Live from Rio 2016: NHK Takes 8K Production to New Level

If it’s a major global sporting event then there is a pretty good chance that NHK is on hand with an 8K production team and the 2016 Rio Olympics were no exception. But there were a couple of exciting developments as NHK had two production teams and four production vehicles, two for video and two for audio.

“For the first time in history, Brazil held the Olympic Games and gave the great opportunity to us, 8K, to perform a wonderful exposure of some of the many sports that are part of this great event,” says NHK’s 8K Chief Producer Susumu Matsumoto. “With the help of OBS, we produced extraordinary content that was successfully delivered to the IBC 8K theatre as well as to viewers in Japan.”

NHK had two 8K production teams at the Rio Olympics.

NHK had two 8K production teams at the Rio Olympics.

The two trucks offered up a lot of 8K coverage, including the opening/closing ceremonies, basketball, judo, athletics, swimming, and football. The content was delivered as part of a test of 8K satellite broadcasting, with the ceremonies and portions of athletics and swimming broadcast live in Japan. And the 8K production efforts are also playing a part in serving the needs of 4K viewers as all of the 8K content is downconverted to 4K/5.1-channel Surround Sound and available the next day by OBS as a 4K service to broadcasters.

The audio truck brings the biggest improvement to the operations as previously it has been difficult to have an audio production facility on site that was truly designed for 8K’s unique 22.2-channel audio mixing needs.

Both audio units have 78-inch projection screens with permeable screens so the audio signals from the KS Digital audio monitors can be easily heard and adjusted by the mixer. One of the audio trucks has a Lawo mc²66 console while the other has a console from Japanese manufacturer TAMURA. The TAMURA console has a custom meter bridge that is low enough to not block the speakers located below the screen.

A Tamura 900 audio console is in one of NHK's two 8K audio trucks.

A Tamura 900 audio console is in one of NHK’s two 8K audio trucks.

OBS provided NHK with all of the available audio signals for a venue and then NHK adds in another 40-60 channels of its own microphones (including the camera mics). One innovation was “microphone trees” that include different types of microphones, like omni, cardioid, hyper cardioid and shotgun. Each tree has about 8 to 12 microphones arrayed in two or three layers. Then three or four of those trees are placed in the venue in various locations.

There were two NHK crews working on the productions, one with 23 people and the other with 25. There was also a four-person ENG crew gathering material around Rio, a 12-person crew at the IBC technical operations center for quality control and other transmission back to Tokyo.

The NHK 8K audio and video trucks outside of Maracana Stadium prior to the women's football gold medal match.

The NHK 8K audio and video trucks outside of Maracana Stadium prior to the women’s football gold medal match.

The big question with 8K is how much data it takes to route the signals and is still a tremendous amount of bandwidth but progress is being made. The un-compressed video signal for each production, for example, was sent back from the Venues to the IBC over via 24 Gbps Dense Wavelength Division Multiplexing (DWDM).

And then there is getting the signal home to Tokyo and out to viewers. Redundant 280 Mbps signals were sent via fiber (one goes through Russia and the other via the Pacific Ocean) to NHK in Tokyo and then from there to six locations with a public viewing theater. And all of the 8K content was also available via over-the-air TV broadcasts by NHK local stations.


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