to a full spectrum of production equipment that is ready to see, combine and evaluate. Its creative and technical staff are committed to finding the correct solution for every production need. To arrange an online demo or book a one-to-one consultation, call 0208 380 7400 or visit BUILD YOUR PERFECT KIT WITH CVP

also has a 4K-to-FHD crop, which got me thinking about how we could use one camera and get two live shots of Sheeran from one position.” With the kit ready to be deployed, the team was about to do something outside of its comfort zone. Although the set-up was exciting and new, Mead says it was ‘very daunting’ to just be using robotics. “It was definitely hard work for our operators on the tour, when you take the discipline of a front-of-house broadcast camera with a box lens and replace that with a tiny robotic camera,” Mead says. “When operating a broadcast camera, you are at one with the unit – every muscle is engaged to move it and operate the zoom and focus. This was now a plastic joystick and rocker switch.” If reviews of Sheeran’s latest tour are anything to go by, Mead and his team hit the right note.



CJP’s virtual production project at Southampton Solent University is training the next generation of filmmakers

W e love an umbrella term when it comes to media technology, and extended reality (XR) is one of them. It covers off all immersive technologies, including augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR) and mixed reality (MR) – and of course those yet to be created. XR technologies extend the reality we experience, through merging virtual and real worlds together – or creating a fully immersive experience. The global XR market is expected to grow considerably in the coming years, with XR innovation expected to be strong in the US, Asia and Europe. Many of the major players in the AV space have stepped up to the task of the development of XR experiences – be it for advertising and signage, or at gallery exhibits and theme parks. As a result of its growing presence, XR studios are on the up – at a global scale.

Extended reality has transformed storytelling as we know it. We discover the depth of its impact, and the studios that are facilitating that growth

Words Verity Butler

ENHANCED ENVIRONMENTS Target3D’s StudioT3D is a brand-new, state-of-the-art facility in central London, designed by the foremost distributor of 3D technologies in the UK. The Dock Street premises harnesses the most powerful technologies that are currently available and combines them with industry-leading infrastructure to form a world-class virtual production and motion capture studio. The studio is crafted to cater to the specific needs of various media productions, making it an ideal space for a broad range of creative ventures. These include film and television productions, game development, performing arts, live events, music videos and animations. Among a collection of technical partnerships that brought the studio to life was 7thSense. “We’ve traditionally manufactured media servers that mainly deal with fully

uncompressed media, predominantly for themed entertainment markets like theme parks, planetariums, museums – that kind of marketplace,” introduces principal systems engineer at 7thSense, Andy Bates. “We have a new range of products that use state-of-the-art hardware, which is ideal for these emerging markets – like real-time environments that use game engines.” 7thSense’s new range of products include the latest NVIDIA hardware, plenty of storage and advancements in the game engine market. According to Bates, a lot of studios have used a home-brew approach of creating their own PCs, but then are left with an expensive bit of hardware that may or may not work. “There was definitely a space in the market for a state-of-the-art and high-performance server that comes with a warranty and support. That is how we’ve slotted into this industry,

The studio is crafted to cater to the specific needs of various productions, an ideal space for a range of creative ventures”



Thanks to the snowballing effect of virtual production technology, NIPA has been actively venturing further into that landscape, with the goal to strengthen South Korea’s information and communications technology industry and bolster its global competitiveness when it comes to media output. “I believe that featuring globally recognised products in our expanded NIPA studio will yield significant results for South Korea’s virtual production industry,” states Lee Jin Seo, deputy director of NIPA. Having come from humble beginnings as a relatively modest studio, NIPA has now become pivotal in various sectors including advertising, film, production and education. This time around, NIPA once again chose Roe’s most popular products, BP2V2 and CB5L MKII, to maintain the high standards that are demanded by virtual production. With a well-planned blend of XR and ICVFX capabilities, NIPA’s highly skilled creative and technical teams managed to incorporate these new products, in turn successfully transforming NIPA KOVAC XR Stage into South Korea’s most advanced integrated studio. “Working with NIPA has been an excellent journey for us,” emphasises David, representative of ARK Ventures. “Over the previous couple of years, our collaboration has evolved into a close strategic partnership driven by profound understanding of each other’s objectives. With a forward-thinking approach, we are confident that, together with NIPA, we can achieve further breakthroughs and explore new dimensions within the immersive digital world.” CROSS-SECTOR COLLABORATION Academic institutions have also had a hand in the developing XR landscape. Most recently, CJP Broadcast Service Solutions was involved with the

and how we’re fitting the bill for a lot of these studios. Partnering that with our pixel processing hardware is how we’ve really managed to find our place in this competitive marketplace.” Having collaborated with the Target3D team for several years for a range of projects, largely to do with tracking systems, 7thSense was the sensible choice when it came to setting up its new London facility. “We supplied two of our R-Series 10 media servers there, which are used to drive the main LED wall. Then they’ve also got a relocatable LED wall, which they can use for lighting effects for their shoots. Additionally, we’ve partnered that with a couple of our Juggler units, which they can deploy for lighting effects,” Bates adds. Juggler is 7thSense’s hardware-based pixel processor range, which is designed to simplify the management of multiple sources and outputs for complex high-resolution systems, multiscreen experiences, mega canvasses and warped or blended projection displays. The new location features a single large LED volume and two moveable tracked LED walls – of which 7thSense’s technologies are essential components – in turn facilitating virtual production workflows and motion capture of up to ten performers at a time. That includes full-body, finger and facial expression capture, as well as intricate performance sequencing. Historic and potential use cases range from virtual and augmented reality applications, through to visual effects and animation. There is an undeniable shift to virtual production – and the opportunities that XR offers – within the industry, and Bates points to the benefits of this. “The fact that you can create these virtual environments saves vast amounts on the costs that come with location shoots and flying huge teams of people around the world.

“It also means you can partner up with other studios, because as long as you’ve got fast connections, you can link up studios and work collaboratively.” It seems that, with the influx of virtual studios, we are only really at the start of XR’s journey. “We’re only at the beginning,” Bates expands. “As the costs of making this technology come down, it means that more and more creatives have access to it. The more hands it gets into, the more options creative people get – and the opportunities are endless, especially with XR and AR.” XR IN SOUTH KOREA Roe Visual is another vendor making waves in the XR space – a company dedicated to making top-level LED display platforms. By using carefully selected high-end components, the latest technology and its own in-depth knowledge, Roe offers great solutions for creatives, designers and technicians that rely on its products for installation, shoot or performance. Inevitably, creating LED technology of this calibre leads Roe to working on a variety of AV installations and projects, and this is no less true for the XR variety. One example that highlights Roe’s innovation in this new space was an announcement at the end of 2023, revealing that a collaboration with Ark Ventures had resulted in further expansion of NIPA KOVAC XR Stage. A cutting-edge studio, this was equipped with Roe Visual panels and emphasises NIPA’s continuing commitment to pioneering ICVFX and XR technologies in South Korea. The NIPA (National IT Industry Promotion Agency) worked with Ark Ventures, a South Korean company with extensive experience in providing virtual production solutions, for this studio located at the South Korean VR AR Complex (KOVAC) in Mapo-gu, Seoul.

Target3D on Dock Street in central London, brought to life with help from 7thSense

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