In Broadcast - July 2012 - 24
WWW.INBROADCAST.COM | ISSUE 10 - JULY 2012
London Games Broadcast Infrastructure
By Andy Stout The effort of the Olympic competitors is exceeded only by the herculean efforts of the broadcasters – Andy Stout grabs the torch in this special report…
One of the things you immediately notice if you’ve been tracking Olympic stories over the past few decades, especially since Los Angeles 1984, is that the broadcast efforts mirror those of the athletes. It’s a mix of striving to be the best in your ﬁeld and fulﬁlling the Olympic ideal, coupled with the maxim of ‘bigger, better, faster, more’. And London is bigger, it will be faster and it will be more in every sense of the word (though interestingly only incrementally in most areas). Better? Probably, but the industry is going to have to wait till the autumn to really digest and analyse the sheer Brobdingnagian effort that’s going into the broadcast of the XXX Olympiad. The numbers alone though are impressive. Host broadcaster, Madrid-based Olympic Broadcast Services (OBS) is aiming to provide 5,600 hours of live, HD coverage which it will capture using around 1,000 HD camera units. OBS itself will inﬂate from 150 employees to 5,500 for the duration (including 1,000 students on placement) to provide its coverage, while the rest of the world’s rights holding broadcasters will add another 13,000 people into the mix (Eurosport alone, for instance, is using 350 commentators in 20 languages, though most of these will not be onsite).
Games, games and more games – all need covered
Last count showed 52 OB trucks have been tapped for the Games, with 36 of those coming from Continental Europe, while the mammoth International Broadcast Centre (IBC) has over 48,000sqm of working space, which, in the usual lexicon of measuring this sort of thing, is equivalent to roughly 184 tennis courts.
Inside the IBC
The tennis at the Olympics is taking place in Wimbledon and this, as with all the non-Olympic Park venues, is connected to the IBC via multiple diverse paths, the event’s Contribution Network using best ﬁt technologies wherever possible, including ﬁbre, RF, microwave and satellite. All signals from the Greater London area are being transferred to the IBC without any compression. Once inside the IBC the circuits of the Contribution Network are unsurprisingly received at the Contribution Centre, where the signals are then controlled, processed and distributed by way of the equally prosaically named Distribution Centre. Here the signals are synchronised and processed to provide both SD-SDI and HD-SDI video signals. Audio signals will be delayed as required to match the video and embed the audio into the SDI stream for those RHBs requesting digital distribution (with different compression ratios also available, stretching down into the Kbps range).
All international signals will be recorded and archived in the OBS central facilities VTR room, and it’s here that you ﬁnd one of the biggest changes since Beijing four year ago. Many of the increases over the last Olympics are relatively minor – 1,000 cameras instead of 900, 5,600 hours of coverage instead of over 5,000 – until you get to the capacity of the HD video servers, which jumps from 1,500 hours to a mammoth 5,600. “All material will be available [in HD] throughout the Games; in Beijing, material had to be deleted every three days,” OBS notes. Chief pillars of the tapeless system are Avid and EVS. As with many other large-scale productions, a change in the workﬂow has been forced by the ineptitude of Final Cut Pro X, with Avid editing – both Symphony and Media Composer – taking the place of FCP for the multilateral operations. Avid also provides one of the options for rights holders – such as NBC – to browse and access the central media server
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