Live from Rio: NBC Olympics Gears Up for Massive Content Creation Effort

The 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio are underway and once again NBC Olympics will be breaking its own records in terms of amount of coverage, amount of live coverage, and much more. U.S. Olympics fans will be treated to 1,537 hours of Olympics coverage via broadcast and cable networks and, like in London, everything that OBS is making available to NBC will be streamed to viewers via the Web and mobile apps (approximately 4,700 hours of content). Simply put, a fan who wanted to consume it all would need to watch the Olympics 24/7 for 286 days.

David Mazza, NBC Sports Group and NBC Olympics, SVG and CTO, says the NBC Olympics team undertook some significant efforts to re-tool some of the major building blocks at the IBC and venues, including fiber interconnects, less wiring, more IP, new frame syncs, an IPTV system, router control, improved remote production methods and for audio more MADI, Dante, and OMNEO.

The NBC Olympics broadcast operations center in Rio is benefiting from some technical upgrades since 2014's games in Sochi.

The NBC Olympics broadcast operations center in Rio is benefiting from some technical upgrades since 2014’s games in Sochi.

“OBS has also done significant new work that they hope will pay off in the long run,” says Mazza. “The entire IBC is now constructed out of a transportable panel system that they will carry to the future Games. This has already helped NBC tremendously in the form of less risk to timelines and late completion and more accurate fit-out, better acoustics, better cable trays, all with far fewer difficulties caused by the lack of consistent materials and methods of construction.”

Also helping is that the whole of the IBC was converted to a fiber interconnect architecture. In addition, a new Fiber Cross connect was built to allow aggregation of various fiber feeds onto fiber mults.

“This sped up the install and testing tremendously, reduced the size of the very expensive cable trays, and will become the building blocks of an eventual 10G or higher IP infrastructure [at the IBC],” says Mazza.

The NBC Olympics area in the Rio IBC covers more than 73,000 square feet.

The NBC Olympics area in the Rio IBC covers more than 73,000 square feet.

The NBC footprint in the IBC is similar to the footprint in London for the 2012 games. It measures 73,000 square feet and includes two large control rooms, one small control room, two studios (plus a small insert studio) and a large news production area that measures 5,500 square feet. All of those facilities are connected to the Stamford facility via four AT&T 10 Gbps fibers that also includes a backup of most signals.

“There is also a tiny, comparatively, tertiary backup of a 45Mbps circuit on the satellite,” says Mazza.

All told there are more than 130 HD signal paths leaving Rio and heading to the U.S. with the help of MPEG, J2K, and IP encoding. Most of those signals head to Stamford but others are being sent to 30 Rock, Golf Channel in Orlando, Telemundo in Florida, and NBC’s Dry Creek facility in Centennial, CO. The goal, says Mazza, is to have each on-air signal take the shortest path to air without having to daisy chain through multiple NBC facilities.

“Stamford will be 50% larger than the past two Summer Games, with more than 1,100 people working there,” says Mazza.

The center of the action in the IBC in Rio will be Control Room A and Studio One in Rio as they will be used to create the network prime time show every night. When the network prime time show ends Control Room A will be tied to NBC’s Copacabana Studio for the Late Night Show (Control Room B and the Copacabana Studio will be tied together for the Daytime network show). Studio Two, meanwhile, will be connected to a production control room at the Sports Production Operations Center in Stamford for the production of NBC Sports Network coverage.

The NBC Olympics broadcast operations center equipment room.

The NBC Olympics broadcast operations center equipment room.

Highlights in the control rooms include an updated version of the Sony MVS-7000X production switcher with 3.5 mix effects and eight channels of internal MVS-7000 3D DVEs. Two eight-channel Abekas Mira servers are also on hand to provide 16 channels for effects transitions and on-set display feeds and under direct control of the MVS switcher and mirror the production switcher operations in Stamford.

Also on hand in the control rooms are Miranda Kaleideo-X multi-display processors. The control room monitor walls are made up of nine large LCD displays, each fed the Kaleido-X. “These outputs are highly configurable and, besides displaying the desired pictures, they allow the integration of tally, under monitor display, audio indicators, and signal alarm functions,” says Mazza.

An LSB/Lawo Control system and panels (some hardware based but many software based via Windows tablets) that are in full control of the same PESA SDI Matrix is also making a difference.

“In some areas, the soft panels have been incorporated into the workstation – like in an Avid edit system,” explains Mazza. “The LSB system is very flexible and should serve us well over the long haul.”

And for maximum flexibility the control rooms have the capability of working with the other Studio if necessary. A monitoring router allows directly fed control room monitors, studio talent monitors, and on-set monitors to be cross-connected to the other studio.

There is also a multi-purpose insert studio at the IBC that is used by many various operations and can be used by any NBC Daypart as well as NBC News and other associated entities. The studio can be used in various configurations: two-way interviews with other production studios (SPOC, 30 Rock, Copa Beach Studio), single person stand-ups, one-on-one interviews and one-on-two interviews.

Files Are Served

There will also be more file-based activity for this Olympics, especially as the adoption and reliance on media asset management continues to grow.

“Rio will be a remote to the Stamford MAM system and all venues with edit systems and EVS will have file-based connectivity,” says Mazza. “The venues will be asked to push melts to the IBC MAM in order to capture the melts with the EVS metadata.”

The quantity of MAM input channels in Rio has grown to 60 and there is also a new user interface to the MAM systems for called MediaCentral, which allows users to view and search both MAM and traditional Interplay (PAM) assets in the same interface. The MediaDecks are controlled by Cyradis Technology which then populates ScheduALL work order that can then be managed by the Facilities Scheduling group.

“This entry in ScheduALL is where all the pertinent info like event name, duration and start time, record channel, transmit loop, etc. is entered and tracked,” says Mazza.

The Stamford Hub

Olympic coverage on cable networks will originate from Stamford as NBCSN, MSNBC, CNBC, USA, Bravo, and Soccer and Basketball specialty channels will all be offering Olympics content.  Also gold zone and a gymnastics show and hourly news breaks – all for digital

“To accomplish this, there are seven control rooms in use and an RSN mobile unit parked at the loading dock,” says Mazza. There is also an “Off Tube Factory” complete with 18 announce booths for commentary and once again NBC Olympics will have a team of about 80 people working diligently in the Highlights Factory, building short clips and highlights. They make use of the tools available in the MAM system, Avid, and even EVS to create content.

“The goal is to create hundreds of clips a day,” says Mazza. “Most of these will be highlights, but also include b-roll, behind the-scenes footage, and other social media like material.

Like London, NBC Olympics will stream every competition live to the web and on mobile/tablet apps. Most of the web coverage will be from the MDS, the Multilateral Distribution Service, a voiced version of competitions provided by OBS. In addition, all broadcast and cable network outlets will be simulcast on the Web and apps.

“Most of this activity will be at iStream Planet in Las Vegas, with an alternate site at Microsoft in Ashburn, VA,” says Mazza. “Most all of the streaming feeds will go Stamford (or originate there in the case of the dayparts), and then they are fed on Level 3 circuits to Las Vegas and Virginia.”

The Olympics in Rio are just taking flight and the opening ceremony tonight will officially turn the world’s attention to this corner of the world. NBC Olympics is doing its best to make sure U.S. viewers literally don’t miss a second of the action.

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