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Meyer Sound Matrix3 Drives the Pulse of Beijing Olympics Opening Ceremony (with Video)
Few live events have the power to draw an audience of billions, but the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics easily surpassed that landmark. The largest international sporting event of the 21st century was also the most technically complex Olympics ceremony ever, broadcast for the first time in High Definition and surround sound. At the heart of it all was Meyer Sound's Matrix3 audio show control system, which managed all technical aspects of the performance, including audio, motion control, pyrotechnics, and lighting.
The audience of nearly 95,000 in National Stadium (widely known as the "Bird's Nest") included over 80 heads of state, international celebrities and VIPs, along with more than 17,000 performers. The crowd and viewers around the world were treated to an event like no other, including audio from a stunning Meyer Sound system designed by event technology specialist Gary Hardesty of Sound Media Fusion LLC (SMF).
As Beijing Olympic Ceremonies Chief Designer of Audio Systems and Technology Consultant to Top Olympic Partner Panasonic, Hardesty explains that the venue's complex acoustics were rife with potential reflectivity issues. "This was the stadium's first event, so the acoustics were a complete unknown," he observes, adding that the large stage compromised potential loudspeaker locations, making it virtually impossible to use conventional non-powered systems. "With more than 56 high-definition TV cameras in the venue, I needed to design a system that was low visibility, kept as much energy off the field as possible, and yet would deliver the kind of sound you'd expect for an event of this magnitude."
Hardesty called for a distributed system comprising multiple stacks of three Meyer Sound MILO line array loudspeakers on the field of play to cover the two lower levels, and to augment the new Panasonic LA3 line array speakers covering the upper level seating. Hardesty took special care to ensure the systems would integrate successfully.
Providing powerful low end were 700-HP subwoofers, arranged in cardioid pairs and topped with an additional MILO cabinet focused on the lower level audience. Hardesty reports the system's relatively diminutive size belied its power. "The results were amazing. By far the best sound I've heard in a large venue. From our vantage position, if you closed your eyes it didn't sound like the speakers were as far away as they actually were."
For Hardesty, one of the most critical aspects of the system was the performance and reliability of Meyer Sound's Matrix3 audio show control system, which was not only used for virtually all audio outputs, but provided the time code for the entire event. "It's hard to overstate the importance of Matrix3 in the system," he says. "All the audio, from the console outputs to the WildTracks hard disk playback, was routed through the Matrix3. But even more importantly, time code from the Matrix3 triggered the entire event – sound, lighting, projections, pyrotechnics, video – every aspect of the show was dependent on the Matrix3."
A veteran of multiple Olympics, including Salt Lake, Torino and Athens, Hardesty has long called on Meyer Sound to deliver world-class performance, and he cites more than just audio quality in choosing Meyer Sound. "Great sound is just the beginning," Hardesty says. "For us, Meyer gear is also about reliability. There's no room for error in an event this size. The Matrix3 gave us the flexibility we needed for such a complex system. And Meyer Sound's support is second to none; they've always stood behind their equipment."
Of course, none of it would mean a thing if it didn't sound good, and Hardesty reports the Olympics organizers were overwhelmingly pleased. "They came to us with a mission: to deliver the best-sounding Olympics opening ceremony anyone has ever heard. With Meyer Sound, I was able to deliver."
SMF will call on Meyer Sound for the Olympics closing ceremony on August 24, as well as the opening and closing ceremonies for the Beijing Paralympic Games, held on September 6-17.