NBC Olympics relies on IT infrastructure at Athens Games

NBC installed 26 Deko systems for live and post production use at the Games.

For the Summer Olympics, NBC Olympics established a 1Gb data network in Athens to allow users to transfer material like graphics and video clips quickly and efficiently for production of the games.

One of the biggest users of the 1Gb networks was NBC’s graphics department, which began creating graphical elements to convey the look and feel of television network’s coverage about a year before the Olympics opened. Prior to the games, the network rejected setting up a dedicated LAN between New York and Athens and instead decided to transport its network infrastructure, including servers with some pre-built graphics onboard, to Greece.

The 1GB network was used to transport 18K jumbo packets at 6x to 8x real time. At this speed, a 60-second clip arrived in 10 seconds. Several NBC departments, including the network’s graphics team, used and shared Cisco 3750 and Cisco 6505 switching/routing equipment.

Once the graphics team had completed graphics elements, it would upload them onto the network and send them to multiple networked Pinnacle Systems Deko character generators — FXDeko II for SD and HD Deko500 for HD — which electronically fit the files into custom templates.

Pinnacle Thunder servers stored some of the graphics before they were sent to Athens for real-time playback. The graphics team played the majority of the graphics in real time with live data from the Dekos. NBC used Deko's file-association and macro capability to display customized graphics without having to physically create each separate file, saving both creation time and operator training. The team played out animations and over-the-shoulder graphics directly from the Thunder broadcast servers.

In Athens, a large Blue Arc 8300 server with 2TB of storage and a sustained 45Mb/s throughput served as an on-site graphics library. The team sent finished graphics to the server and placed them in a specific folder dedicated to individual pieces of equipment on-site in Athens.

All members of the Olympics graphics team had a customized mailbox to go to whenever they needed something related to the graphics production.

(This story is an excerpt from a feature article by Michael Grotticelli that appeared in the August 2004 edition of Broadcast Engineering and is available atbroadcastengineering.com/mag/broadcasting_moves_olympic_graphics/.)

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