Coldplay’s “Magic Balls” On a Roll

by PLSN Staff • in
  • News
• Created: November 18, 2008

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HOUSTON — When Coldplay decided they wanted “Magic Balls” for their Viva la Vida World Tour, XL Video turned to Pufferfish Ltd. to provide a custom solution. Experienced in digital spherical displays and immersive media, Pufferfish Ltd. designed and delivered six “PufferSphere XL” touring units within two months. As an important part of Coldplay’s “continuing mission to make a big room feel as small as possible” and bring the audience closer, LD Paul Normandale was tasked with devising a new means of integrating the visual components for the current Viva la Vida tour.

“For my part the band’s desire for a viewing surface without the use of LEDs, was an interesting challenge, and one for which the Pufferfish system of internal projection provided a unique solution,” said Normandale. “It allows not only media content, but also live relay footage (via the Hippotizers) in large scale arenas.”

In all, six PufferSpheres were commissioned for the tour, forming a significant part of the overall visual design as well as a means of bringing together the video element. Positioned on-stage are five 10k lumen PufferSphere XLs, each driven with a single Barco CLM R10 projector and using a two-meter screen, while one custom-built 20k lumen PufferSphere, driven with a Christie Roadster and using a three-meter screen, is suspended front-of-house.
The PufferSpheres content includes a mix of live-feed footage of the band on stage, provided by XL Video’s team, and Viva La Vida motion graphics, produced by Justine Catterall.

The content is operated by Ben Miles, who uses four Green Hippo HD Hippotizer V3s, each with Green Hippo’s free Pufferizer Plug-In, to create the warped and aligned 360° projections. The Hippotizers are stationed backstage and controlled via Green Hippo’s ZooKeeper remote software from Miles’ grandMA Lite desk.

The five PufferSphere XLs are suspended from 10 half-metric ton fixed speed hoists, controlled via a 10-way Kinesys fixed speed automation system with Vector control. This allows them to move up and down during the show, appearing and disappearing from “sock”-style soft elements.

The single central three-meter PufferSphere, nicknamed “Big Bertha,” acts as a static 360° video screen in the middle of the arena, offering an alternative to the more conventional “flat-screen-behind-the-band” concert staple.

Having a single projector with an integrated optics system, the movement of the smaller spheres can take place without the need for projector-tracking, edge-blending and warping envelopes. The single integrated source uses no mirrors or secondary lenses, thereby eliminating the risk of decalibration during the show. Pufferfish’s SuperUmami optics are designed to keep the projections in focus, preserve the look of the colors and distribute the pixels evenly across the sphere.

The spheres are air-inflated and use aluminium frames, saving the tour the cost of transporting heavier, bulkier spherical structures. Each PufferSphere XL weighs in at 125kg and packs down into two flightcases.

“In the quest for new and different live presentation of video, I think this was a gratifying result, not least by the speed at which Pufferfish Ltd,” in conjunction with XL Video, “took the initial concept, modified and produced a tourable package,” Normandale said.

“We have got some incredible balls and I mean that in the most technological of senses,” said Chris Martin. “In fact, they’re the most magic balls since John Lee Hooker had about 50 kids!”

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