Coldplay on tour with Edinburgh puffers

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By Kate Smail

A TINY Scots company has been picked by Coldplay to help spice up the band’s world tour.

Edinburgh-based Pufferfish – set up by two entrepreneurial students – specialise in the 3-D spherical TV screen globes called PufferSpheres.

Founders Will Cavendish and Ollie Collier came up with the idea for the inflatable display system while studying at Edinburgh University five years ago.

Since they started up their business – which employs just seven staff – their PufferSphere has been used at functions for Google, Standard Life and London Science Museum.

But they have just been given their biggest gig yet – for Coldplay’s worldwide Viva La Vida tour.

So far the giant TV screen globes have wowed crowds all over America but are set to return to their homeland when the band play a concert in Glasgow’s SECC next month.

Ollie said: “It is an amazing feeling to stand backstage and look out at thousands of people and know they are getting a new experience of a music concert because of us.

“You work so long and so hard on a project like this, to see the end product having such an impact is incredible.”

And the pair, both 28, said they had fun discussing how to make the 150-date tour stand out visually.

Will said: “Despite being such a famous band, the Coldplay boys were really down to earth, nice guys. They had lots of ideas about how they wanted the visual side of the show to look – they’re really creative.”

Pufferfish started out as an art project undertaken while Will and Ollie were studying at the University of Edinburgh.

But the pair soon realised the idea could provide them with an income and set about creating their business.

And after three years of trying to secure funding and make sure they were ready, Pufferfish launched in 2006.

Their gamble paid off because apart from their most recent assignment with Coldplay, they have worked with lots of other big names, including functions for Google and Standard Life.

The company’s innovative ideas have already been recognised by the industry, and were last year awarded the O2 Scottish Entrepreneur of the Year Award.
And it was thanks to these orders that PufferFish landed the lucrative deal with Coldplay.

Will said: “Coldplay approached us because they had seen the PufferSphere and wanted to find a way to try and make their concerts a more interactive experience for their audiences.

“Our units allow them to do that. They project live feed from the stage and are suspended over the crowd in a way that means every member of the 15,000 strong audiences is seeing the concert from a different angle.

“It means the crowd are having a more personal experience, despite the massive size of the arenas Coldplay perform in.”

And after working on their “most demanding job to date” – which included several 18 hour days – they were invited by the band to see their work in action in LA.

At one US gig, the audience even began chanting ‘magic balls’ at the start of the show in anticipation of the spectacle.

Superfan Laura Young, 57, was at the gig in Madison Square Gardens, NY and said: “The balls are really cool. I hope the company keeps working on them to make them even bigger and better! They are great options for stage performers who want to push the envelope in terms of their lighting design.

“It’s nice to see that Coldplay cares enough to make their shows different and eventful to their loyal fans.”

And it’s not just the fans who are impressed by the PufferSphere – Coldplay’s lead singer Chris Martin has showered the balls with praise since the tour kicked off.

He said: “We have got some incredible balls and I mean that in the most technological of senses. In fact, they’re the most magic balls since John Lee Hooker had about 50 kids.

“They’re like a light show you’ve never seen before.”

During gigs the balls have so far been used as monitors for close-ups of the band, turned into pumpkins to celebrate Halloween and used as a lyric prompt so fans can sing along.

Now, Will and Ollie plan to take the rest of their staff to see their hard work come to life when Coldplay visit Glasgow’s SECC at the beginning of December.

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