Off-the-shelf Dell hardware powers up U2 360 tour

Concert broadcast on a 500,000-pixel screen

Behind the scenes at U2's 360 concert.

Behind the scenes at U2's 360 concert.

When the lights went down on U2’s global Vertigo tour in 2006, so did the band's non-renewable contract with Apple. With plans already in motion for its next set of live shows, the rock four-piece decided to look for a new vendor to provide hardware for its stage setup.

According to Dell's senior business development manager, Frank De Petro, the computing giant was immediately in line for talks.

Global marketing director, Chris Radcliffe, began talks with U2 and touring company Live Nation on how Dell could contribute to the live spectacle and, more importantly, how the band could outdo its previous shows.

“Together they came up with the concept of a 360-degree screen," De Petro told Computerworld Australia as U2 finished off its second Sydney show to a packed ANZ Stadium.

Measuring 30 metres in width and 50 metres high, the screen boasts 500,000 pixels and, as its name suggests, is viewable from anywhere in the stadium.

"You can sit behind them and you will still get a visual impact," De Petro said.

Though U2's touring managers were used to building tailored IT equipment themselves, Dell provided off-the-shelf workstations and monitors already suited to the job. Two workstation-class N6500 Precision notebooks, three rack-mountable R5400 workstations and a number of 27-inch monitors were ultimately used.

The notebooks were used to edit concert footage from the night before, combining with real-time footage to provide footage for the gigantic screen.

There are 14 cameras placed around the stage on a 50-metre-high claw which plugs into the three workstations located in a control room backstage, connected surprisingly by a fibre optic cable with a Digital Video Interface (DVI) interface.

The entire system is even run on Windows XP. While there haven’t been any blue screens of death, he said some kit has died as the show moves around the world.

“So far Dell has lost one workstation and a couple of monitors. We were able to replace the kit on the same day,” he said.

U2 is the only music group running the vendor's hardware at present.

Follow Hamish Barwick on Twitter: @HamishBarwick

Follow Computerworld Australia on Twitter: @ComputerworldAu

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