In what has been universally praised as the most visually spectacular Olympic Opening Ceremony of all time, and arguably one of the most remarkable events ever produced, China celebrated its emergence onto the world stage in grand fashion by hosting the Opening Ceremonies of the 2008 Summer Olympic Games at Beijing National Stadium, also known as the Bird's Nest.
On 08-08-2008 at 8:00 pm that stage was lit by over 1,100 automated luminaires from Martin Professional. The workhorse of the massive automated lighting system, the largest single automated lighting system ever assembled for a single event, and the largest Martin rig ever, was Martin's MAC 2000 Wash and new MAC 2000 Wash XB moving head luminaires.
A multimedia, three-dimensional display created by director Zhang Yimou, some 22,000 people took part in the gala, in which 15,000 costumes were used. Martin is the largest automated lighting manufacturer represented at the Beijing Olympic Ceremonies with more Martin MAC 2000 Wash luminaires in use than any other single fixture in the lighting system.
Lighting personnel began initial installation of the fixtures already in March with most of the MAC luminaires rigged in the roof of the stadium and several hundred lining an upper balcony. Main lighting supply for the Ceremonies is by China Central Television (CCTV) with several lighting sub-suppliers also contributing. The Martin fixtures will remain in place for the Games' Closing Ceremony on August 24th and subsequent Paralympic Games to be held from September 6-17.
Sha Xiao Lan: "After knowing I would be the chief LD of the Opening and Closing Ceremonies of the Beijing Olympic Games, I spent a lot of time conceiving the lighting design. The Olympics is not only for the Chinese people but for people all over the world, so we had to satisfy not only the Chinese but people from all countries. The problem is that people from different places have different tastes in aesthetics. To be specific, Westerners prefer elegant pastel colors, Chinese are fond of strong highly-saturated color, and this was the major part to be considered.
"We did research on the Athens and Sydney Olympic Games and in order to emphasize the technological factor of the Beijing Olympics we decided to utilize the most advanced technologies and products to actualize the Opening and Closing Ceremony design.
"You know that the Beijing Olympics gained nationwide support from the very beginning. However, the budget for the lighting design was less than that of the Doha Asian Games. Yet many well-known manufacturers and suppliers promised they would do whatever they could to provide whatever we needed and I was deeply touched by their gratitude.
"After we knew about the Bird's Nest's 14-meter high by 500-meter long brim, which is perfect for positioning fixtures, we adjusted our plan accordingly.
"The Beijing Olympics is being transmitted in a high-resolution digital signal, so we needed the lighting fixtures to be highly uniform in color temperature. According to our plan, we needed approximately 2,700 moving lights, which is unprecedented. Martin, Vari*Lite and many other well-known brands attended the bid and we had to choose the most suitable ones. Even as the head LD, I didn't have the authority to decide which brand would be used in the Ceremony, though my opinion was important.
"The Martin MAC 2000 Wash was eventually chosen because it's the most stable fixture with the most uniform color wash I've ever known. We used about 1,200 MAC 2000 Washes in the Opening Ceremony, which is also unprecedented. No event has ever used so many units under the same brand before as far as I know. About 90 percent of the Washes were used to wash the performance area, the ceiling of the stadium and the audience. We also used 110 Washes to add backlighting for the audience.
"Martin fixtures have the highest value for money and are quite stable with a low dysfunction rate. The nominal dysfunction rate is two percent according to the information from the manufacturer, but the actual dysfunction rate is lower than that. Plus the uniformity of color is perfect, which can not be reached using other fixtures. Besides the foresaid merits, I am very impressed by the MAC 2000 Wash's speed and accuracy in movement and positioning. In the Opening Ceremony we used wash light to position, that's rare, and the Martin fixtures' performance is excellent; this is widely acknowledged by my colleagues.
"These fixtures were indispensable in achieving the goal of satisfying everyone. Without these fixtures none of our ideas would have been possible.
"Even when using the white color, we needed it to be tasteful. If you watched carefully enough you noticed that the white color in the Chinese Landscape Painting scene was different from the white color in the Movable Typography scene. In the Road of Silk scene we used the amber color to simulate the atmosphere of deserts and in the Rites and Music scene we used the royal golden hue to create an atmosphere of the Imperial Palace. During the Tai Chi and Zheng He Fleet scene we used highly saturated deep blue. I dare say without the Martin MAC 2000 Wash, none of the above would have been possible. The wash effect of the MAC 2000 was so perfectly uniform; light from the 1,200 units was just like light from one single unit. And the saturation of the MAC 2000 was fantastic as well. Remember when Lang Lang and the little girl began to play piano together? The colorful light was just like an impressionistic painting.
"I believe through the Opening Ceremony we successfully showcased the lighting design ability of China. All factors including organization, back-stage, control, and lighting design are quite satisfying and we have gained the praise from the Western media."