Coldplay on a stage full of Specialz stars
Entwining the set & lighting design for one of the biggest bands on the planet with the concept of origami might seem to some a conceit too far, but not for those imaginative individuals charged with creating something special for Coldplay's jaunt around the globe.
Set designer, Misty Buckley elaborates on the premise: "The concept of the origami stars was very much an idea from the band. Steeped in Japanese tradition, origami is synonymous with transformation - taking something seemingly ordinary and transforming it in to something sculptural and beautiful. The star seemed an obvious choice because of A Sky Full of Stars."
With the idea of stars as a feature of the design, the next step was to create a working reality. Buckley continues, "Initially the production considered a kind of thin plastic sheeting to make them more resilient to the rigours of touring but it felt too controlled and gimmicky - like we were faking it - so we opted for the traditional material of paper for its delicacy and magical qualities. Paper is symbolic in so many cultures as a representation of love, luck, birth and death."
Five hundred paper stars were duly created and individually folded by the art department; each one had hand written lyrics on them from A Sky Full of Stars. Next came the slightly tricky part of lighting and rigging them. The production team went to Specialz.
Managing director, Dave Smith explains Specialz's brief, "We had about five days before the first show to make this work. Clearly, the major issue was having such fragile objects in an environment where robust durability is usually a prerequisite for any piece of touring equipment. Each star was lit by LED and powered by a distro box (power and DMX data) that ran three cable strings with each string containing nine stars. In a single installation environment, this would have been a perfect rigging solution but as the tour progressed it became clear that the units were becoming damaged during load out and that we needed an added layer of protection to prevent broken LEDs shorting out and damaging the PSUs."
Lighting crew chief, Mick Stowe was responsible for rigging and maintaining the stars. "This was a tour of promotional appearances and shows so the size, shape and type of venue varied enormously. This made each set up for the stars a totally individual task with different heights and depths on each stage. As an example, in the Albert Hall we rigged approximately 324 stars while for a TV appearance it might less than 50 but in more awkward rigging settings. Specialz did a brilliant job creating a practical system that we could work with day to day and when the unavoidable damages began to impact on the stars, they came up with a simply ingenious set of little boxes that sorted that problem as well."
Smith elucidates further, "It was clear that, to survive the tour, these delicate stars needed more protection. We built around 36 inline polyfuse boxes which fitted onto the control box and protected the system if there was a fault. When the fault was corrected, by replacing or repairing the star, the polyfuse reset automatically and that particular line would be then working again. Of course, this was all part of the service to the production. One of the benefits of producing bespoke pieces for clients is our ability to adapt, alter and improve a design as circumstances dictate."
Despite the clearly challenging nature of the project, the stars have attracted nothing but praise from all concerned.
The 2.5M long Star String carries 9 circuits of control for 9 individual stars, outputs are on 2.1mm DC sockets, these are staggered along the length at 300mm intervals, with circuit 1 closest to the input lead. A 4M long input lead is attached to the Star String and connects into the control box via a 12 way multipin connector. The control box has 3 12 way output connectors, each being 9 channels, (one control box has 27 channels). The box is designed to be mounted close to the Star String hanging point and it is fitted with 2 eyes and 2 safety wires so that it can be attached to a variety of objects. The boxes have both mains and DMX in and out connectors on one end so that boxes can be linked together without the need for separate feeds.