U.S. Prime-time coverage of the 2018 Olympic Winter Games kicks off tonight with NBC’s figure-skating and freestyle-skiing programming, but the games are well underway in PyeongChang, where a massive broadcast effort is taking place to bring the games to viewers on television, online and via mobile devices — with some U.S. viewers being treated to selected coverage in 4K and HDR. Here’s a look at some of the technology that’s being used to keep the mammoth undertaking under control.
Although NBC did offer UHD coverage of the Rio Olympics last summer, NBC Olympics said this is the first time any Olympic Games competition sessions have been available for U.S. viewing in HDR. Comcast Xfinity is the presenting sponsor of the HDR coverage, and only subscribers with Xfinity X1 XG1v4 set-top boxes will be able to receive UHD HDR programming. DirecTV and DISH are also on board; UHD Olympics content will not be available via streaming services, so those three services are the only shows in town. And there’s a pretty big catch — UHD coverage will be delayed by one full day, which minimizes the thrill of enjoying a world-class sporting event in high resolution.
Another interesting bit of info — NBC’s UHD HDR coverage is being provided by Olympic Broadcasting Services (OBS) and Japan’s NHK, which are capturing some 90 hours of Olympic content in 8K HDR, which is being downconverted to 4K UHD HDR on site. A separate 4K UHD SDR version is also being produced, along with the usual 1080i. For more on what the OBS is up to this year, see the detailed interview with OBS CTO Sotiris Salamouris that was recently posted at IBC.org.
NBC is also bringing the Olympics to Snapchat, going live to mobile devices using the social-media platform once each day during the NBC prime-time broadcast, starting this Saturday.. Snapchat’s Live feature will support zooming in on different angles during each live moment presented on the platform. Notifications will let subscribers know when the live coverage is about to begin.
Here’s how NBC Sports Group broke down the PyeongChang Olympics by the numbers in a press release this week:
900+ Million Dollars generated in national ad sales for PyeongChang 2018, a Winter Games record.
72,000+ Square feet of space inside the NBC Olympics compound at the International Broadcast Center in PyeongChang. ‘
2,000 Employees working in PyeongChang.
2,400+ Hours of coverage from PyeongChang, most ever for a Winter Olympics.
2,200 Terabytes of video disk storage (8.5 years’ worth of time) in PyeongChang.
1,800+ Hours of live streaming coverage, most-ever for a Winter Olympics.
1,600 Color broadcast monitors in NBC Olympics’ facilities in PyeongChang.
750 Employees working in NBC Sports Group’s International Broadcast Center in Stamford, Conn.
550 Total cameras used for the OBS host feed.
156 Additional cameras used by NBC Olympics.
127 Miles of cable to be used by NBC Olympics in PyeongChang.
126+ NBCUniversal’s coverage hours per day – nearly triple the entire coverage of the 1976 Innsbruck Winter Olympics (43.5) on ABC.
108 Number of HD feeds going from PyeongChang to the United States.
102 Total number of medal events, most ever for a Winter Olympics.
99 Number of sea containers shipped to PyeongChang by NBC Olympics.
89 A record 89 NBC Olympics commentators will present coverage of the PyeongChang Games, the most-ever for a Winter Olympics.
54 Years since NBC’s first Olympic broadcast (1964 Tokyo Games).
29 Edit suites located in the NBC Olympics compound in the International Broadcast Center and venues in PyeongChang.
17 Studios and control rooms used for NBC Olympics coverage (three studios and two control rooms in PyeongChang; five studios and seven control rooms in Stamford).
16 Number of Olympic Games (including PyeongChang) broadcast by NBCUniversal, most by any U.S. media company.
15 Number of sports featured in PyeongChang, comprising 102 medal events.
14 Number of hours PyeongChang is ahead of the U.S. Eastern Time zone.
13 Average low temperature in PyeongChang in February in Fahrenheit.
10 Total number of days of 24-hour Olympic event programming.
4K NBCUniversal’s comprehensive coverage of the XXIII Olympic Winter Games will include the availability of 4K High Dynamic Range (HDR) content to cable, satellite, telco providers, and other partners.
