Olympics opener turns people into pixels for multimedia spectacular

Olympics opener turns people into pixels for multimedia spectacular

Summary: The London 2012 Games puts LED paddles into the hands of the 70,500-strong stadium audience, creating a 360-degree 'landscape video' for the opening ceremony

TOPICS: Olympics 2012

London 2012 organisers sent video shooting around the Olympics Stadium on Friday, giving each of the 70,500-strong audience a handheld tablet to help create 360-degree animation and video.

Each seat came with a square device studded with nine LED full-colour pixels, all capable of being independently programmed and all wired into a control rack in each audience section. 


During the opening ceremony, these 'pixel' tablets lit up to generate video images that ran around the entire seating grid of the oval Olympic Stadium — creating what was likely the largest video screen ever seen by the one billion television viewers watching.

Among other things, the 'landscape video' took a trip through a London Underground tunnel, sketched out the Tube map and showed dancing silhouettes during a musical segment. It also displayed the live tweet sent from the event by Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the web.

Each LED device came set in a plastic paddle, meaning people could pick them up and dance with them when asked by their section's performance directors.

"The audience literally became part of the action," Will Case, creative director at Crystal, which produced the opening ceremony animations, said in a statement.

Crystal's London team of 50 designers had just over three months to deliver 70 minutes of animation suited to the bowl shape of the Olympic Stadium 'screen', the company said.

The video on the 'pixel' tablets could be seen both horizontally and vertically at an angle of 180 degrees, according to Tait Technologies, which built the tablet system. The devices used the Barco FLX system for LED display, Tait said.

Topic: Olympics 2012

Karen Friar

About Karen Friar

Karen Friar is news editor for ZDNet in the UK, based in London. She started out in film journalism in San Francisco, before making the switch to tech coverage at ZDNet.com. Next came a move to CNET News.com, where she looked after west coast coverage of business technology, and finally a return to her homeland with ZDNet UK.

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  • while that was kinda of cool...

    while that was kinda of cool... overall I thought that was one of the worst opening ceremonies ever.
    • Oh really?

      Oh really? Did you not see how British invention has transformed the world twice? First we saw the smelting of steel, which transformed the landscape, allowed mechanisation, transport, and ushered in the modern age. And again when Sir Tim Burners-Lee invented the World Wide Web ushering in the information age.

      Not impressed with the cauldron? The music? The multiculturalism? All that, "Cool Britannia" has to offer?

      "Why, Sir, you find no man, at all intellectual, who is willing to leave London. No, Sir, when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford." -- Samuel Johnson 1777

      Surely you enjoyed James Bond and the Quean? Or Mr Bean? Paul McCartney, The Arctic Monkeys, and Dizzee Rascal?
    • Really?

      Either you are VERY hard to impress or you followed the ceremony on the radio.
      Honestly, did you vote your own comment, because I don't expect you to have much company in your school of thought.
      • Maybe he's a Republican...

        I have noticed that so many of them have been pretending to hate the Olympics since the Brits jeered and ridiculed Romney the other day.
  • I love the Olympics...

    and it wasn't bad... but it wasn't that great. Too much had to be explained. I talked to people who didn't even understand what was going on. I consider most things a failure if most people cannot even tell what its supposed to be without someone trying to explain it. The "Industrial Revolution went too long and was way too smokey... and burning stuff to make a horrible smell to make you feel like your in it... well no one wants to be inside a smoke stack, that was a bit too much. I did like how Mary Poppins scared off Voldemort... a lot of thought went into that. It was kind of nice celebrating children's literature, but to hide it in a praise of socialized medicine(and yes I know why the two were mixed)... set changes were also extremely slow, which is to be expected... I think they could have took a little more time to make that better, but they wanted to save as much money as possible.

    Anyways, theres more than that I didn't really like, but no need to just keep going on about it. Just because I felt it was one of the worst ever, that doesn't mean it was bad... it just wasn't great.
    • *Sigh*

      I'm pretty sure most people with a decent education understood what was happening. Some bits may of got confusing, but most of it was pretty straightforward. I don't see how the industrial revolution went on for too long, they managed to fit 200 years of technological advancement into about 15 minutes (including a minutes pause honouring those who fought in the two World Wars). The smell was what made it all the more realistic, bringing the act to life.

      "but to hide it in a praise of socialized medicine(and yes I know why the two were mixed)"

      The National Health Service, along with Great Ormond Street Hospital and the Royal Family, is one of the best institutions Britain has. We, as a nation, are proud of the NHS and GOSH. Even if we complain every day about how we'll spend 4 hours waiting to be seen, we love it more than almost anything else in our country. You should see how people react to the government making cuts.
  • England > China

    I thought one of the best parts of this Opening Ceremony was the spectacle, and the tongue-in-cheek humor the Brits are so well known for. I love London, love England, love the UK and almost all it creates. I'm an American, but thought it was SO refreshing to see Mr. Bean, Bond, McCartney and more, rather than the self-important, grandiose and over-the-top Imperialist junk we saw in Beijing. Well done Brits....too right!
    James Keenan