Olympic pixel tablets create giant 360? screen, inspire live events worldwide

From The Queen’s cameo alongside James Bond to the reunion of the Spice Girls, there’s no doubt Danny Boyle’s approach to the opening and closing ceremonies of the London 2012 Olympics, was sheer creative genius. As Jeremy Hunt, secretary of state for culture, Olympics, media and sport, said, it proved the occasion to be “as much a celebration of creativity as sport”.

But so too was it a feat of technical brilliance. Thousands of participants, dozens of vehicles and endless video cameras, but better yet, some 230 miles of cabling to enable 70,500 tablets, and a total of 634,500 pixels, to turn the audience into one enormous digital screen.

Yep, in case you hadn’t realised, the digital animations that appeared as though overlaid on the spectators throughout both ceremonies, were in fact the result of high-powered paddles attached to every seat.

Created by Tait Technologies, each one had nine full colour lights that, when controlled by custom-designed programmes from digital solutions company Crystal CG, sent multiple images around the bowl-shaped arena. In doing so, they not only achieved Boyle’s vision of wanting those in attendance to feel more involved in the action, but also created the world’s biggest ever screen; a 360? and seemingly “human powered” one.

During the closing ceremony, more than 75 minutes of digital animations were seen in this way. One example was a psychedelic 1960s sequence that took over 500 hours to produce. Do watch the video below to see some of it action.

“No longer limited by large flat screens, we were presented with the challenge of creating animations to bring the stage and the spectators together,” said Will Case, creative director at Crystal. “We delivered. The live audience and those watching at home were drawn into the action. We are witnessing the death of the traditional video screen – this will transform the way event content is presented in future, becoming a more immersive experience.”

Boyle added: “Every Olympic Ceremony aims for a major technical breakthrough. Our remarkable audience pixels have opened up amazing new images, effects and spectacle, but most of all they have enabled our live stadium audience to be part of the ceremony in a way that’s never been possible before.”

What fantastic crossover that could have for the fashion industry, let alone live events around the world full stop. Imagine catwalk stands that instantly become immersive displays for the collections as they come out; a reflection of the season they’re in, or the inspirations cast by the designer. As the late Alexander McQueen said back in 2009 in reference to live-streaming: “This is the birth of a new dawn. I am going to take you on journeys you’ve never dreamed were possible.”

Let’s hope so…


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By Rachel Arthur

Rachel Arthur is Editor-in-Chief of Current Daily, the leading news source for fashion, retail and innovation, and the co-host of its weekly Innovators podcast. She otherwise serves as Co-Founder and Chief Innovation Officer of Current Global, a transformation consultancy driving growth within fashion luxury and retail. By background she is an award-winning business journalist and consultant, contributing to titles including Wired, Forbes and Business of Fashion.

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