Thanks to everyone who pointed me to the the Blue Screen of Death (BSoD) that could be seen projected onto part of the roof of the birds nest stadium in the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics this week right next to and during the torch lighting! Here’s a photograph of the opening ceremony from an article on Gizmodo (there are more photos there) that shows the snafu pretty clearly.
In the not-so-recent past, a stadium like the Bird’s Nest would have been lit up using a large number of lights with gels to add color and texture. As the need for computer control moved on, expensive specialized theatrical computer controlled lighting equipment was introduced to help automate the use of these systems.
Of course, another way to maximize flexibility, coordination, and programmability at a low cost is to skip the lighting control systems altogether and to just hook up a computer to a powerful general purpose video projector. Then, if you want a green light projected, all you have to do is change the background on the screen being projected to green. If you want a blue green gradient, it’s just as easy and there are no gels to change. Apparently, that’s exactly what the Bird’s Nest’s designers did.
Unfortunately, with that added flexibility comes the opportunity for new errors. If the computer controlling your light is running Windows, for example, your lighting systems will be susceptible to all the same modes of failure. Apparently, using a video projector for this type of lighting is an increasingly common trick. If it had worked correctly for the Olympic organizers, we might never have known!