Mind & Matter


Tight Budget? Turn on the Projectors

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Vancouver 2010 opening ceremonies. Photo by Craig McCulloch.


How do you top the opening ceremonies of the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing? You don’t. Instead, you conduct the ceremony on your terms—and rely heavily on technology.

After the unforgettable show in Beijing, which was marked by perfectly syncopated performances by countless participants, Vancouver demonstrated a simpler approach. One of the recent ceremony’s highlights was the transformation of the stadium into a bowl-shaped projection space, in which the floor and stands were used as backdrops to positive effect. The audience even wore white garments to simulate a reflective projection screen.

With an operating budget of only about 10 percent of Beijing’s expenditure, Vancouver ceremony planners chose to rely more on simulation than physical performance for their opening show. Using hundreds of expertly-coordinated projectors, light fixtures, and environmental effects, Vancouver ceremony organizers were able to transport stadium viewers into other contexts—including a whale run across the Pacific, a collection of wind-blown grassy fields, and frost-covered wastelands near the Polar ice cap.

This effective strategy points to a growing trend toward tighter integration of analog and digital “components” in spectacular shows on this scale. As a result, such events increasingly blur omnimax movies with circus acts, and video games with live sporting events.



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About the Blogger

Blaine Brownell

thumbnail image Minnesota-based architect and author Blaine Brownell, AIA, is a self-defined materials researcher and sustainable building adviser. His "Product of the Week" emails and three volumes of Transmaterial (2006, 2008, 2010) provide designers with a steady flow of inspiration—a 21st-century Grammar of Ornament. Blaine has practiced architecture in Japan and the U.S. and has been published in more than 40 design, business, and science publications. The recipient of a Fulbright fellowship for 2006–07, he researched contemporary Japanese material innovations at the Tokyo University of Science. He currently teaches architecture and co-directs the M.S. in Sustainable Design program at the University of Minnesota. His book Matter in the Floating World was published by Princeton Architectural Press in 2011.