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MUSE: ‘Drones’ World Tour

PLSN Staff • Designer Insights • February 20, 2016

For the Muse Drones world tour, which started in 2015 and continues into 2016, lighting designer and director Oli Metcalfe was asked to deliver a production design that placed the band in the middle of an arena floor for an in-the-round delivery. Included in the master plan was the existence of flying drones in the show.

Oli Metcalfe
Production Designer & Lighting Director

“When it was evaluated for the 2nd Law Tour in 2012, it was deemed untenable, but the band and management really wanted to see this become an ’in the round’ show this year. There was a very long list of challenges, most of which related to the drone deployment and standing area for their launch. The other main constraint was the show’s infrastructure, and how this would be placed over the stage in close proximity to the stage equipment. I faced huge challenges with Brilliant Staging on providing enough surface area in the air for the flight crew to work from and launch their flying machines from.

“The ’space station’ was borne out of the need to house a great deal of the production infrastructure in close working proximity to the stage. They also wanted to have a safe work area where the technical crew could move around at height without the need for being clipped everywhere they go. Tony Bowern and Ben Brooks of Brilliant Stages were instrumental in providing the space station and decking solution that mounts on top of the pre-rig ML Truss provided by Neg Earth. We opted for European suppliers so that we could be close to Motion Business (the company looking after the drones), and so we could facilitate and test builds of the working gantries with the drone deployment and take off procedures all worked out upon their arrival in the U.S. for the start of the tour.”

Muse Drones world tour photo by Steve Jennings

About Those Drones…

The band was focused on having a concept and narrative for their tour and with the new album titled Drones, there was to be cohesion between the two from the outset. Oli met with the band to discuss and to open up a dialogue with Jack Smale, who is the founder and owner of Motion Business, based in Utrecht in The Netherlands. Motion Business was commissioned to build and fly the drones using their Path ‘65 software system in collaboration with the BlackTrax, which is a very low latency camera based tracking system used to track the drones as well as the band members themselves.

“This allows us to integrate lighting and video interactivity as well as provide us with an extremely accurate way of piloting the drones. This is the largest BlackTrax system ever assembled, using 38 cameras and tracking 16 entities (three band members and 13 HFO flying objects). The lighting inside is running all on board with 24 preset effects that I can trigger via DMX.”

Muse Drones world tour photo by Steve Jennings

Double sided projection was a key element in the look of the show.

 “The main focus of delivering show content to the audience was an element that I was excited to experiment with for a number of months beforehand. I have seen voiles [soft sheer fabrics] used in other ways and thought that it would be a really interesting material to project on — to use it in this context, because it has many great properties for viewing images on both sides, even if the projection only comes from one. It was my first real chance to work with projection here, and I decided to embrace some new tools that were shown to me by Robbie Bruce at Barco.

“Little did I know at the time that this was to be X-Agora. The next logical step for me was to approach Moment Factory and have them talk to me and the band about delivering content that would tie into Matt’s [Bellamy, vocalist and guitarist for Muse] vision and concept for his Drones narrative. I worked with Moment Factory and in particular Daniel Jean and Jesse Lee Stout around June of 2015, which is when we started to ramp up our preproduction prep work and programming.”

Muse Drones world tour photo by Steve Jennings

Assembling of production companies, crew and key individuals, along with some “staple” fixtures, made it all come together.

“When time came for fixture choices, we went with a number of Martin [MAC] Viper AirFX and Aura XBs and Clay Paky Mythos and Stormy CC [strobes] forming the system, most of which are mounted with pre-rigged Moving Light [ML] trussing. We are, however, using 12 of the new Martin Atomic LED fixtures, which have been a big surprise in terms of both features and, more importantly, light output. These units have really made an LED strobe actually look genuine again, as well as having that glare and ‘dazzle you’ effect that we were able to achieve over and over again for over a decade with the old Xenon Atomic.”

Muse Drones world tour photo by Steve Jennings

As for the vendors…

“Neg Earth, Skan, XL and Brilliant Staging jumped in first when we began talking about the flying machines. It was clear we had a challenge on our hands from the outset. I am working with a great team of people from the many production companies on the tour. From Dave Ridgeway and Caroline over at Neg Earth, Phil Mercer from XL Video, Matt Hales from TAIT, and Tony and Ben from Brilliant Stages, Matt Vickers from Skan PA, Daniel Jean and Jesse Lee Stout from Moment Factory, and Jack Smale from Motion Business.

“This has been my most challenging design yet, and I have gained a huge amount of experience with my team on all the unknowns that arise from working an arena circuit with an un conventional show format. I have really enjoyed embracing BlackTrax and having it drive so many key elements of the show without me really having to worry at all about it. I look forward to seeing what I, along with other designers can use this tool for, in the future.”




  • Production Designer & Lighting Director: Oli Metcalfe
  • Lighting Co: Neg Earth
  • Neg Earth Reps: Dave Ridgway, Caroline Beverley
  • Lighting Crew Chief: Jon Sellers
  • Show Control and Network Infrastructure: Oli Metcalfe Design
  • Network and Systems Engineer: Grant Hickey
  • Lighting Techs: Dave Cox, Peter ‘Kiss’ Horne, Mike Maslin, Mike Bowerman
  • Video Co: PRG/XL Video
  • Video Rep: Phil Mercer
  • Video Content/Creator: Banoffee Sky/Moment Factory
  • Video Director: Tom Kirk
  • Video Techs: Gary Beirne, Yves Van Acker, Matt Vassaloo, Mark Hughes, Robert Wick, Al Wright, Peter Tilling
  • Production Manager: Chris Kansy
  • Tour Managers: Glen Rowe, Dom Anderson
  • Stage Managers: Paul English, ASM Dave Hall
  • Riggers: Jez Craddick, Joe Anchor, Reuben Pinkney
  • LiDAR & BlackTrax Techs: Gareth Williams, Sam Augustus
  • Staging Cos: Tait Towers/All Floor (Matt Hales); Brilliant Stages/Everything Air (Tony Bowern)
  • Trucking: Upstaging Inc.
  • Rigging: Neg Earth
  • Drones: Motion Business
  • Pyro: Quantum SFX
  • LiDAR Scanning: Point Cloud Solutions,
  • Communications: RadioTek, Channel 16



  • 1         High End Systems Hog 4 console
  • 56      Martin MAC Aura XB fixtures
  • 28      Martin MAC Viper AirFX
  • 12      Martin Atomic LED strobes
  • 48      Clay Paky Mythos fixtures
  • 28      Clay Paky Stormy CC strobes
  • 2         MDG TheONE hazers


  • 2         Barco XPR-604 media servers w/ X-Agora software (for video projection)
  • 2         Catalyst servers (for GLUX, VC Dots and Sceptron products)
  • 12      Barco Flex 30 projectors
  • 12      Barco MMS moving mirror system
  • 152    GLUX 10 LED tiles
  • 4         Broadcast cameras
  • 2         PoleCam cameras
  • 2         Bradley Engineering CamBall cameras


For more MUSE ‘Drones’ tour photos by Steve Jennings, go to



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