New angles on LED

photo – U2 Start

A post by Live Union Production Manager James Noake

U2 have always broken new ground in set design. The band’s 1997 Pop Mart tour pioneered the use of LED video walls. Twenty years later their 2017 Joshua Tree tour blew audiences away with an incredible 60-meter-wide by 20-meter-high LED wall, the largest hi-res screen ever used on a touring production. The screen has over 7,500 horizontal lines of resolution and was built from just over 1,000 individual panels.

LED screens have of course become commonplace across the wider event world. An innovation of particular interest to us at Live Union are LED video panels that can be constructed at angles to each other. This gives us the ability to create ever more extreme curves or even right angles.

Keen for the right opportunity to use an LED cube, Live Union were recently asked to design a centrepiece video feature at an event. Technically it was surprising how easy the cube was to  put together. Once up and running it operated much like a widescreen video wall with a multi-screen management system to control graphics across the four faces. The high, 2mm pitch resolution meant content still looked great close up; perfect for an exhibition-type environment.

Anyone familiar with widescreens and custom aspect ratios will appreciate that the biggest challenge is choreographing dynamic content that both justifies additional screen space and keeps the audience engaged. Thinking of screen content in three planes challenged us to identify ways in which the cube could be used to maximum visual impact. This relied on stitching together each face, enabling the viewer to perceive it as a seamless 3D visual experience as opposed to four screens at right angles to each other. Plenty of time was spent researching, storyboarding and designing – the end results looked spectacular!

The creative opportunities for right angle screens are fascinating. We’re exploring new ways to use them to build the audience narrative, for example, an LED entrance archway to welcome delegates with live social media feeds. Or a central cube screen with seating in the round to form a debate or boxing ring style stage. Whatever the challenge we can’t wait for the next project that gives us the chance to use this incredible technology!