2 Helicopters providing aerial footage.
1st First time NBC’s primetime show will be broadcast live across the country.
The Rest of the Tech
Here’s a quick rundown of some of the other technology NBC Olympics says it’s using to coordinate efforts between the International Broadcast Center in PyeongChang and its headquarters back in the U.S. in Stamford, CT.
More than 70 Canon broadcast lenses are being used to shoot the games, including the 1178mm Digisuper 95 Tele long-zoom field lens, the Digisuper 27 studio lens, the HJ14ex4.3B wide-angle HD lens, and the HJ24ex7.5B HDTV field telephoto zoom lens.
Harmonic’s MediaGrid shared storage and Spectrum MediaDeck servers are key to NBC Olympics efforts at the International Broadcast Center as well as back home in Stamford. Spectrum MediaDeck servers are being used on site in PyeongChang for media capture and proxy generation when ingesting as many as 60 incoming feeds from various venues. MediaGrid systems in both PyeongChang and Stamford are being used for high-bandwidth shared storage. Proxies will be replicated in real time to the MediaGrid on site, which is connected by two 10-Gigabit circuits to another MediaGrid in Stamford. Footage from the system in PyeongChang can be replicated in less than a minute to the Stamford system for immediate deployment to streaming and VOD, as well as traditional broadcast editorial.
NBC Olympics is deploying 30 ChyronHego Lyric graphics creation and playout systems between PyeongChang and Stamford. Additional programming and digital content will be produced using ChyronHego Live Compositor systems and Prime Clips multichannel clip players.
Calrec Audio equipment is being used for audio mixing across multiple locations. A Summa console is installed in the prime-time audio control room in PyeongChang. A 72-fader Artemis Ray console is in use for speed-skating and other events in Gangneung, while a 56-fader Artemis Ray console is being used to cover bobsled and luge events at the Alpensia resort. A Calrec RP1 remote production system with a compact Brio console will also be in use at Gangneung, allowing remote control of the production from control rooms in Stamford. The Calrec components are connected via Dante on a Hydra2 network.
Audio upmixing gear from Linear Acoustic, including more than 40 Upmax v4 surroundfield controllers and the accompanying Avid plug-ins have been delivered. A new algorithm supporting next-generation formats including Dolby Atmos is being used for the first time in PyeongChang. Linear Acoustic is also bringing MT2000 multichannel bitstream analyzers and on-site tech support to the games.
LAWO’s Virtual Studio Manager control-and-monitoring systems are being used for core routing and tally management via an IP backbone. An enhanced version of the Lawo IP audio commentary system developed in cooperation with NBC will be used, along with several V_pro8 video processors, to handle coverage from NBC Olympics headquarters in Stamford. The V_pro8s will de-embed audio as video feeds come back from PyeongChang, and create the appropriate Ravenna and Madi streams to feed the Lawo Commentary Unit. Lawo’s V_remote4 units are being used to connect multiple venues to the IBC over IP.
FileCatalyst transfer acceleration technology will be used to move data between PyeongChang and Stamford via a 5 Gbps data link, as well as between the network of Winter Games venues and broadcast sites. FileCatalyst Direct server and client applications and the FileCatalyst Central web-based administration tool will both be used to manage file-transfer operations. FileCatalyst said it anticipates moving about 10 TB of data per day, with hundreds of concurrent file transfers taking place during peak periods. Speedy file deliveries will allow footage to be remotely logged and edited in something close to real time.
And finally, NBC Olympics is using a selection of Tektronix gear for AV and network monitoring. The Tektronix WFM8300 waveform monitor will be used for HDR and 4K monitoring, alongside a complement of WFM7200, WVR7200, WFM5200, and WVR5200 Waveform Monitors, SPG8000A Master Sync and Master Clock Reference Generators. Tektronix Sentry software-based monitoring tools will be used to keep watch on transport streams.