Viewers of this year's Sochi 2014 Winter Olympic Games will see notable improvements in graphics, new studios and streaming media technologies that NBC Olympics is betting will make the games more visually appealing and a more engaging experience.
NBC has built entirely new studios designed by New York-based ClickSpring that will include more screens that staff can use to explain the action.
It has also made significant investments in graphics and virtual technologies. Graphics technologies are particularly important for the Olympics because many people may be less familiar with some of the sports.
Having graphics to show the speed of the athletes or the force of gravity during a bob sled run will get viewers more engaged in the action, NBC executives have said. (For a detailed look at NBC's tech strategy for covering the Sochi Games click here.)
Equally important will be technologies for streamlining workflows and producing record amounts of content both for TV and for a variety of digital platforms.
During the games, NBC Olympics will supply 1,539-plus hours of total coverage, more than the 2010 and 2006 Winter Games combined. It will deliver a record 536 hours for its television channels and will stream all 98 events live, for more than 1,000 hours of coverage on digital platforms.
Major Vendors Make Return Appearances
Many of the vendors and a lot of the technology being deployed in Sochi has been battle tested in previous Games.
Sochi, for example, will mark Sony's eighth Olympics working with NBC. Sony is supplying more than 70 Sony HD studio and portable field cameras as well as its F55 4K camera to capture footage at various venues.
Canon will be supplying all of the lenses.
NBC is also deploying Sony MVS production switchers - both the MVS-6530 and MVS-7000 models — to handle feeds from venues to the International Broadcast Center, and to originate HD cable coverage on its various networks.
In addition, NBC will use more than 500 Sony professional monitors, various professional audio products and the NXL-IP55 IP live production unit. Sony's Professional Services Group and Sony's Systems Solutions team will also be supplying services.
The coverage will utilize more than 60 EVS XT2 and XT3 HD Video Servers and 40 IP Directors for replays and other features.
Avid's technologies for content creation, media management, and storage will also play a key role at the Sochi games, which is the seventh straight Olympics that NBC has deployed Avid products.
To help manage and streamline the process of creating and distributing a record amount of content, NBC will be using the Avid Interplay Media Asset Management (MAM) system. In addition, the NBC Olympics International Broadcast Center in Sochi will be equipped with Avid Media Composer and Symphony editing systems connected to an Avid ISIS 7000 with 384TB of shared storage system.
Olympic Venues are equipped with a 64TB ISIS 5000, AirSpeed 5000, and Interplay Production systems that are connected to the IBC.
The Harmonic MediaGrid shared storage and Spectrum MediaDeck integrated media playout server will play a central role in a "highlights factory" at the broadcaster's Stamford, Conn. facility. This technology allows crews to quickly access event footage captured in Russia, create highlights clips, and make them available to mobile devices and computers. During the London Olympics that system helped NBC Olympics serve up more than two billion page views.
The MediaGrid is closely integrated into NBC's EVS workflows so that users of the EVS IPDirector systems can have immediate access to footage from any venue, from any day of competition.
PESA will be providing the International Broadcast Center in Sochi with a Cheetah 864XR coax and fiber HD video routing switcher. It will play an integral part of the system that provides live and pre-recorded video feeds for local distribution and for satellite feeds to the United States for re-broadcast.
In terms of graphics, ChyronHego has been selected to provide 12 Lyric PRO-powered Mosaic XL on-air graphics systems.
IDS will once again be used to provide results and timing interfaces. That technology will help NBC commentators analyze the action with real time data and graphic interfaces.
The Russian telco Rostelecom will deliver feeds from Sochi to AT&T, which is supplying 55 HD feeds to the U.S. and 14 HD feeds back to Sochi from the U.S.
Snell will provide 25 Alchemist Ph.C-HD standards converters, which will be important in maintaining the quality and clarity of the images as they are converted from 50Hz European standard to the 59.94Hz U.S. television standard.
For audio, Calrec will play a key role, supplying several audio consoles.
NBC will also be using Linear Acoustics' UpMax Surround Sound Processors.
NBC's longtime mobile facilities provider NEP will be deploying five mobile broadcast units and two flypacks from its NEP Visions facility in the U.K. at various venues. As part of a consulting agreement with NBC Olympics, NEP will also provide operational and technical management services. Overall, more than 60 NEP staffers will make the trip to Sochi.
ScheduALL has once again been selected to provide transmission and resource management to NBC Olympics. It is the seventh straight Olympics where its technology will be used to orchestrate the logistics of people, equipment, locations and transmission feeds.
Cisco has been taped for routing and networking technologies, including its Videoscape Cloud based IPTV and DVR system.
Ericsson will supply MPEG 4 encoders and decoders and Brevity will be used for simultaneous transport and transcoding technology.
Brevity's technology will allow NBC Olympics to render graphics on the fly while quickly transferring those graphics files into the Avid DNxHD format for editing.
Miranda will be supplying infrastructure, KX, Densite, and iControl products.
Other vendors include Cryadis for real time event controllers and Bosch/Telex Adam intercom systems.
More than 50 of LiveU's mobile backpack units that transmit video over cellular networks will be used at Sochi by NBC, CNN, the Wall Street Journal and others to cover news.
ClearCom will be providing communications systems at three of the venues: the Bolshoy Ice Dome, the Russian Gorki Jumping Center and the Sanki Sliding Center.
Streaming Media Tech
The extensive streaming media coverage of the games is being billed as the first ever live-streaming experience entirely in the cloud.
Windows Azure, working with Adobe and iStreamPlanet, will manage the entire live and on-demand streaming process in the cloud.
iStreamPlanet will supply encoding for the streams.
Akamai will be providing a variety of products, including CDN, streaming and security technologies. It has more than 140,000 servers embedded in networks around the world and its technologies will play a key role in handling the very heavy traffic expected from this year's Olympics.
NBC selected Adobe to provide a number of technologies, including its Adobe Pass to authenticate viewers for access to live streams and Adobe Primetime to help deliver content to multiple digital platforms, including iOS, Android, Mac OS and Windows.
Adobe Primetime is also enabling the completely re-designed NBC Sports Live Extra app, which will provide multiple concurrent streams of coverage, and a new NBC Olympics Highlights and Results app.
Most of the streams are available only to pay TV subscribers. But Adobe has worked with a number of major multichannel providers to simplify the process. As a result, millions of viewers will be able to automatically get access and log in without entering an account number or password when they are inside their homes.
Adobe Primetime will also play a key role in helping NBC monetize its extensive digital offerings with dynamic ad insertion.
NBC is once again partnering with Facebook and Instagram for its multiplatform coverage.
Facebook and Instagram content will be integrated into NBC Olympics primetime broadcast coverage and a variety of content and features on NBC Olympics Facebook page. For the first time, NBC Olympics will also be premiering video content on its Facebook page.