View Full Version : The Olympics in HD... how?

02-20-2002, 05:50 PM
from http://www.tech-notes.tv/ then click on current edition.

Subject: How The XIX Olympics are Broadcast
By: Jim Mendrala

ISB (International Sports Broadcasting) is the host broadcaster and is the technical group hired by the Olympic Committee to implement the host broadcasting function. They hire all the trucks and people, contract with various telecom companies to provide circuits, and hire a systems company to build the actual facilities.

Most of the key and support people of the ISB have had the same responsibilities for multiple Olympic broadcasts over the years. For some reason, though, the name of the organization changes for each Olympics.

The ISB does all the pickups and distributes all the television and radio venue (remote) feeds to all the countries that paid for the Olympic broadcast rights. These signals are brought into a central transmission area inside the IBC (International Broadcast Center) and then are handed off to the various countries whose facilities are located inside the IBC. There are about 85 countries involved with the televising of the games.

Most broadcasters take these host feeds, which are intentionally generic in nature, and air them either live or in edited form adding graphics, and announcing in their own language. This keeps the costs down and prevents chaos from having 85 countries trying to do their own thing.

The host broadcaster (ISB) also supplies the HDTV feeds to NBC, HDNet and the Japanese. The feeds are done with just natural sound with no announce. It is assumed the broadcaster will add their own announcers.

NBC struck a deal with HDNet for the NBC part. The HD signals come to the NBC transmission area of the IBC and are passed on to the HDNet production truck out in the IBC parking lot. In addition HDNet has a modular building set up next to this truck that houses an HDTV tape room where the HD feeds are recorded and logged on HDCam tape decks. The building also has a very small single camera studio where HD announcers are located.

In addition there is a satellite uplink dish to get the HD signals to HDNet and the NBC-DTV equipped affiliates via a transponder normally used for 'The Tonight Show with Jay Leno'. In order to keep the transponder clear for this service 'The Tonight Show with Jay Leno' is not being broadcast for these two weeks.

As the program goes live to air over NBC in SDTV the HDTV is recorded on a server in the HDNet truck. This server then plays it back twice more to fill the broadcast day and is in operation from 1 p.m. to 9 p.m. MST. Because of the agreement between NBC and HDNet, the server plays back the recordings made the previous day, adding commercials, graphics, and voice overs. This goes to the NBC-DTV network and HDNet for their HDTV channel on DirecTV ch. 199.

As for the SDTV, the NBC broadcast that originates from the NBC UBC (Unilateral Broadcast Center) located at Snowbasin, UT, the ISB is providing about 30 cameras feeds with natural sound. NBC takes each camera (not a switched feed) and adds about 12 more unilateral cameras, 39 tape or disk recorders (includes slowmo and editing) and announcers. For editing NBC has a double wide business trailer with two Editware linear systems and three Avid systems with a Unity server.

It is not clear yet at this time as to what type of HDTV cameras are being used and if some of the signals, both SDTV and HDTV, are off the same cameras. The HDTV signals, however, are all digital and are being encoded into an HD MPEG-2 bit stream with 4:2:2 resolution.