We immersed ourselves in the technical details of the closing ceremony of the Olympics

The public who watched the closing ceremony of the Olympics from the back of their sofa had the right to an enhanced experience compared to what was happening in the stadium. Montreal-based Moment Factory took care of that. We were able to learn more about the techniques and tools used.

You are starting to get to know virtual reality and augmented reality well. But do you know what mixed reality is? Or extended reality? Recent technological advances in the field of 3D modeling have made it possible to marry the physical world and the virtual world in an unprecedented way (and with sometimes obscure names, let’s face it). One of the best recent examples is the closing ceremony of the Olympics which largely took place in virtual form.

A virtual layer on top of the real

The millions of people who watched the show at home could see a ballet of light spots dancing above the stands and forming the five Olympic rings. Each of the points was meant to represent a person who took part in the games in one way or another (athletes, public, technical teams, etc.). On the spot, however, no such number. The light shows and the fireworks were there, but no Olympic rings floating in the air. This whole part was for the audience watching the live video stream.

Behind this show is the Montreal company Moment Factory, which specializes in this kind of event, halfway between traditional shows and synthetic special effects. ” We use this kind of event to show what can be done with today’s technologies », Explains Dominique Audet, the company’s co-founder.

In the case of the closing ceremony of the Olympics, it all started with a 3D rendering of the Tokyo stadium. ” As the building is relatively new, the 3D surveys were already available. We were therefore able to place physical elements such as lights, fireworks, video projectors and then add a virtual layer by modeling the particles and their choreographies. “.

A video game engine at the controls

To build the “virtual layer” of the event, Moment Factory used Houdini, a 3D animation software and the Unreal Engine, the famous game engine behind Fortnite among others. The 3D animations are then superimposed on the camera feeds and broadcast around the world thanks to the collaboration with Disguise XR, a company specializing in the management of “extended reality” video feeds. It is this same principle of extended reality (real + virtual) which is also used in football stadiums to insert advertisements on the edge of the field.

One of the biggest issues for us was the management of HDR (This method of capture and diffusion with a large dynamic range which makes it possible to exploit many levels of light intensities NDLR.). There was so much different equipment that came into play, from our cameras on site, to the control room to the TV that the spectators go to watch. We wanted to make sure that the show was good on all media », Specifies Dominique Audet.

The challenges of “extended reality”

The challenge of such a show compared to a simple 3D animation is that you have to adapt to the changes in the physical environment that accompanies the virtual show. ” The dress rehearsal was interrupted by Typhoon Nepartak », Says the co-founder of the company. ” Everything was precise, but everything changed », Says the person in charge with a laugh.

Unexpected events, Moment Factory has seen others though. ” Last minute problems are in our DNA », Adds Dominique Audet. Yet no question of abandoning this kind of project. Even in a post-Covid world, the company imagines a bright future. ” We have arrived at a time when virtual events are extremely relevant. We must invest in relation to where the spectators are. “

Reims Cathedral, illuminated by Moment Factory // Source: Moment Factory

No question either of abandoning the shows in physics. In Canada, Moment Factory also took care of putting on a light show within the Notre-Dame Basilica in Montreal thanks to hyper-precise LiDAR readings. In France, Reims Cathedral has been given a makeover using video projections. And for the 2024 Olympics? ” We are motivated », Jokes Dominique Audet.

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