Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Digitally generate opening and closing ceremonies for London 2012 Olympics

The London Organising Committee for the Olympic Games 2012, plans to spread the opening and closing ceremonies accross multiple venues in London. I suggest it should be possible to digitally stitch this into a spectacular TV show. I discussed some of this in my presentation to the Beijing Organising Committee for the 2008 Olympic Games and some in the talks at the China New Media Conference 2007 (and their discussion forum). But there will need to be limits placed on what can be digitally generated, to avoid the faked fireworks which marred the Beijing opening ceremony.

THE UK will ignore the traditional stadium-based extravaganzas seen at the Beijing games, spreading its opening and closing ceremonies over the entire city of London....

From: London goes for grass roots Olympics, Paola Totaro, The Sydney Morning Herald, September 1, 2008
While watching the Beijing opening ceremony via TiVo, I though that Zhang Yimou's Beijing Opening Ceremony had too much reliance on projection screens. Beforehand, I had heard that the scenes of massed drummers on the great wall used in Channel 7's promotions were special effects, using just one drummer copied over and over again. Watching the 2008 drummers in the opening ceremony I had the uncomfortable feeling I was seeing another special effect.

The fact that part of the fireworks were digitally generateddigitally generated, suggests interesting possibilities for future Olympics. Rather than call this a fake, as many of the media have, it should be seen as opening up new options, freeing the games from restrictions which do not apply in the digital age.

It has not been possible for smaller, less prosperous countries to bid for the games, due to the cost and logistics. However, that most of the audience is via TV (and in future the Internet) removes this restriction. The Games could be held, for example, in several African countries, each with a small venue, specialising in one sport. For the opening ceremony, these could be digitally stitched together into one event. Those in the stadia could watch their live segment combined using projection technology with those of the other sites.

Perhaps London 2012 could be the first of the games of the new digital age. Many of the viewers of the 2012 games will not be watching conventional digital TV, but via TiVo and other computer based systems. This will create a different more involving experience for the viewer, who can use software to create their own perspective. Even those at the opening ceremony will be using their own mobile devices to watch part of it, and perhaps be involved in creating the digital experience. The challenge will be to make it an authentic virtual experience.

ps: But while digital effects might be okay for the opening ceremony, the sports themselves need to be genuine, for the event to be enjoyable. A suspicious number of swimming records have been broken. Perhaps the Olympic committee needs to bring in independent experts to measure the pool and make sure it is the correct specification. The Australian TV comedy "The Games" about the Sydney 2000 Olympics had one episode with a "100m" running track which was shorter than 100m.

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Blogger Tom Worthington said...

I wrote about the Beijing 2008 Olympics September 02, 2008:

"A suspicious number of swimming records have been broken. Perhaps the Olympic committee needs to bring in independent experts to measure the pool and make sure it is the correct specification. ..."

In "Fast waters run deep for Olympic swimmer" (New Scientist, 20 August 2008)
Amarendra Swarup reports that the pool in the watercube was deeper and wider than other Olympic pools, reducing waves and reducing resistance for swimmers. However, this is believed to still meet the rules. Presumably the designers of the London 2012 Olympic pool will be designing in wave reduction features to make their pool even faster.

September 28, 2008 4:42 PM  

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