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NBC Olympics: TV Testing Lab

Jul 20, 2008  •  Post A Comment

The Olympic Games carry a storied tradition not only of physical achievements, but technological advances in television as well.
With the world watching, networks carrying the Games have utilized the latest advances in production technology to showcase the events. Whether it’s the Dive-Cam, the Rail-Cam or Lane ID, every new Olympics brings new twists on the art of TV storytelling.
At 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, NBC will aim to continue that tradition, showcasing the rapid development in production capabilities since the 2006 Winter Games.
“The Olympics serve as a great laboratory for us,” said David Neal, executive producer, NBC Sports, and executive VP of Olympics for NBC. “It serves as a great tradition on television that dates back to the days where the Olympics was in its own way a version of NAB on the road. ABC would roll out all this technology and viewers will see that phenomenon replicated here.”
As digital technology improves, key advances this year center on high-definition. In a first for a U.S. broadcaster at a Summer Olympics, NBC will broadcast the Olympic Games entirely in high definition. The HD coverage will be available on NBC’s HD affiliates, CNBC HD, USA HD and Universal HD.
To make this possible, the Beijing Olympic Broadcasting Co., which is running production operations for the Games, will not have a single standard-definition camera, instead utilizing more than 1,000 HD cameras and 60 HD mobile units for the competitions. Meanwhile, all Olympics venues will be wired with fiber-optic cables for high-definition transmission. Panasonic was tapped to deliver the largest-ever supply of digital electrical technologies to the event.
Helped by a $40 million investment from China, NBC’s HD coverage will no longer be limited to a finite number of sports. During the previous Summer Games in Athens, the network offered 399 hours of HD coverage for select events, including basketball, diving, soccer, swimming and track and field. During the 2006 Winter Games, the network produced just over 300 hours of high-definition fare. This year’s Games will approach closer to 800 hours.
“The Chinese government has put an amazing investment into the Games,” said Mr. Neal. “Because everything will be shot in HD, not only will the HD viewers benefit, but so will other audiences as well, because everything will be sharper. By taking this wealth of content and allowing us to apply it to the increased number of platforms available to us, we will be witnessing a technological marvel with complete and total distribution of the finest quality.”
To accomplish this, older cameras had to be swapped out for the HD models. In addition, HD technology has improved to the point where even lipstick cameras, for events such as archery and the pole vault, are capable of capturing the action. Technological advances in these HD cameras, as well as high-quality slow-motion recording, will allow NBC to tell stories and show angles that were not possible before.
Moving Into Mainstream
While these innovations have been previously used in niche sports such as rugby, the Olympics brings the technology to the mainstream for use in major league games.
“These are cameras that were not considered possible a very short time ago,” said Mr. Neal. “This is the type of technology that is quickly duplicated in other sports.”
Beyond the realm of high definition, NBC will be bringing back upgraded versions of its virtual technology to identify athletes and their country affiliation, as well as world and Olympic record marks. In addition, courses for mountain bike, road cycling, marathon, race walks, triathlon and the equestrian cross-country competitions will be illustrated using satellite mapping and aided with 3-D models of selected landmarks.

28 Comments

  1. It all looks great except I hate that they cover up the lead swimmers with the country logo just after they make their flip turns! You can’t see the swimmers do their cool glide! That dolphin glide is one of the coolest things and can make/break the race for a swimmer…yet all we see is this logo covering up the swimmers. I hate it.

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