Gear of Olympic Proportions

The end of summer is a weird time around here. The theatre season and school are about to start, I try to spend more time with my family, and the olympics are on. The damn olympics have managed to make everything seem to grind to a halt. We watch religiously and the opening ceremonies are way up there on the list. So it was that I watched and wasn’t that impressed. They had to top Beijing after all, and that’s a tall order. The big star was LED however and there were a couple of effects that I think are harbingers of things to come in LED-land. One is the LED tiles that are permanently installed throughout the stands. Tait Technologies, a longtime provider of gear on a huge scale (U2, JayZ, Roger Waters), provided the LED tiles to extend the graphic mapping of the opening ceremonies into the stands at the olympic stadium. This type of technology is going to start becoming the norm with systems like this and also with the advent of gear like the Xyloband being deployed (see Coldplay’s use HERE). But here’s the official word:

LONDON — The opening ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games saw the main stadium transformed into a huge array of LED video pixels, mapped to the space occupied by the audience. The effect was made possible with 70,500 pixel tablets developed by Tait Technologies for the stadium seating grid. There were more than 70,500 of the pixel tablets in all. “The assembly of dispersed LED pixels to form very large video images has been with us for some time,” explained Frederic Opsomer, CEO of Tait Technologies, who drove the development of this stunning new device. “But never before has it been done on such a scale, and with such organic animation.” Opsomer is referring to the fact that the LED Pixel Tablets were placed firmly in the hands of the opening ceremony audience; all 70,500 of them. “Little box or big box, it’s all the same challenge,” explained Opsomer, “To work for such an event, the product has to be waterproof to IP65, safe to use, durable. With so many in use, it also has to pass the most stringent EMC testing. The LEDs themselves are extremely durable; we might expect them to work for 10 years in continuous use. Because the Olympics placed a firm focus on sustainability, we have designed this

product with an afterlife in mind.” The cabling infrastructure for the Olympic stadium was some 370km, and was installed by a local crew of 10 within five weeks. The total system installation took just 10 weeks with five technicians and six local crew members. Because of the nature of its use over the eight week period of the Olympics, the system was installed as a permanent installation. However, rapid deployment options are available for shorter, temporary installations. Logistically, this was big undertaking, “The backbone of the system is based on the tried-and-tested Barco FLX platform,” said Opsomer. “Tait has invested in their drivers and control, Barco delivered the PCB; the design, manufacturing and assembly of the tablets was provided by Tait. Testing at the independent EMC laboratory in Belgium was exhaustive, but it had to be; the implications of seventy-thousand plus devices for the RF environment are of potential nightmare proportions.” The pixel mapping of the content into the stadium runs on the Ai Infinity Server from Avolites/Immersive. Opsomer says, “We chose Ai from Avolites because of Avolites substantial and long history in the field of entertainment; and quite simply this is one of the only server systems that can handle mapping on such huge scale. The Olympics was a one shot event, it had to be perfect, and the strength of the company reputation is reassuring to all those involved. Managing this volume of mapping is easy with the Ai software.” Content for the pixel tablets was provided by Crystal CG, the official digital imaging services provider of London 2012 Olympics. Here’s the link. “It was an absolute pleasure to work with Crystal as a content provider for this project. Content is such an integral part of the viewer’s experience and the content provided really showcased our system to the highest ability” said Opsomer. Landscape video opens unlimited opportunities for the use of this type of technology in live events and architectural environments. Communication of any message on a large scale can be achieved without limits. “We think this is a blank canvas that event organizers are really going to enjoy,” said Carol Scott, director of sales and marketing, Tait Technologies. “Having resolved the logistical problems down to manageable and affordable proportions, this becomes a realistic tool with which to enhance your event communication.”

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