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All told, the performance required the participation of some 800 people, from camera operators to stage crews to Rihanna and her 80 dancers and seven band members. It also required a great deal of building. In order to minimize the weight on the field, the stage Rihanna performed on had to be constructed out of no more than 15 rolling structures (called “carts”). 

Because of the shape of the tunnels leading down to field level at State Farm, All Access—the company responsible for fabricating the stage—had to build platforms with stairs that could be tilted up for transport. The carts range in shape from 10 by 24 feet to 8 by 31 feet, and each one weighs anywhere from 2,000 to 4,000 pounds and is outfitted with “turf tires” (not a technical term) designed to roll gently and evenly over the grass. “You don’t want to have a player taken out of the game on concussion protocol because we left hard spots on the floor,” says Tommy Rose, All Access’ staging supervisor. “We are really mindful about that.” 

Then there are the platforms themselves. Each one, roughly 10 by 17.5 feet, had to be stored up by those trusses during the first half of the game and then guided down to field level on synthetic cables in those precious seven-plus minutes the stage was being set up using a series of automated motors. The bottom of each one was affixed with 512 lights choreographed to move along with Rihanna’s performance. The platforms also had to be returned to the trusses and stay there until the game was over. And unlike the equipment used for previous halftime shows, they couldn’t be wheeled in and out of the stadium easily, meaning some of the final rehearsals before the Big Game had to be done in the stadium, not at an off-site location like in previous years. 

“This will be, in my opinion, the most technically advanced Super Bowl halftime show that’s ever been done because of the amount of tech used to move the platforms,” says Aaron Siebert, the project lead from Tait Towers, which made the platforms. 

Floating platforms helped decrease the halftime show’s impact on the Super Bowl playing field. 

Photograph: Ryan Young

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