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but only gets three hours rehearsal for the opening ceremony, a completely different type of production. For the London Games, he intends to avoid this by putting a dedicated mixer in for the opening and closing ceremonies.

“Despite sending a perfect mix

downstream, [broadcasters] can still mess it up,” added Kennedy, especially when dealing with a 5.1 mix. “We don’t have control over what broadcasters do with it,” agreed Hardesty, who mentioned phase problems that NBC had with one event he worked on, which is why “we need more control of the broadcast.” “But, there is nothing we can do to

control it, if presenters want to talk over the beautiful bits,” added Kennedy. However, one-off events like the

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Olympics are produced under such pressure, with unbreakable deadlines, that “people with a TV background are best,” said Ric Birch, founder of Spectak Productions, as they are more used to such deadlines than theatre or movie people.

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problems of using an open-air stadium — that of having no top frame for the presentation — and allowed the rapid deployment of various structures. Half an hour before the closing musical

performance in Delhi, there was no music. Willsallen had to find and download the music from the internet. “We went to air with a 40-minute MP3,” he said.

Projection room

Doha used 55,000 LED lights in amongst the audience to extend the projected images that were used to create backgrounds for performers and generate virtual sets. The LEDs were great for wide shots of the stadium. “It required very complicated video mapping, but the result was superb,” said Cyril Meusy, DAE Global, who was the AV Content Producer for the Opening Ceremony. Projectors are becoming much more

widely used at events, but can cause problems for broadcasters. “When using projection it’s a challenge to create a

“Despite sending a perfect mix downstream, [broadcasters] can still mess it up. We don’t have control over what broadcasters do with it”

“There’s a relatively small number of people in the world who do these events,” said Hardesty. But this familiarity with each other “helps to solve problems faster,” added Willsallen.

Overcoming crises “Ceremonies begin as dreams and adapt to the reality of physics and finances,” according to Birch, who has worked on Olympic opening ceremonies since Los Angeles in 1984 and will be in charge of the Olympics and Paralympics for Rio 2016. Coming up with something original that

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displays local culture and is spectacular enough to hold viewers attention is the dream of every organiser. This means that lots of ideas have to be developed for each event, many of which aren’t used or, as in the case of the Barcelona Olympics, fall apart (in that case a set of five rings, which would have held the lighting rigging above the stage, collapsed four-and-a-half weeks before the Games started, requiring a radical re-think). Huge problems bedeviled the Commonwealth Games in Delhi in 2010, notably corruption (trials of several organisers, including a government minister, are pending), unfinished facilities, and ill health (four of Birch’s 12-strong team went down with Dengue fever, which also hit many of the cast, one of whom died). Willsallen added that a contractor also managed to destroy one third of the lighting system a month before the Delhi Games. However, the opening ceremony was still a technical and creative success. The use of an aerostat (the world’s largest) as the centrepiece helped address one of the April 2012

Chris Kennedy, Norwest Productions

broadcast picture,” said Lighting Designer Durham Marenghi, who designed the lighting for the 2006 Winter Olympics. For sports coverage, broadcast cameras

typically have about 2,000 Lux of light, but a projection system, such as that used for the Vancouver Winter Olympics in 2010 may only emit 125 to 150 Lux, below the level cameras need to capture images of fine detail and good depth of field. For wide shots, Marenghi will usually bring the faders on the other lighting down so the projection stands out more, but for close ups he’ll go up to 300 Lux so the cameras can see the expression on the faces. One of the most sophisticated uses of

projection yet was for the recent Arab Games in Doha, where ETC Paris used banks of projectors on either side of the stadium, to give 300 Lux in total, explained its Marketing Manager Patrice Bouqueniaux. Where performers cast shadows on the projected sand or other images, there was just enough detail from the other direction for the cameras to pick up, making it much more realistic than the usual black holes you’d be left with if the projection was only from one side. To cover the stadium floor completely, more than 12 projectors overlapped in the same area of the stage, so sharpness was very important. “You always have to take into account

what will be seen by the live audience and what will be seen on television,” added Bouqueniaux. “The audience will always have a much better view than anyone else, because your eyes will adapt, but the camera will need some depth of field so as not to have to continually work the focus; but TV cameras are getting more sensitive.”

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