On 08.08.08, the eyes of the world focused on the Opening Ceremonies of the Beijing 2008 Olympics. The "One World One Dream" theme was illustrated in a spectacle from China's National Stadium, nicknamed the "Bird's Nest."

High End Systems (a new member of the Belgium-based Barco Group) not only played a starring role in the ceremonies, but helped set some records: for the largest quantity of media servers (110 HES Axons) in any live event, and for creating the largest high-def projection -- in this instance, one clip covered a screen encircling the stadium that measured 1,942 feet long (592 meters) by 45 feet high (14 meters).

All effects were achieved in “real-time” using the Axon media servers and projectors with 78 HES Orbital Heads. Four Wholehog 3 lighting consoles controlled the Axon media servers in the ceremonies, connected with 12 DP 2000s.

HES Axons created a number of non-stop visual effects in the show: from the projected visuals encircling a video ring—called the “membrane”—around the top of the stadium, to the projections on the Globe. The HES Orbital Heads were used to project images onto performers on the field.

Olympic Ceremonies lighting designer is Sha Xiao Lin. Dennis Gardner is the chief lighting programmer and digital lighting/video programmer. Gardner says, “The show was the largest I have ever done. Normally I have worked with about 6-8 media servers and this was just huge at 110! This was my first time to use Axon and I found it very easy to use and very flexible. For the scale of the show, it was ideal!”

“The Globe was projected on from 8 projectors, external to the Globe, set up in four groups approximately 90 degrees from one another,” Gardner explains. “We had no Orbital Heads for this one as we needed a much bigger image and more brightness. We used Axons and their blending feature to help achieve this effect. We had the Globe recovered with white material to get the best from the projection; the original was dark grey.”

Gardner describes the Wholehog 3 console setup: “We programmed the show on one Wholehog 3 network running version 2.6 software. We had the network set up as: one server console that was never touched and just used as the server; two client consoles at FOH for myself and (my programming assistant) Steve Kellaway; and one console as a roamer for programming around the stadium to get better viewpoints. I have been using the Wholehog 3 console since its birth and I feel it’s the best tool for the job. The ease at programming lots of media servers and being able to link to timecode was a joy. The show was run on LTC timecode, which came from the music. The whole system was rock solid.”

HES distributor Leifull in China purchased and installed the HES equipment, and also created the media server room specifically for the Axons. HES sent four product specialists to help with set up, with Zach Peletz from Austin serving as product support on the scene from May until the closing ceremonies, to be televised Aug. 24 on NBC-TV. The closing ceremonies will use the same equipment but in a different design, described by Gardner as having a “bit more party feel.”

Another Wholehog 3 worked in the TV broadcast booth in Beijing’s International Broadcast Center. Broadcast lighting director John Pappas used the console to control a media server for Seven Network Australia’s broadcasting.

Digital lighting programmer Steve Kellaway (left) and chief lighting programmer/digital lighting/video programmer Dennis Gardner at the FOH with the Wholehog 3 consoles. The background shows the visuals on the Globe and on the stadium’s ring, all projected using 110 HES Axon media servers and controlled by the Wholehog 3 consoles.

All Photos: Zach Peletz of High End Systems