Olympics opener turns people into pixels for multimedia spectacular

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

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.