Making sense of it all
Making sense of the literally thousands of audio and video assets coming out of London to support an increased amount of TV, Web and mobile video platforms is an enormous task. NBC Olympics planned to cover every sport and every single competition — which was being streamed live online or telecast by NBC and its affiliated cable networks in the U.S. (This began with the Great Britain vs. New Zealand women’s soccer game on July 25, two days before the opening ceremony.) In total, the network televised more than 5500 hours of the 2012 Olympics, with 272 hours on the main NBC channel alone. That’s almost 2000 hours more than it offered U.S. viewers of the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
Coverage was provided across NBC, NBC Sports Network, MSNBC, CNBC, Bravo, Telemundo, NBCOlympics.com, two specialty channels and the network’s first-ever 3-D coverage via Comcast Cable, DirecTV and other outlets. NBC passed through a 3-D feed from the host broadcaster, Olympics Broadcast Services (OBS), and rebranded it. Fans who wanted to see streams online had to verify that they were paying cable or satellite subscribers. While most live streams were archived, reruns of high-profile events to be shown on the network were not available until after the West Coast broadcast.
Since its acquisition by Comcast, NBC Universal renamed the Versus cable channel the NBC Sports Network. There, it presented much of the Olympics programming that, in recent games, was seen on USA Network. The NBC Sports Network showed an average 14 hours of content per day, focusing on team sports like U.S. men’s basketball and gymnastics.
An international organization set up for the Games, The Olympic Broadcasting Services London, produced more than 200 hours of 3-D coverage, including the Opening and Closing Ceremonies, gymnastics, diving, swimming and more. It was the first time the Games were distributed in the U.S. in 3-D. (Limited 3-D coverage was used overseas during the Beijing Games.) The BBC broadcast the Opening and Closing ceremonies as well as the men’s 100m Final in 3-D, and made it available free to viewers in the UK with compatible television sets. Grass Valley LDK series HD cameras and servers helped bring these stereoscopic images home.
Panasonic supplied its AG-3DP1 shoulder-mount 3-D camcorder and 3-D monitors (including the 3DL2550 and 910) to produce the first HD 3-D live broadcast in Olympic history.
A number of innovative and spectrally efficient approaches, including the use of latest compression algorithms (such as JPEG 2000, H.264 and H.265), made more bandwidth available to broadcasters than at any prior Olympics. Ericsson, Harmonic, and others provided the encoders, decoders and multiplexers necessary to get more data through the pipeline and make it all work.
MOG Technologies supplied its centralized ingest solutions to NBC Olympics, which used the company’s mxfSPEEDRAIL F1000 ingest system to conform the captured clips from Sony XDCAM stations, and deliver the output to dozens of multi-platform distribution servers. The F1000 also enabled the handling of growing files, saving time for editors when sending EDLs for conform, merging sub-clips from several LongGOP sources. In addition, the mxfSPEEDRAIL S1000 SDI recorder was used to capture simultaneously to an Avid Interplay and ISIS storage system and Harmonic MediaGrid, allowing files to be immediately available in the editing suite (both onsite in London and back home in the U.S.).