Promising fans a production unlike anything they have seen before, British superstar Ed Sheeran kicked off his largest tour to date on April 23rd in Croke Park Stadium, Dublin.
Since then, the singer-songwriter has been playing stadiums across the UK and Ireland, with further dates planned across Central Europe, Scandinavia, Asia, Australia, Latin America and North America as part of his mammoth 2022/2023 world tour.
Continuing its long-term relationship with the artist, Colonel Tom Touring (CTT) is once again proud to support the production, supplying over 1100 square metres of a variety of ROE Visual LED panels, all powered by Brompton Technology LED processing.
The spectacular 360-degree stage design incorporates a giant circular ‘halo’ video screen, comprising 462m2 ROE Vanish V8T high transparency outdoor LED panels, fixed over a 90m2 revolving LED stage built from ROE BM5 panels.
The stage is surrounded by six 30-metre-high masts, with 398m2 of ROE CB5 making up six plectrum-shaped, double sided IMAG screens dangling from the masts, and further 220m2 of ROE CB5 half panels completing the LED hoops around the outside of the masts. The giant LED set-up is powered by five active and one backup 4K Tessera SX40 LED processors, as well as 20 Tessera XD 10G data distribution units.
The tour’s video director Phil Mead has been working with Ed Sheeran for 11 years and still remembers the first time CTT used ROE Visual technology with Brompton LED processing.
The first time we rolled out Brompton’s Tessera LED processors and ROE panels was on Ed’s last tour, the 'Divide' Tour 2017 – 2019, that went out in March 2017. Since then, that’s all we have been using – ROE screens in partnership with Brompton LED processing, says Mead.
After researching the LED processors available at the time, Mead and the team decided to invest in Brompton’s Tessera LED processors thanks to their functionality and company’s industry-renowned 24/7 customer support and strong focus on R&D and product roadmapping.
“We talked to Brompton at a trade show, and it was the roadmap and clear interest in technology innovation that we really liked”, explains Mead. “As the SX40s hadn’t been launched back then, we invested in M2s. Then, halfway through the 'Divide' tour, the Tessera SX40 came out followed by the XD Data Distribution Units, so we upgraded the whole tour and switched to SX40’s. Adam (Callaway, Technical Solutions Manager) from Brompton came over to help us understand the key features of SX40 and oversee the integration”.
Mead notes that the final stamp of approval was given to Brompton because of the company’s heritage and roots. “We liked the idea of using products made in Britain, especially from a company with such great values, profound industry knowledge and expertise”, he says.
The fibre optic approach is key to everything on this tour, according to Mead:
A great friend of mine, Adam Wells designed the fibre system for this tour. He created a custom fibre system so all the Tessera processors can sit in the video truck, in one rack along with the servers and routing, which keeps our signal paths short and saves space when transporting the show. This then leaves the truck over four MPT24 core fibres and heads into the main performance area to the large masts supporting the show. From there it creates a network loop around the masts feeding the XD units and other video network services for the cameras. The 10Gb backbone and 4K workflow allowed us to achieve maximum efficiency. The fibre system and the Tessera SX40 together with XDs are key to being able to do what we are doing with the 'Mathematics' Tour.
Another function that Mead finds useful is Brompton’s IP control API, which allowed Mead to create a piece of web software which interrogates the processors every 10 seconds. “We’ve got an overview dashboard in the video truck that shows the overview of the system, and should one of the cable redundancy links start failing we get a visual warning of the location and cable fault,” he says. “It’s a feature we’ve found really benefits the entire team”.
Additionally, CTT are using the Art-Net protocol, with each of the screen elements grouped and controlled by the video operator at FOH who has every screen canvas as a fixture available via the Brompton LED processing. “Instead of using disguise, the operator can control the intensity and other elements from his grandMA3 console”, Mead notes. “Again, that you can take your Art-Net connections and grade in that way is a very compelling reason to use Tessera”.
The feedback on the 'Mathematics' Tour has been spectacular, with the tour’s Creative Director, Mark Cunniffe of Twotrucks Productions, saying the response has been incredible and that the crew are already looking forward to taking it to South America and Australia.
“It’s fast becoming a must-see show, globally”, says Cunniffe. “I think a lot of that success is down to Ed and his manager, Stuart Camp, for having the guts to really go for a show this bold in the first place”.
I’ve been very fortunate to work with Ed Sheeran for over 10 years, transitioning from sold-out arenas to sold-out stadiums and growing the complexity of the video set-up with each show. But the 'Mathematics' Tour is definitely up there when it comes to bringing new challenges in video production. Creating a 360-degree visual experience wouldn’t have been possible without high-quality ROE Visual panels and industry ‘gold standard’ Brompton LED processing. This cutting-edge technology, together with our team’s expertise and technical knowledge, offered an unlimited canvas to the tour’s content designers, who were able to create unimaginably stunning visuals to complement this remarkable show, concludes Mead.
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