Behind the scenes at the technically challenging, visually opulent Opening Ceremony for the Summer Olympic Games at the Bird’s Nest Stadium in Beijing on August 8, 2008 was a Medialon Manager V4 show-control system, providing the interface and timeline for the video cue playback. “Medialon Manager is not new to these ‘failure is not an option’ events, but this Olympic Opening Ceremony, which drew two billion global viewers, is probably one of the most challenging ones ever done," says Medialon’s Alex Carru. “I must admit that this time, even if we are very confident about our technology, it was a bit stressful to know that our software was driving such an important event with so many people watching.”

Medialon Manager ran the cues for the images on the 26m wide x 180m long LED screen on the ground in center field. To feed such an impressive video wall, 12 DVS Pronto uncompressed HD disk players were used among a series of 16x16 HDSDI and 16x24 DVI matrix, Barco Encore and Screen Pro video processors, Grass Valley Turbos, and a Dataton Watchout video playback system.

Six HD resolution image streams for the LED screen were sent from six synchronized DVS uncompressed HD disk players, synchronized from Medialon via RS422. All other routing and video processing equipments were controlled using TCP/IP. A main timeline slaved to the master time code recalled 12 sub-timelines in sync. This architecture allowed the manual recall of the sub-timeline if necessary.

Each of the sub-timelines was performing routing of video signal, matrix switching and video playback for a particular scene during the show (Silk Road, Footprint, National Flag, etc.)

Sub Timelines also sent information such as countdown to next cue to a bunch of custom screens designed by the operator. In addition, all manual commands necessary to be executed either during rehearsal or during the show were programmed on touch screen using the built in Medialon graphical user interface builder. “The key in this kind of event is not only the quality of the control system but also the methodology and the professionalism of the programmer," adds Carru.

DMX input coming from the lighting desk was used during rehearsal to dim the LED wall brightness so that lighting could continue programming while the LED configuration continued. A primary and a secondary Medialon system were running in tandem offering 100% redundancy.

"The redundancy is something our user are setting up more and more. Shows are becoming more and more complex and cannot be played without the help of computers, so to say show control,” notes Carru. ”At the same time shows cost more and more. Having two fully redundant systems running at the same time, with one able to take over control seamlessly is becoming essential to these big extravaganzas.”

Pierre de Coubertin founder of the International Olympic Committee was French (1893-1937), and coined the famous French saying, “The important thing is not to win, but to take part.” Carru, who is also French, was certainly glad to have participated in the Olympics: “We are proud and honored that our originally French product was a little part of such a big event as this opening ceremony!" He must also be proud that it came up a winner.

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