LONDON -- Dave Mazza, vice president of engineering,
NBC Olympics is the “go
to” guy when it comes to implementing
the network’s latest technology
to cover the biennial event. Just before
the London Games ended, he sat down
with Mark Hallinger, editor of TV Technology
Europe and TV Technology Asia/Pacific,
to discuss how the network produced
TV TECHNOLOGY: Congratulations on
another successful Games. Was this less
stressful in any way, compared to Athens
MAZZA: It’s interesting because they’re
getting so much more complex. If you
look back to Athens, we didn’t have any
streaming... that I remember. We had a
little bit of .com, I think they had eight
DV tape machines we’d feed. China was
so much more complex than that. A lot of
the stuff we’re doing here we debuted in
China, but we’ve got more, lots more of it.
TVT: How would you characterize the
2012 London Olympics? Last time we talked
about software releases as an analogy,
Olympics 1.0 was Atlanta, Sydney was 2.0,
the massive changes in Beijing were 3.0,
and Vancouver was Olympics 3.1. Here,
I keep thinking
of the enterprise
media asset management
long pursued goal?
finally having the
hi- and low-res
tied together (in
the MAM), which
we’ve wanted to
do from the very
beginning, is a big
deal. We couldn’t
really afford to do
it before. If you go
back 10 years in
our asset management
started in SD (and) we started with proxies
because we knew we were going to
need them when we got to HD.
We started with proxies in 2004, really
for two reasons: One was to be able to see
what was on the 3-hour IMX tape before
you even pop the tape. And there was an
industry standard for SD production, a
file format had been somewhat standardized,
and the Avid could deal with it, the
tape machine could make it, and the disk
recorders could record it. When the HDCAM
period came (Torino 2006) there
wasn’t really a file standard across manufacturers.
TVT: What are
the new or expanded
about the use of
JPEG2000 at an
Olympics, is that
a little bit of
and there before,
but here we had
so many feeds
going back and
quite a bit of
and New York, and it’s not as expensive as
other cities. (Because of this) we could afford
to use the much lighter compression
A lot of people think you would go to
JPEG2000 for the picture quality. It is excellent,
but we chose to use it on the air
where we needed low latency. We used it
anywhere we had a producer and director
in one country for example, and their
camera operator or the announcers in the
other… anywhere where somebody’s going
to say “pan left,” if they have to wait
three and a half seconds to see the camera
move, that’s not going to be very popular.
TVT: The record wall and ingest have
seem some big changes. You’re recording
to a hard drive on Sony XDCAM Stations
(XDS PD1000) at first, then transferring to
a Harmonic MediaGrid, then sending the
file to a second MediaGrid in New York
via the ProCast software. Why not go directly
into the MediaGrid?
MAZZA: A couple of reasons. The ingest
channel—whether it’s an (Avid) Multi
Stream or an XDS or an EVS—provides local
disk recording right there on that same
device. For example, let’s just say there was
trouble with Cisco or with the switch that
connected all 50 of those XDS stations to
the MediaGrid, all your recording stops.
That’s all your eggs in one basket.
TVT: This way you still have the recordings.
MAZZA: Yes, so on the XDS they’re all
recording, and as soon as they start recording
internally they start doling out an
FTP session that’s set up for the hi- and
low-res and that starts transferring to the
MediaGrid. But if there is any issue with
the MediaGrid, or the connection to the
MediaGrid, or traffic on the MediaGrid,
that doesn’t matter because the Sony is
capturing the ingest locally. So it’s part of
distributing the risk across all your different
TVT: And recording on XDSs has something
to do with proxy creation too?
MAZZA:It also simultaneously makes
proxies. We’ve been streaming the low-res
out of the XDCAM decks for two games,
both China and Vancouver. But with the
XDS we can stream the hi-res also.
TVT: This was a third Olympics with Surround
and it seems you’ve settled on an
approach that works well?
MAZZA: One of the bigger things we did
do was with Surround Sound. I think we
finally got a method that really worked
well, and that is using three- and six-channel
modes. Instead of doing either stereo,
which we did the past two games, or surround,
we divorced ourselves from stereo,
so we don’t really have any stereo mixes.
