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Rio Welcomes the World

By Pinkall @pinkall

The Olympic Torch is in town  - Rio's about to welcome the world tomorrow night!  Put yourself in the shoes of every Brazilian here.  Tomorrow will hopefully be a time for them to celebrate their history, culture, and their importance in this world of ours.  Imagine the feeling every Brazilian will have when their team enters the stadium or when their national anthem is performed for the world.  It should be an amazing event.

1 Day to Go: Rio Welcomes the World

courtesy of AP

Although I can't show any snippets of this year's ceremony before it happens, I want you to know some of the things that are going on behind the scenes.  First, there are thousands of performers, directors, managers, and technicians from around the world, working feverishly in multiple languages.  Thankfully, there is a staff of translators that relay directions through individual headsets - just like the United Nations!
 But in all seriousness, these also allow for the soundtrack to be pumped through so everyone stays on target, and it allows for everyone to move at the right time, receive commands, or translate all of these items.  It is a very necessary tool, and one that has been used for these large ceremonies for years.  Here is someone's very sneaky hidden camera from 2012 in London - listen for the dots (beats to the music), the commands, and finally the music cues in their headset once they are on the field of play.

Perhaps when they do one of the many close-ups, you can look at the ground and see a series of letters and numbers.  The entire "stage" is called "field of play" here, frankly because it is an enormous stadium - much larger than a stage, but it is made into a perfect grid.  This allows for choreographers, actors, and lighting designers to be perfect all the time - always locating the same exact spots.  This is one of the practice facilities with the exact same layout - you can see the grid markings on the floor.

1 Day to Go: Rio Welcomes the World

Above the field are a series of wires, pulleys, motors, and trains to pull large objects through the air, including cameras.  It will be a long time before anyone can match the size of the Sochi production, but since Sydney 2000, every Olympic ceremony has used the air space over the field as a canvas to move large objects in spectacular fashion.  The following videos I have included show the original concept art followed by the actual moment in the production.

Because of the complexity of the production, some musical events are prerecorded and some are performed live.  The protocol events (I'm proud to say) are live and have often been performed by classical or folk artists, acoustic instruments, and arranged in the western art music tradition.  Much of the other music performed has been prerecorded so the choreographers, designers, and broadcasters can make precise plans for their various tasks.
A new innovation (and one of my favorites) has been the use of projections to put the viewer into a sort of virtual space.  Sochi made for a great little segment with the soldiers of Peter the Great.  Although it looks like they're walking the entire time, they are actually walking to the very middle of the stadium and marching in place, spinning every once in a while.  Although when the projection system lays a moving map, it appears as if they're moving.

These are just some of the things that are happening behind the scenes.  I hope you enjoy the show tomorrow!  Until then, here is a final little teaser...the Olympics are in Brazil!

1 Day to Go: Rio Welcomes the World

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