You know those toy expanding balls we give our kids? The ones that fold down into a sphere a mere fraction of their expanded size. Those toys are actually a patented design belonging to Chuck Hoberman. The ‘Hoberman Sphere’ as it’s known, isn’t actually a sphere at all, it’s an icosidodecahedron; a polyhedron with 20 triangular faces and 12 pentagonal faces. So there you go! We aim to inform here at AV magazine. What this has to do with AV is a darn good question, and again, in our inimitably informative fashion we’re here to tell you that it’s got a lot to do with AV. Especially when you consider the Hoberman Sphere was the inspiration for the video centerpiece of U2’s 360° Tour. The show kicked off at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona, Spain on the 30th of June this year, to the accolades of awestruck fans.

Looking remarkably like some giant crustacean quadruped, this in-the-round design has a number of features never seen before on a stage. Let’s face a couple of facts: the well worn format of a few blokes on a stage facing an audience, is getting more than a bit old-hat, and when you’re U2 playing to a stadium of tens of thousands of punters, what chance do any but a tiny minority have of actually seeing any members of the band? They’re just four little tiny fellas half a kilometre from your seat! U2’s giant ‘claw’, as it’s become known, remedies these inate shortcomings with an incredibly dynamic and never-before-seen show due to the gargantuan, moving circular video screen hanging from the underbelly of ‘the claw’.


Barco is the company behind this epic, morphing screen. Utilising 888 LED screens, comprised of half a million RGB pixels, the screen expands and contracts courtesy of Chuck Hoberman’s design. When fully expanded, the seven-storey-high shape encloses more than 350sqm of stage space. With its 360° shape, the LED screen can surround the band while performing and can change shape in all directions during the concert.

The stage and show were created by long-time U2 designers Willie Williams and Mark Fisher, having come up with the concept during U2’s previous tour over two years ago. Barco provided the FLX-24 LED pixels, which are integrated into a transformable structure designed by Barco’s Innovative Designs based on Hoberman’s invention. U2 are the first band ever to tour with a transformable LED screen.

Willie Williams, U2 show designer, says “Video is the most powerful tool you can have on stage, but now that video is so ubiquitous in the rock stage setting, we needed a very extreme change of canvas to be heard. The transformable LED gave us the chance to create a transparent 360° moving video element, unprecedented in this industry. It is the icing on the cake for this design.”

Chuck Hoberman added, “It’s thrilling to see the work I have been doing with transformable structures expressed in such a new way. The screen is like a living thing, it continuously changes shapes and forms and the video acts like live skin on it. It is one of the most fascinating objects in the world now.”

Mark Fisher, U2’s stage designer, commented: “We wanted to create something that was bigger than a conventional stage. This tour was big enough to make a purpose built structure. I wanted to create a transparent stage and really needed a video screen that would fit into that environment, a round screen that would not block the view for the audience. Barco’s FLX products gave us the chance to create this.”

In addition to the flexible LED screen, Barco integrated a total of 1200 FLX-60 pixel modules into the surrounding edges of both the A and B stages and the bridges between the stage centre and the outer circular catwalk. The stage LEDs provide an extra dimension to the graphic show projected on the screen.

Barco Systems: (03) 9646 5833 or


FLX consists of individually controllable, compact, high quality LED pixel modules that can be combined with a wide variety of specifically designed mechanical structures into any shape you desire. The FLX-24 pixel module has a 24mm diameter, and contains a single bright full-colour IP66 rated LED. Due to its 16-bit per colour processing, ultra high refresh rate and colour calibration, the pixel modules perform similarly to Barco’s high quality LED video displays.