U2:UV Achtung Baby

Las Vegas Sphere

Creative Director: Willie Williams

Follow-Me Supplier: Fuse Technical Group

Lighting Director: Alex Murphy

Follow-Me Operator: Thomas Hawkes

Key Light Supervisor: Ethan Weber

Product used: Follow-Me 3D SIX System

© Follow-Me

© Follow-Me Tracking Solutions

Date: January 17, 2024

“It was the simplicity of Follow-Me that was key to my decision to use the system,” opens Alex Murphy, lighting director for U2 who were the opening act at The Sphere in Las Vegas with their show UV Achtung Baby, running a residency that attracted audiences from around the globe. The Sphere opened its doors to the public in September 2023. To truly understand its design and construction, you probably need to be both a highly qualified mathematician and engineer but, fortunately those qualifications are not necessary to be amazed, in awe, and simply blown away by the experience of watching an event at The Sphere so, as one of the world’s greatest live acts, it was fitting that U2 filled the inaugural slot. 

Today, The Sphere is a unique arena space that was completed at a cost of $2.3 billion but when Murphy had to spec the equipment it was still a building site. “I wanted the option of using the Automatic tracking tags but had no idea if I would get any positions to place the sensors. There is no side or overhead rigging as it’s all totally video wall. In the end we went for three Follow-Me operators. Having dealt with American spot operators for 15 years it’s great for us at FoH to have a preview screen of where the operators are pointing and when, before we turn the spots on.” 

“We were very lucky in that we could pick and choose from the FoH Sphere lighting rig which units we wanted. Follow-Me allowed us to very quickly adopt them into our key light package which was looked after by Ethan Webber. There’s no doubt that The Sphere is the perfect platform to show off the Follow-Me system at its best. To have just three operators with the choice of over 100 lights in various positions really makes the most out of Follow-Me. We took the system out at the end of U2’s run but I hope they buy a package for the building.” 

The show utilized a Follow-Me SIX system with six mouse and fader console sets. This meant that all four band members could be followed and additionally, two special guests on occasions. The patched fixtures could be assigned or reassigned to any operator for any song all helping to achieve a dynamic, creative design — the core strengths that Follow-Me offer to help make this easy to accomplish. 

Tom Hawkes was the Follow-Me technician for the entirety of the U2 run. “As Alex has pointed out, the flexibility Follow-Me more than proved its worth. You can do tracking using the Track-iT solution or by manually using operators with the mouse and fader setup, which offers a secure backup if something throws a wobbly. It also wasn’t 100% clear at the time of spec’ing the rig that Track-iT would be possible as the arena was still under construction.” 

Once completed, The Sphere became a state-of-the-art 18,600 seater auditorium but, as Hawkes observes, it doesn’t come without its challenges: “The venue hasn’t really got much in the way of follow-spot positions, You’d be able to get four conventional manual followspots but the positioning isn’t great, nor is the number available very useful or flattering artistically. With Follow-Me, we had an incredible amount of choice, position wise and it allows you to work more creatively by giving you more tools and options. Once we were set up, we tried out some other fixtures we didn’t originally plan to use — at one point we were working with 48 fixtures during rehearsals before settling for twenty for the show.” 

Hawkes and Murphy are in complete agreement in regard to Follow-Me being the optimal system to have installed at The Sphere as Hawks concludes: “I think you could do a lot with Follow-Me in this venue. We used it in such a way that is perfect for the system. I’m not sure you could have used any other system on the market as well as Follow-Me in the venue. Owning to the fact that there is a massive screen, putting sensors around to a track people wouldn’t work well; there are inherently RF issues with LED screens and I would challenge anyone to fly sensors or block the screen…You’d get stopped by The Sphere owners before you even thought about it!”

Lighting & Sound America