Robbie Williams

Anyone who might have thought that they had seen it all as far as moving video screens were concerned might find themselves revising their opinions…


Anyone who might have thought that they had seen it all as far as moving video screens were concerned might find themselves revising their opinions once they had observed the latest incarnation from the imagination of Mark Fisher. For Robbie Williams' "Weekends of Mass Distraction" tour the concept has been taken and twisted, literally, to provide something new again. Eight huge columns of LED video screen form the focal centre-piece of the show. To complement the video footage, especially created for the show by BDH for creative director Lee Lodge, each of the screens was built to be able to move in 3 different directions; horizontally around an oval 'race-track', vertically by means of one or two chain motors depending on screen size and finally by rotating around the vertical axis to allow the video to face the audience at all times irrespective of their position on the race-track. The rotate mechanism also allowed the audience to see the 98 Vari-lites which adorned the back of the screens.

Celebrated rock and roll set builders Brilliant Stages managed the mechanical aspects of this mammoth undertaking while Kinesys provided the control products and expertise required to drive the complex combination of steel and aluminium supporting the screens. 5kW ac servo motors connected to Velocity drives were used to drive 8 custom built 'tugs' around a specially fabricated track made of steel I-Beam with a carefully formed rack welded to its underside. A pinion attached to the motor/gearbox combination engaged with the rack to provide a positive mechanical drive system. The resultant system had a maximum speed of over 500 mm/s. Specially converted Model LL Lodestar chain hoists lifted the screens up and down. The conversion to fully variable speed chain hoists involved fitting dual, silent, dc brakes, new limit switches and an encoder. A single channel Elevation 1+ controller sat next to the hoist on the tug and allowed it to be run to any position within a millimetre and at any speed up to and even slightly over the hoist's original fixed speed. The Elevation 1+ received all its commands, via a data lead daisy chained through all the controllers, from the control computer on the floor. This meant that just just two data streams could control all fourteen hoists, in fact the only reason two cables were used and not one was due to the two festoon systems that supplied the stage right and stage left screens independently.

Finally the integrated position controller within the Velocity drive provided the custom logic required to control the dc motor and gearbox used in the fixed speed rotate mechanisms. Limit switches provided positional feedback allowing the system to rotate between 0, 90 and 180 degrees. All 30 axes of automation came under the control of Kinesys' Vector software, the timing and delay features proving crucial to allowing everything to move simultaneously while ensuring that collision between tugs and screens were avoided. A variety of other interface and utility modules from Kinesys ensured that the 'behind the scenes' aspects of the system: emergency stop monitoring, communication network and power distribution worked effectively and reliably providing a highly tourable and reliable system which proved a hit with both the crowds and the crew.


Tour Credits Date: June 2003 - August 2003

Venue: Europe
Set Design: Mark Fisher
Set Construction: Brilliant Stages
Creative Director: Lee Lodge
Video Supplier: XL Video via Blink TV Video
Content: Burrell Durrant Hifle
Video Screens - Tracking (x8) 5kW servo motor and Velocity drive Travel: 22m Max Speed: 590 mm/s
Video Screen - Lifting (x14) Lodestar Elevation Model LL and Elevation 1+ controller Lifting Capacity: 1 Tonne Show Travel: 1.8m Max Speed: 175 mm/s
Video Screen - Rotate (x8) 0.37kW dc motor and dc drive controller Positions: 0, 90 and 180 degrees Rotate Speed: 10 seconds for 180 degrees
Control Dual industrial PCs with LCD touchscreen running Vector software ArcNet and Ethernet communications networks Array ARC field bus distribution Array ES emergency stop monitoring and distribution Array PD-ES power, data and emergency stop distribution uTransform-485 2 port Ethernet translation


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