Technology

NBC Preps First All-HD Winter Olympics

2/03/2010 4:53 PM Eastern

The 2008 Vancouver Winter Olympics (Feb. 12-28) will mark
the first time a Winter Games is produced entirely in HD, with 835 hours of
high-definition conten set for NBC Universal's broadcast and cable channels.

NBC Olympics logoAfter going all-HD for last summer's games in Beijing,
however, NBCU officials don't see any notable challenges posed by the landmark
event. "In general, we are building on what has been successful in the past
with a few new twists," said NBC Olympics senior vice president of engineering David
Mazza.

Most of NBC's core feeds will come from host broadcaster
Olympic Broadcasting Service Vancouver (OBSV), said Mazza, which will have more
than 400 cameras and more than 22 mobile units at the event.

"We will have another 100-plus cameras ourselves and five or
six mobile units," he said. "I think the host has about 60 EVS operators and we
will have another 45."

The games will be shot in 1080i with Dolby 5.1 surround
sound.

Many of the cameras used by OBSV will be from Panasonic, but
most of NBC's "broadcast gear is from Sony," Mazza said. The network will use
Sony HD studio cameras in its International
Broadcast Center
facility, as well as the new PDW-F800 Sony Professional XDCAM camcorder,
which handles off-speed recording and over under-cranking. Other gear from Sony
will include MVS-8000 switchers
and the new Sony PDW-F1600 XDCAM optical decks.

"Canon is the exclusive lens provider," Mazza added. "We
keep getting slightly newer lenses from Canon and we will be trying a new Canon
lens with focus assist."

Other major vendors include such companies as Calrec Audio,
Omneon, Cisco Systems, AT&T, Avid and Microsoft.

"AT&T provides all of our circuits back and forth to New
York and also Las Vegas,"
where the streaming factory for the online content that is being powered by
Microsoft's Silverlight technology is located, Mazza said.

Cisco will provide an Internet-protocol switching
infrastructure to move large HD files between a variety of locations and allow for
real-time editing of content being delivered to TV, PCs and mobile devices.

In terms of mobile units, NBC has rented four units from NEP
and one from Game Creek. "We will also have two of our own fly packs to
compliment the coverage," Mazza said.

NBC's studio in the International
Broadcast Center
will "occupy about 50,000 square feet, which is down about 30%," Mazza noted.
"But we will have a similar number of edit rooms."

One highlight of the studio will be a Panasonic 152 inch 4K-by-4K
high-definition display, situated behind NBC Sports Olympic host Bob Costas.

"We have updated the look of the studio with a lot more
video," said NBC Olympics head of production Bucky Gunts.

At either side of Costas, NBC project two on-set images: one
from the Vancouver skyline and the
other from "the Lions Gate
Bridge [looking up] to Cypress
[Mountain], which is the home of snowboarding," Gunts added.

"Vancouver is
really beautiful and we wanted to take advantage of the scenery. Whereas in Beijing
we had one projector of Tiananmen Square behind him,
we've expanded that to two to make it look like he is in a corner office and we
have live cameras to provide that," he added. "It should provide some very nice
views both day and night."

In terms of newer technologies, Gunts stressed that NBC has shied
away from gimmicks and "tried to only use stuff that would obviously enhance
the product."

Nonetheless, NBC will use a number of interesting
technologies that, in Gunts' view, should make the first all-HD Winter Olympics
an even more compelling experience.

For example, the Peacock Network will use SimulCam and
StroMotion technologies from Dartfish to compare contestants in freestyle
skiing, snowboarding and cross-country skiing on certain sections of the course,
Gunts said.

NBC's hockey coverage will use Liberovision, a 3D sports-analysis
tool that "allows you to take a player and move it around on the screen so that
the analysts can break down a scoring play in real time" to show where the
defense failed, Gunts said.

Sportsvision,
which is known for providing the virtual first-down markers for football
telecasts, will provide graphics and flags to show the relative positions of
skaters and whether they are ahead of or behind the leader's time.

"That is something that has worked well for us in the
past," Gunts said.

March