Down By The Bay, Part 3: Setting The Stage

The same set was the backdrop for both the Opening And Closing Ceremonies For The Inaugural Youth Olympic Games in Singapore, and it served multiple purposes, including offering the hanging positions for the projection screens, lighting, and special effects, as well as being used by performers to stand upon and inside as a performance space. Set designer Randy Chan created a large scenic wall located at the back of the floating platform that followed a curving embrace of the stage. At its center was a 105' (32m) high lighthouse that was the cauldron for the Olympic flame. From each side of the lighthouse, reaching around the sides of the platform, was an elaborately designed wall that looked like strategically stacked shipping containers representing Singapore, the largest harbor in Southeast Asia.

The containers themselves were a bit of scenic sleight of hand, according to Nick Eltis, the technical director for the ceremonies. “The concept was a ring of shipping containers symbolizing the port city,” he says. “That is the lifeblood of Singapore, to a certain extent. The back was all steel support towers with cantilevered structures clad to look like shipping containers. It was all custom steel because, to use real containers, the weight would have increased considerably, and they wouldn’t have given anywhere near the flexibility that we needed for the other gear and the screens. Building custom gave us the ability to control the rigging points and put everything into the right spot.”

For the opening ceremonies, the team decided to flood the actual floating stage platform, which measures 394'x272' (120m x 83m), with 2" of water creating a projection surface for added visual effects in front of the set itself. Since the floating stage basically became a lake, a mainstage was built from the front edge of the new basin, bridging over the 33' (10m) gap of water that normally separates the floating platform from the land promenade in front of the audience seating area. This gave the team a working stage area of 720'x98.5' (220m x 30m) for the opening ceremony. As the audience members looked out from their seats, they looked across the mainstage, past the “lake,” and beyond the set backdrop of containers and lighthouse to the Marina Bay itself and the Singapore skyline, which was incorporated into the scenography by the addition of lighting effects, sky trackers, and fireworks on the buildings.

For the closing ceremonies, the mainstage was dismantled and replaced with a 30m disk that was again built out over the normal water gap in order to attach the floating platform stage and the land promenade. The floating platform was not flooded in the closing ceremonies. Instead, the tone of the show went from the theatrical of the opening to more of a rock ‘n’ roll concert feel. “The closing was more of a party,” points out Vermeulen. “For the concert part of the closing ceremonies, we essentially worked with what we called ‘the party page,’ a style of programming that we normally use for real concerts or raves where you have your bumps and swaps, your strobe and iris chases, movement chases as a matrix that is in front of you, and you actually create your palettes while you listen to the music. The five last numbers of the closing ceremony were played live on the party page setup.”

In the end, both the opening and closing ceremonies were deemed a great success by Rogge. “Of all 21 opening ceremonies I have attended, this one goes straight in the top,” he says. “It was a combination of pure emotion and technical perfection in a unique setting.” For Vermeulen, the plaques presented to the entire creative team by Rogge after the show were incredibly meaningful. “It was a unique occurrence and possibly one of the most beautiful compliments received,” he says.

Michael S. Eddy has worked in the entertainment technology industry for over 25 years and owns Eddy Marketing & Consulting. He frequently writes about design and technology and can be reached at [email protected].

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