U2 Enlists over 1,000 Fans For Interactive Light Performance In An Airplane Hangar

The band teams up with Marshmallow Laser Feast for an immersive experience and stunning new music video.

TCP Staff

U2's "Invisible"--directed by Mark Romanek, featuring the work of LD Patrick Dierson.

Not just an amazing name, interactive creators Marshmallow Laser Feast (MLF) are also known for putting on a fantastical live show--pushing the boundaries of set and lighting design. In the past we've covered their Musical Laser Forest and Flying Quadrotor, works that brought audiences into an immersive and haunting atmosphere. For their newest collaboration, a video for U2's "Invisible" seen above, director Mark Romanek (Never Let Me Go, One Hour Photo), creative agency PRETTYBIRD, and MLF teamed up to produce a "visual instrument" to mimic U2's playing--with wow factor provided via band-generated lights on a series of giant LED screens.

The product of a 1,000 person semi-intimate shoot at an aircraft hangar in Santa Monica, CA, the video features a 360 degree real-time lighting system designed with Clay Paky Sharpys to produce the mesmerizing lightscapes seen above. The audience was then given hand held, high-powered flashlights--resulting in a more refined version of call and response. 

Commissioned by Jefferson Hack (U2's Creative Director and founder of Dazed & Confused Magazine) in collaboration with MLF, and Juliette Larthe and Mark Logue of PRETTYBIRD, the project used interactive 3D lighting and video architecture to directly translate the band and audience’s movement into panoramic visuals. 

Recently The Creators Project was able to have a quick chat with Robin McNicholas, Memo Akten, and Barney Steel of MLF about the project:

The Creators Project: How was the project conceptualized?

MLF: We wanted to create something visceral; something that appeared to be seamlessly connected to U2's performance--every move they made and sound that came from the instruments was wired into our app 'The Punkerator' and piped to the lighting rig and LEDs. We had a pretty good idea of what we wanted the show to look like before we got to the hangar where it was shot, but it wasn't until we got into the space that we were super happy that we'd designed the system the way we did. It was realtime which meant we could have loads of flexibility to adapt and respond in the live environment to get the desired looks and effects. Because we're used to shooting environments we also were able to tweak and work closely with Mark Romanek the director to get the shots we needed. The entire production came about in a really organic way, which is what we love about realtime software. 

How closely did you work with U2?

Very closely. They're totally cool and it was an eye-opener seeing them work, the vibe was always really upbeat, super-professional, and incredibly friendly. It was also jaw-dropping seeing the effect they had on the crowd. They also totally embraced the Punkerator and jammed with it immediately so we were on top of the world!

You've done large-scale installations in the past but none of this magnitude--was it difficult working with such a massive crowd?

It was a really challenging job, a proper team effort. And was one of the most testing projects we've done to date--but we loved everything about it. We were super happy with the way people embraced our approach which in the traditional rock arena is completely non-conventional. We feel really lucky to have been part of it. The team was vast and each person played their own part in such a dedicated way, it was great! We made a lot of friends out there who we're honored to have shared the experience with. Working with the crowd was easy.

How do the band-generated LED screens work?

Our Punkerator app used IR cameras that processed the live feed from the band and mixed it with realtime audio processing and particle systems that were then translated to light and LED in 360º. It was such a massive rig. Was such a joy to experiment with in the space. We had a good ol' stint of jumping around the stage air guitaring with broomsticks.

Can you describe what the Punkerator is?

It's a really flexible custom realtime app made in OpenFrameworks that allows us to make the stage interactive so we can amplify performances - in this case U2's. It lets us take live data from performers who run and jump around and translates these movements into massive sound-reactive particle systems. It was designed to drive the lighting rig with a realtime pixelmap and is 'all on sliders' which means there's lots of versatility and it's lots of fun! 

Were the flashlights given to the audience hacked in any way?
They would definitely have been hacked if we had the time to hack 'em!  We in fact brought a load of them back to the UK with us and have already been experimenting with them on our next project. They're insanely bright. One of the team's dead-set on using them as super-bright bike lights.  

What does MLF have planned next?

We just finished working with the wonderful Diane Martel on Miley Cyrus' Bangerz tour that is completely bonkers, and we're super chuffed to have been a part of it! Right now we are developing a dance production with the choreographer Alexander Whitley. The project's called The Measures Taken. It's been 2 years in development, we've ploughed a lot of energy into it and we're really excited about how it's shaping up.

Below, check out the video we recently did on Marshmallow Laser Feast:

Meet Marshmallow Laser Feast And Their Interactive Musical Laser Forest

Watch This: Flying Quadrotor Light Show Spectacular [Artist Q&A]

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