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Harman Audio products deliver Olympics opening ceremony

In one of the most-watched global media events of the year, the 2008 Summer Olympics opening ceremony was held Aug. 8 at the Beijing National Stadium, popularly known as the Bird’s Nest. Marking the beginning of the 29th Olympic Summer Games, the four-hour ceremony was witnessed by 91,000 attendees in addition to a global TV audience and featured an opening address, artistic performances, entrance of the athletes, and lighting of the Olympic torch by Chinese gymnast Li Ning.

The event featured more than 15,000 performers and was based on a theme of "civilization and harmony." The spectacle was designed by film director Zhang Yimou, using leading-edge projection, lighting and mobile sculpture technologies, along with extravagant fireworks displays, all enhanced by an audio system designed, programmed and deployed by Sound Media Fusion. The system featured JBL Vertec line arrays, Crown I-Tech amplifiers and Soundcraft Vi6 digital mixing consoles. Additional technical assistance was provided by ACE (Advanced Communication Equipment), Harman Professional’s Chinese distributor.

Gary Hardesty of Sound Media Fusion, chief audio designer for the Beijing Olympic Ceremonies Department, had the complex task of specifying and implementing the massive, multizone, distributed sound reinforcement system, integrating portable and installed speaker locations. “All FOP (field of play) speakers needed to be self-powered arrays due to highly restrictive physical space limitations,” he said. “In the case of the JBL products, I needed small size and a lot of SPL, not to mention predictable coverage. The JBL Vertec DP systems performed flawlessly, exceeding my requirements and expectations. Overall, the venue sound for the event was excellent, with an 'in-your-face' direct sound characteristic throughout the audience area. We achieved excellent acoustic isolation from zone to zone with zero intelligibility problems. The result was very, very good for all concerned.”

Numerous Harman VT4888DP-AN-powered midsize line array elements and VT4882DP-AN companion subwoofers with JBL DrivePack technology were selected to cover the stadium, including array locations. These were configured as ground-based stacks of two or three enclosures. Arrays were masked with neutral grey weather-protective covers, and many speaker units were installed behind facades and beneath temporary staging platforms. Additionally, a total of 26 JBL MS-26 ultra-compact fill speakers were dedicated for second tribune and VIP stand fill. Passive speaker systems were powered by Crown I-T6000 and I-T4000 power amplifiers, compatible with hundreds of other Crown amplifiers installed for the venue’s audio system infrastructure. Additionally, Soundcraft Vi6 digital consoles were part of the event sound system.

In addition to the high-profile event system for the opening and closing ceremonies, Harman products have been specified and installed for more than a dozen Olympic venues in Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong, including the National Olympics Conference Center, the National Stadium, National Aquatics Center and Olympic Sports Center Gymnasium as well as various fencing, softball and equestrian sports facilities.

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