We have either three-channel mixes for
stereo or six channels for Surround.
TVT: What other technologies or designs
have come online since Beijing? I know
that getting the enterprise media asset
management working well was big, but
that’s not a technology.
MAZZA: That’s an effort, by vendors and
by our guys, and that was pushed heavily
by our side to get everybody to do that.
It didn’t make things easier, but the
plethora of high-speed cameras has certainly
made the viewing experience better.
We didn’t deploy so many of them
because the host, thankfully, was doing a
whole bunch of them. I think that’s one
thing that was quite evident on the coverage…
high-speed cameras all over the
Also, virtual graphics keep getting better,
you know, and I think we’re seeing
them mature, we try to only use them
where it’s really enhancing the experience,
not just glitzing it up. If it’s adding
some value to the viewer, then we’ll try
to do it.
What else? It’s really not that new but
both (host broadcaster) OBS and NBC
are deploying MADI audio distribution,
even though it’s been around for years. It
just didn’t get used that much in the U.S.
and this time both OBS and NBC used
it. They’re giving us almost all our audio
splits as a MADI stream. So that simplified
What else? I think IP, I think general IP
TVT: Beyond the intercoms?
MAZZA: IP tally lights, IP video, for example,
we’re moving video with some low
latency Haivision IP codecs, moving video
back to where an announcer is. I think IP
video squarely should be on that list… we
certainly embraced a lot more of this than
we ever have.
I think probably the biggest technical
rollout that was both an experiment and
was a requirement was all the IP video, the
60 streams on the web. We took the new
media package from OBS—that was 40. We
added 10 of our own, from the MDS (the
host multichannel distribution service).
And then we added, I think, eight encoders
of our air outputs from New York and
they came back here, and then we added
the Gold Zone and the multiviewer. That
was what made up the 60 streams.
And then on top of that we had things
like the Haivision IP encoders and the
whole Cisco headend IPTV system that was
moving content to the venues and our client
hotel. So I think IP was both an experiment
and a deployment.
TVT: What started here will we see more of
MAZZA:It’s hard to replicate what you’re
going to run into. It’s the same with the
MAM. That’s a good example. We were retrieving
from our robotics server in Stamford
(Conn.) all the way through to London,
and that allowed us to bring less of our permanent
archives here. So now that we have
some confidence in that, some history in
that, we’ll do more of that. So that started in
a small way.
We retrieved archives from home. That
was new. We hope next time to be able to
pull archives out of the venue servers and
have it go through the IBC all the way to
home. So we sort of dabbled in that here,
but didn’t really try to take it on, because
we’re archiving out of the three big venues
on small MediaGrids.
TVT: I heard from Bob Dixon that he’s retiring
MAZZA: Yes, we’re very sad about that but
he leaves a long legacy. He helped NBC do
the first stereo games in Seoul, 1988. And
then we did our first matrix encoding, Dolby
matrix surround encoding in 1996. And
even though we started Surround Sound in
2006 and did a lot of Surround in China, this
is the first time we really successfully pulled
it off everywhere.
So, I think he’s happy that before his
career ended he got to see Surround fully
deployed as it was here and have it sound
so much better than it has in the past. We’re
gonna miss Bob. He also helped us develop
a lot of the kind of crazy “Pure World” workflows
that we’ve had to invent going back
TVT: The Tielines and such.
MAZZA: Yes, and much of the other work
that’s done behind the scenes was Bob. It’s
not audio in the purest sense of the word,
also comms-related things, how you make it
so the producer can be there and the director
can be over there and the talent’s over
there and this guy can hear talkback and
this guy can hear mix-minus. It’s all kinds of
things, and Bob was involved in all of that
over the years, so we will very much miss
TVT: Biggest surprise of these games?
MAZZA:I think the biggest positive surprise
was that all of the hype and all of the
multiple ways we were putting content out
there, it seemed to only help the primetime
audience. China was predominantly live,
you know all the swimming races were live,
all the gymnastics were live because of the
time zone… and we thought we couldn’t
beat that. And somehow on tape we were
beating China most nights.