The Technology behind the London Olympics Opening Ceremonies

The 2012 Olympic Games kicked off their 17 days of festivities with the Opening Ceremony this past weekend. Watched by an estimated audience of over 1 billion people world wide, the 225 minute presentation included an amazing display of art, creativity, multi-screen, LED and Projection.

The ceremony may not have lived up to the incredibly expensive and showy Beijing Opening Ceremony, but it did lend itself to a few new and innovative technological implementations. One of those innovations was the ultra-wide LED display that seemed to lay on top of the Audience.

You may have noticed this shot (left) early on with a grey spotted square behind every person as they did close up's on the royal family and other distinguished guests. If you didn't catch this shot you missed a critical insight into what would unfold visually over the next few minutes. What you're seeing here are small pieces of a massive LED display used throughout the ceremony to bring art and color into the environment.

Engineered and designed by Frederic Opsomer, the designer of the U2 360 video system, each of these square panels in the Olympics included 9 individual LEDs in equal rows of 3. With over 70,799 seats in the Olympic Stadium, the total LED display included 637,191 pixels!

The content was designed by Crystal, a London based animation and creative group. Each of the over 70,000 panels were individually configured to allow the content to wrap around the entire facility as the world looked on in amazement. 70 minutes of content was used for this amazing multi-screen experience.

The total pixel count wasn't much greater than one of the TripleWide videos found on our community, and no higher resolution than that of a high definition 720p image. The physical size of the LED display is likely to be the largest in the world by most measures.

In a statement to the news, Will Case, creative director at Crystal CD said, "The audience literally became part of the action." Case was responsible for creating some of the content during the event.

Where did these LED Panels come from you may ask? Well Frederic Opsomer (if you can't tell from the picture above and his involvement with U2) reengineered the video wall from U2's 360 tour to create these panels. I guess U2 didn't need them anymore! In the end the actual LEDs were Barco FLX product, the preferred provider of the 2012 London Olympic Games.

The entire display was run from an Avolites Media Server from FOH by Lighting Operator, Tim Routledge (shown above). The processor, an A1 Media Server, was released in May but has the ability to multi-layer video files with a 4k resolution (even though they didn't utilize all the features).

The entire content/'pixel' project was completed in the 14 weeks prior to the Olympic Ceremony proving a tough challenge for Crystal. However with the over 50 designers on the project the group was able to test their first round of videos on July 10th. This gave them plenty of time to correct in time for the big show friday night.

Hat's off to this year's production team and producer Danny Boyle, as they accomplished quite a feat of artful entertainment. I wonder if this LED wall will be included in the "man made creations visible by space" category? If not, I'm still impressed.

By Luke McElroy, TripleWide Media