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Tech Turns London Olympics Audience into a Gigantic TV Screen

Christina DesMarais July 30, 2012
Tech Turns London Olympics Audience into a Gigantic TV Screen
Organizers pulled it off by providing each member of the audience with a ten-inch electronic paddle wired to a central computer and outfitted with nine full-color LCD squares.

Viewers of the Opening Ceremony of the London 2012 Olympics have weighed in, calling it everything from "remarkable" to "hilariously quirky," and even "embarrassing."

But viewers seem to unanimously agree on the awesomeness of the event's human JumboTron, in which 70,800 people in the audience were "turned... into pixels," as The Wall Street Journal put it.

If you tuned in (or caught the live stream) to watch the show, you might have wondered how the audience didn't look like an audience at all. Instead, they resembled what seemed to be the largest TV screen ever, projecting light patterns that even portrayed Queen Elizabeth and Michelle Obama.

Organizers pulled it off by providing each member of the audience with a ten-inch electronic paddle wired to a central computer and outfitted with nine full-color LCD squares.

Not only did audience members participate in broadcasting images of a '60s go-go dancer, a train in London's Underground, and a representation of the birth of the Internet, they also danced with the paddles to create a twinkling effect that put to shame the old-school practice of holding up lighters during a performance.

Behind the scenes of the show, workers had laid hundreds of miles of cables behind stadium seats to connect the waterproof paddles, which were attached to a recyclable plastic holder on the back of each seat. In addition, during the show technicians had hundreds of backup paddles on hand in case any used by the audience burned out or malfunctioned.


Olympic Stadium on opening night. Source: London 2012

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