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The Sphere in Las Vegas is getting rave reviews. But it wouldn’t be this successful without a Canadian company | Alan Cross
The Sphere in Las Vegas is getting rave reviews. But it wouldn't be this successful without a Canadian company | Alan Cross


The Sphere in Las Vegas is getting rave reviews. But it wouldn’t be this successful without a Canadian company Back in 1987, a Lebanese immigrant to Montreal named Fred Jalbout and his brother Bassam, formed a company called Saco Technologies. Starting out by manufacturing special panels required by the nuclear power plant in Pickering, Ontario, they soon picked up work with other energy utilities across North America. Customers like the modular easy-to-install features of these panels. But what they really liked was the LED displays that seemed infinitely variable when it came to colours and brightness. No one was doing this kind of thing. By 1997, a new prototype of an even better panel was ready. That’s when an invitation came from Ireland, asking for a demonstration. Some group that Fred had never heard of wanted to see what the new fully programmable 2ft x 2ft panels could do. The meeting between Saco Technologies and U2 went off better than anyone could have expected. Bono took one look at the prototype and said “Where have you installed this before?” “Nowhere,” said Fred. “Fine,” Bono replied. “We’ll take the lot. This marked a big pivot for Saco. They were hired to created at 150ft by 50ft programmable display for U2’s PopMart tour. It was a huge success and soon everyone wanted Saco’s screens: The Rolling Stones, Madonna, Elton John, Celine Dion–it was quite the client list. Meanwhile, sports venues wanted a look. And when the Burj Khalifa was under construction in Dubai, they wanted some special screens, too. But the biggest deal was yet to come. When MSG announced the building of The Sphere, a US$2.3 billion dollar performance venue just off the Las Vegas Strip, Saco got the gig. Not only were they given the job of creating the interior visuals (which are insane) but MSG wanted the entire exterior covered with panels that could be programmed to display anything. So they did. The outside skin of The Sphere works as one big screen using 1.2 million LED “pucks” set 20 centimetres apart. Each has 48 individual LEDs. If one puck malfunctions, you can just pluck it out and replace it in about five minutes. Meanwhile, the interior screen–again all Saco panels–has about 120 times the resolution of a typical HD TV. As someone who has been a U2 show at The Sphere, I can honestly tell you that I’ve never, ever see video like that before. The whole things is a technological marvel. Saco was hoping that MSG would be allowed to build another Sphere in London, but the city has killed that opportunity. So where next? Read more at The Financial Times.

This content was originally published here.

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