NBC Sports CTO: A 4K Olympics Challenge

From high dynamic range to Dolby Atmos, there’s more to NBC’s Rio plans than 4K
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Related: NBC Announces 4K Plans for Rio Olympics

In just a few months, NBC Olympics will kick off its weeks-long coverage of the Rio Olympics, and it’s added 4K, high dynamic range, and Dolby Atmos to its list of technical challenges in bringing the Games to a worldwide audience.

Dave Mazza, senior VP and CTO of NBC Sports Group and NBC Olympics, spoke with B&C about the nuts and bolts behind NBC Olympics’ 4K coverage plans.

What will be the top technical challenges in not only capturing the Games in 4K, but also in delivering and storing the content?

Primarily the new nature of all the equipment, especially between the different vendors who have not yet been able to test compatibility between each other. And the fact that not all the standards have settled down yet, specifically around high dynamic range (HDR). Also, the larger files and more storage, along with the higher bandwidth and higher levels of advanced compression needed to transmit the signals long distance.

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For the opening ceremonies and HDR, are we looking at the baseline HDR 10 standard? And what added technical hurdles will be involved with delivering the content with HDR and wider color gamut?

We are all learning about this as we go. We’re producing in Sony’s sLog3 format and then converting to PQ-2084, before the HEVC encoders where it picks up the HDR 10 specification. We will be grading to 1000 nits of peak brightness and using Rec. 2020 color space.

Delivering the opening ceremonies in Dolby Atmos is a first for any major sporting event, near as we can remember. How will the Olympics be captured and delivered in this next-gen, object-based audio format?

We are doing this mostly as a demonstration of some of the new immersive capabilities of Atmos, and to understand how difficult it is to create in ‘real life.’ Dolby has been a tremendous help in guiding us through the entire workflow process, along with Calrec and their audio consoles.

At this point, our Atmos goals are primarily to light up the height speakers and give the viewer the feeling of sitting in the stadium with sound all around them, including the overheads for the things like fireworks and other height based sources. We intend to generate a 5.1.4 signal.

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What hardware — from the cameras to the booth — will prove most crucial in pulling off 4K delivery of the Games?

We are relying exclusively on the Sony HDC-4300 4K cameras along with brand new Canon 2/3rd-inch true 4K lenses. This combination should make some stunning pictures. We are passing through Sony MVS production switchers and using Sony PWS-4500 XAVC servers for recording, and monitoring it all on Sony's BVM-X300 OLED monitors. We are sending home on both Ateme and Envivio HEVC encoders.

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