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When the Summer 2012 London Olympic Games airs in 204 countries around the world, few viewers will have even heard of Olympic Broadcast Services. But London will mark a notable milestone with OBS: It’s the first time a Summer Games gets a sole host broadcaster.
OBS will be providing over 5,600 hours of HD feeds in 5.1 surround sound, making its efforts to signi! cantly improve the way the Olympics are produced and delivered to multiple platforms crucial to NBC, and a host of other broadcasters, around the world.
“They are providing the host feed for all the venues,” says John Fritsche, senior VP of operations at NBC Olympics. “We will augment their feed at some of our major venues, which is very similar to [the 2008 Beijing Games]. But there are a lot of things that they are doing now that are really helping us out and will be very important this year.”
The International Olympic Committee created OBS in 2001 with the idea of improving the quality of the broadcast production by establishing a permanent organization to act as the host broadcaster, a role that had traditionally been assumed by the local broadcaster. In 2008, the Beijing Games were produced as a joint venture between Beijing Olympic Broadcasting and OBS, and in 2010 it took full control over the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver.
“While this is the first time that the Summer Games have been done with OBS as the host broadcaster, we have a huge amount of experience,” notes Paul Mason, head of OBS London, who has worked on every Olympics since 1980.
Overall, OBS will be employing around 5,600 people, who will use some 1,000 cameras, up from 900 in Beijing, along with approximately 52 mobile units to deliver some 5,600 hours of HD content, up from just over 5,000 in Beijing.
All the coverage being processed and stored on a central media server system will play a key role in delivering much more content to more platforms.
“The core server is significantly larger than Beijing, where it held the whole games in SD and about four or five days of HD content,” Mason says. “This time the server will be able to hold the whole of the Games in HD.”
As part of the system, EVS is deploying more than 300 multichannel-XT series servers at all the venues to be used for the slo-motion and ultra slo-motion replays, says Nicolas Bourdon, marketing and communications director at EVS.
Live feeds from all the venues will be ingested, stored and managed at the International Broadcast Center using a number of EVS technologies, including 12 EVS XT3 servers and an EVS XStorSan system with 360-Terabyte capacity. The system, which doubles the storage space that was available in Beijing, also includes a number of additional features allowing users to quickly access, edit, clip and distribute content much faster than ever before.
While NBC has its own system to ingest, store, edit and process feeds from the venues, its users will be able to use the EVS system as a backup and an alternative way to access content.
NBC’s coverage will also be enhanced by the fact that OBS is tripling its number of super slo-motion cameras to more than 40 and significantly expanding its Olympic News Channel. “We will use a lot of those clips for our Web deliverables,” says Dave Mazza, senior VP of engineering for NBC Olympics.
The 2012 Olympics will also be the first to have material shot with both 3D and Hi-Vision cameras. NBC has partnered with OBS and Panasonic to take more than 200 hours of 3D material that will be produced by three 3D-capable mobile vans and six separate ENG crews.
Very significantly for the future of sports production, OBS is partnering with the BBC and NHK to test its Super Hi-Vision system, which offers 16 times the resolution of regular HD.
Finally, as part of its responsibilities, OBS is out! tting the International Broadcast Centre, which will have about 48,300 square meters (519,896 square feet) of usable space, where NBC and others will set up studios and broadcast operations. That is smaller than what was used in Beijing. But it is, Mason says, still large enough “to hold five jumbo jets.”
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