Sony Cameras, Media Backbone Take Center Stage for NBC Olympics
London 2012 marks the eighth consecutive Games that Sony has worked with NBC Olympics, and it’s of little surprise that the popular tech company has an overwhelming presence within the International Broadcast Center (IBC) in London.
NBC Olympics is using more than 2,100 pieces of Sony gear, including HD cameras, production switchers, and more than 700 displays — many of which are OLED. However, Sony’s partnership with the Peacock includes robust work in some of the supplier’s less ballyhooed skill sets: asset management and systems integration.
When NBC signed its Olympics partnership with Sony in December, it was looking for more than just cameras and switchers. The deal called for Sony to essentially serve as the orchestration and automation platform for all new-media and broadband distribution of the Games. Sony was to take NBC’s “Highlights Factory” out of the past and into the tech future of files and the cloud. Enter: Media Backbone Conductor.
“What was happening from previous Games to these Games in London,” says Fred Wood, business development manager, Media Backbone, Workflow and Content Management Solutions, Sony, “is that they were dealing with a lot more files coming at them through the Highlights Factory and they were expanding and exploding the number of platforms that they needed to not only create content for but distribute content for.”
The decision to go primarily file-based, and move on from tape, meant that the rules of production and distribution would be vastly different for NBC at these Olympics. Sony’s Media Backbone Solutions, a collection of scalable technologies designed to manage and streamline file-based workflows, became the driving force behind the Highlights Factory. It’s the tech solution that makes possible the 5,535 hours of Olympics content that NBC promises American viewers.
Media Backbone, which is delivering all NBC Olympics non-broadcast content to Web and mobile applications, consists of three solutions: an Enterprise Management System, Production System, and Storage and Archive System. For the duration of the Games, the Highlights Factory, located at NBC’s Rockefeller Center studios in New York City, is responsible for generating all the non-broadcast content for the U.S. That includes live streams as well as immediate archiving and clipping for distribution to platforms ranging from NBC Olympics’ Website, smartphones, tablets, electronic sell-through sites like iTunes or Amazon, and cable VOD.
“In Beijing, there were significantly less platforms to deliver to, and there was no connection between the production of the assets and the distribution of the assets,” says Wood. “So, when [NBC] went to Vancouver, they knew they had to do something different to help automate these processes to keep up with all of the platforms they were distributing to.”
For the Vancouver Winter Games, NBC went with an internal solution. For the significantly more cumbersome London Summer Olympics, NBC turned to Sony.
In addition to its media-management platform, the supplier is also back in the game as a systems integrator. Working under a department known then as SIC, Sony had helped NBC Olympics build and integrate its production center in Sydney for the 2000 Summer Games. Not long after, Sony pulled back its integration arm, but the company is back at it again with NBC in London under a new banner: Professional Solutions Group.
As the prime systems integrator — in partnership with subcontractor Diversified Systems — Sony developed NBC’s London broadcast headquarters. Professional Solutions Group is also concurrently assisting NBC with construction and integration of its new NBC Sports studios in Stamford, CT.
In London, Sony is providing engineering support staff on-site. At any given time throughout the Olympics, Sony has had 12-14 staffers from its U.S. and Japanese branches available. Led by Jay Chaney, director, sales support engineering, Sony Electronics, support staff has been in place in London since late May and comprises switcher specialists, camera engineers, storage specialists, and more.