Element Labs was contracted by Doha Asian Games Organizing Committee (DAGOC) to create one of the largest custom-made LED screens ever used for a live event. Especially designed for the opening and closing ceremonies of the 15th Asian Games in Doha, Qatar, the exterior Versa® Ray screen made its debut during the opening ceremony on December 1, 2006 at Khalifa Stadium.

The Asian Games are held every four years with athletes from all over Asia competing, is regulated by the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) under the auspices of the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

DAGOC main contractor David Atkins Enterprises was the producer of both the opening and closing ceremonies. DAGOC & DAE challenged Element Labs to create a massive LED screen for the ceremonies having the highest possible resolution and video performance.

The massive size of the display—covering over 45,000 square feet—allowed it to be used in ways previously unachievable. It was both an integral element of the show on the field as well as an informative display during the parade of athletes. Hours of rich, beautiful content were created specifically for the ceremonies to dazzle the audience and make the event unlike anything seen before.

Chris Varrin of Element Labs went to work designing a product specifically for a project of this scale, required reliability, resolution, and environmental challenges. “We built a prototype system and brought it out to Doha,” explains Varrin. After winning the bid, the EL team refined the design to meet the stringent requirements necessary for wind loading and weatherproofing, as Doha’s desert climate is subject to frequent windstorms and sandstorms.
In keeping with the circular structure of the stadium, the screen was designed to be curved. The entire screen is 541 feet wide along the curve, reaching 128 feet at its highest point. The screen is comprised of 20,000 individual Versa Rays, which laid end to end would span over 36 miles. 762,000 individual LEDs were used, with a pixel pitch of 77 millimeters.

The Versa Rays themselves were mounted onto large trusses with integral catwalks called “spines.” These spines are approximately 36 feet long and hold 148 Versa Rays in varying lengths, from 750 millimeters to almost 10 feet. “It’s a pretty massive kit when it’s all put together,” Varrin says. “The spines were assembled and tested in the stadium’s parking lot over a period of a couple of months.” Once completed, the spines were hoisted into place on the enormous steel support structure via crane and assembled into the final screen.

Element Labs built redundancy into every aspect of the screen, including redundant video feeds, processing, data distribution, and power supplies. “Redundancy is crucial. This is a live show, with no second chances, and with the ceremonies being an important part of the event, there is no room for error,” Varrin notes. “We employed an interlaced configuration with the Versa Rays to give an additional layer of redundancy beyond what’s normally done.”

Sharif Hashisho, director of ceremonies & cultural events at DAGOC says, "At every Olympic standard ceremony there are a number of new technologies that need to be introduced and revealed within the ceremony. In our ceremony, the LED screen was one of these technological elements that led to the great achievement of making the Doha 2006 ceremonies the best ever in the history of all previous games. We have raised the bar so high and made both the Beijing and London Olympics organizing committees worried about what they can do next."

Presided over by His Highness Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al-Thani, the Emir of the State of Qatar, the Opening Ceremony featured 7,000 dancers, singers, acrobats, and aerialists along with 10,000+ athletes and officials. The 50,000 strong, sold-out crowd saw representatives from 45 countries and regions.

For additional coverage of the Doha Asian Games on Live Design online, click here.