MA Lighting’s Olympic record
With the slogan “One World, One Dream” all nations were invited by the People's Republic of China to the Summer Olympics 2008, officially known as the Games of the XXIX Olympiad. The Opening Ceremony has been held in the Beijing National Stadium, - the "Bird's Nest” - which can seat as many as 91,000 spectators. More than 2,300 DMX controlled fixtures and 45,000 parameters transformed the stadium into a never seen before sea of lights. 3 x grandMA full-size plus 3 x grandMA full-size as backup, 2 grandMA light as well as 46 x MA NSPs controlled the highly sophisticated lighting network during the Opening Ceremony.
“These are the Games of the records so is the Opening Ceremony”, states Mr. Sha, Lighting Designer of the Opening and Closing Ceremony. “And to control this never before seen rig of lights there was just one choice: the grandMA system from MA Lighting. In a show like this pure reliability and proven functionality are second to none”, he adds. “Combined with the outstanding network performance of the grandMA, this system is proving again its leading position in the market.”
Paul Collison, who was responsible for the control system and broadcast lighting, said of the preparation for the Opening Ceremony: “I was first contacted in December 2007 by Mr. Sha Xiao Lan, the lighting designer for this auspicious event, who offered me the task to look after the lighting control system. We knew by this time that it would be an MA Lighting system as reliability and proven network power were key. We started patching and designing the network in February 2008. One session ran the wash lights in the roof, the second session ran all the other wash fixtures in the system and the third session ran all of the profile or spot fixtures.”
“Once we had decided on the partition it was down to the patching business. When dealing with a couple of thousand fixtures and having almost ten different fixture types, you need to be able to identify things fairly quickly”, continued Collison, “I started with trying to match the lamp model number with it’s ID. So for example, the Vari*Lite VL3000 spots start their fixture ID’s at 3001, the Clay Paky Alpha Wash 1200 at 1201 etc. Once this process was done it was time to assign DMX addresses.”
Collison further explains: “Power locations had already been decided however there were lots of them. Too many to take DMX to each one. We decided on six locations in the roof, two on level three, three on level two, two on the ground level and one in the pit. We started in the roof as this was the hardest. We simply broke down the roof into six sections. Once the roof was done, the rest was pretty easy. The balcony levels all neatly fitted in, as did the ground.”
It was important for the system to have redundancy. This was required throughout multiple aspects of the system, both in the software (for example, the Rapid Spanning Tree protocol) and other parts, like redundant power supplies in the switches, and the ability to pass information and data passively. The later point meant, that if an ethernet switch failed, the data would travel through the failed switch and on to the next one without fault. The final point was that the actual fibre optic cable itself needed to be of military grade.
“Afterwards, all of the fixtures needed to be given a position in the grandMA 3D world for the pre-programming sessions”, adds Collison, “This gave us the chance to use the wireframe visualiser in the grandMA as well as being ready for grandMA 3D to come online. Each session only had two user profiles. One was for the operator, the other for administration. Each session was named with reference to it’s colour as were the show files – red, green and blue.”
“We now had to set-up the pre-programming studio at the Beijing Olympic Committee Headquarters. This existed in various modes but the one I liked the best was each session with it’s visualiser on a plasma screen in front of them. This, combined with a projector fed from grandMA video, with each session blended in to form one picture worked a treat. It allowed the team to see their programming all at work. By beginning of May we started the transition from pre-programming to on-site. Fixture by fixture, truss by truss, the system came online. On June 12th, rehearsals began.” On August 8th the Opening Ceremony attracted the attention of millions.
Altogether 2,342 fixtures were used and controlled by grandMA for the show which consisted of, amongst others, 308 x Vari*Lite VL3500 spot, 316 x VL3000 spot, 180 x VL3500 wash, 112 x Clay Paky Alpha Wash 1200, the rest of it Martin fixtures. The first session had 15,921 parameters with 14 MA NSPs and 834 fixtures, the second 13,503 parameters with 16 MA NSPs and 884 fixtures, the third session 15,987 parameters, with 16 MA NSP and 624 fixtures .
The video system under the creative direction of media artist Andree Verleger from Germany included some 110 x media servers, 86 x Christie Roadster Projectors with Orbital Heads and 63 x Cinema Christie Projectors. HP Pro-Curve 2626 field switches, HP Pro-Curve 8212zl and kilometres of multi mode fiber optic cable were the backbone of the huge network. “I am absolutely excited about the professionalism and support I was getting also for “my” video part during all those month from MA Lighting and the entire lighting crew - although not controlled by the grandMA system”, states Verleeger. “This underlines how important it is that lighting and video are going hand in hand. This teamwork gave trust and an ongoing motivation to realize another record in this show: the world’s largest projection screen with around 600m.
Zhang Yimou was chosen as artistic director. Sha Xiao Lan was the lighting designer, Paul collision in charge of the control system and the broadcast lighting. Feng Bin, Wu Guoquing and Huang Tao worked as grandMA programmers. Lighting assistants were Quan Xiaojie, Zhang Wei, Wang Zhiyi, Ma Jiebo and Wang Tong. As lighting production company worked CCTV – Central China Television in conjunction with Quan Jiang, Shang Hai Televison, Gong Ti, Bei Ao, and Feng Shang Shi Ji. ACE - Advanced Communication Equipment Co Ltd. was responsible for the technical realisation. ACE is MA Lighting’s distributor in China.