Creating a Visual Spectacle for the World

The final countdown to the opening of the Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia has begun and, as in years past, event organizers hope to open the Games with a big splash. The opening ceremonies are not just a parade of athletes anymore, having become visual spectacles combining music, dancing, and acrobats with leading-edge technology.

Panasonic has been supporting the Olympic Games as the “Official Worldwide Olympic Partner” since the 1988 Calgary Olympic Winter Games, and will again showcase a wide range of products and solutions at Sochi 2014. How these products will be used in the pageantry of the Olympics is a well-kept secret that won’t be revealed until the start of the Games.

However, if history provides a clue, expect big things. In 2012, the London Games hosted more than 11,000 athletes from 204 countries and territories around the world. In addition to regular TV and 3D live broadcasts, fans shared their passions of the Olympic Games through social media and one of the most memorable moments was the stunning Opening Ceremony.

During the ceremony, a visual history of Great Britain was presented throughout the stadium with the help of 26 Panasonic DLP projectors. A gigantic “house” was erected in the center of the stadium and various scenes of British culture were projected onto the structure. Live spectators and TV viewers from around the world were overwhelmed by the innovative production.

The 26 Panasonic projectors, developed especially for this occasion, were a huge success, however getting to that point was a long journey that was born from disappointment. While Panasonic had a long history of providing products to the Olympic Games, London represented the first time Panasonic projectors were used for the Opening and Closing Ceremonies.

However, the journey to London began many years prior with a mission to develop a 20,000-lumen projector solution that would leapfrog the competition. In addition to the risk of using a single lamp, existing projectors required a dedicated power source that consumed enormous amounts of energy and the sound from the cooling fan was incredibly loud. Furthermore, their enormous size required at least four people and a forklift for hauling and installing.

Panasonic set out with the belief that its 20,000-lumen projector must be more reliable, half as tall, half as heavy, generate only half the heat, consume only half the energy, and be only half as loud as existing 20,000-lumen projectors.

The development proceeded with the objective of clearing various issues through the adoption of Panasonic’s unique 4-lamp optical system. This approach would increase product reliability, with the remaining lamps being able to cover for a lamp that may go out. This would be especially advantageous for a worldly event such as the Olympic Games Opening Ceremony.

It was an extremely tough challenge with many technology hurdles to clear and an aggressive product development timeline. In the end, Panasonic delivered the world’s smallest and most compact projector of its kind. Power consumption, operating noise and running costs were only half of those of conventional projectors, and quality improvements realized twice as long lamp longevity. Most importantly, the 20,000-lumen brightness delivered crystal clear picture quality to the venue screens.

The new projectors unlocked new potential to produce richer visuals with greater creative freedom. According to Bill Morris, director of the Opening Ceremonies at the London 2012 Games, the Panasonic projectors were the best he’s “ever seen in terms of power and clarity.” He added, “they were really, really excellent.”

So, with the nature of competition that surrounds the Olympics, one has to wonder how Sochi will “one up” the London Games through the use of technology. While Panasonic has announced that it will provide more than 200 projectors, nearly 5,000 TV monitors and nearly 7,000 security cameras, how they will be deployed is highly guarded until the official start of the games. However, it’s fairly certain that Panasonic will play a key role in how spectators and viewers enjoy this global celebration of athletics.