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A Big Job for BOB

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Much noise has been made over the struggles broadcasters have had in getting equipment into China for the Olympics, while others have expressed concern over the ability to broadcast without restriction in this tightly constrained Communist society.

But with more than four billion viewers and listeners expected to enjoy the Olympic competition through TV and radio broadcasts, the show must go on, and it will be up to the Beijing Olympic Broadcasting (BOB) committee to wrangle together the thousands of pieces of equipment that will comprise the International Broadcast Centre (IBC).

Known as the heart of Olympic broadcast operations, the IBC comprises nearly 550,000 square feet of space within the newly built National Convention Centre on the Beijing Olympic Green.

Running round the clock through the Olympics, the IBC will serve as the home for studios and production facilities for BOB, as well as rights-holding broadcasters.

Serving as the nerve center for the thousands of broadcast and print journalists heading to Beijing, the IBC is installing servers, editors, cameras and lenses, with an added challenge thrown into the mix: this year marks the first time that the entire Olympics will be broadcast in HD.


“The host broadcaster did all the leg work with the local phone company CNC [China Netcom] to get all the fiber and HD transport equipment in place [to get the network ready for an all-HD broadcast],” said David Mazza, senior vice president of engineering for NBC Olympics.

“We had to adjust by using way more fiber gear due to cable length limitations of HD, and change out any RF gear to HD. BOB had a huge undertaking to convert all the equipment over to HD and to get all HD mobile units.”

(click thumbnail)The International Broadcast Centre in Beijing occupies nearly 550,000 square feet of space.Other challenges abound, such as the difficulty in finding enough HD broadcast trucks to meet the needs of the world’s broadcasters. In all, more than 60 remote production vehicles will roll in from across Asia and Europe.

To meet the HD needs of this year’s broadcast, BOB will install a host of DVCPRO P2 HD equipment from Panasonic, including more than 250 recorders, 100 camcorders, and 1,500 monitors from the P2HD AJ-HPX2100 and 3000 series, among others. Panasonic Viera plasma and LCD HDTVs will also be put to work.

BOB will use specialty camera placements to provide viewers with unique perspectives, such as its DiveCam, UnderwaterCam and TrackCam technologies, and will set up specific POV cameras on the new BMX and whitewater kayaking events to give viewers the feel of the course. This will allow broadcasters to capture the action in a way that hadn’t been possible with other camera position placements, Mazza said.

International video delivered from the IBC to rights-holding broadcasters around the world will be produced and distributed in the 1080/50i HD format.


BOB will also usher in a new host of tools for unique camera shots, such as the SprintCam Live V2 from I-Movix. The camera provides extreme slow-motion coverage in HD at up to 8,000 frames per second with instant replay. The host broadcaster will deploy and operate SprintCam Live systems in mobile units located at most of the Olympic venues.

Behind-the-scenes equipment includes test-and-monitoring gear from Tektronix, who will provide China Netcom with a video test infrastructure. China Netcom is responsible for providing video signal transmission to the IBC from all the Olympic venues. Ascent Media will serve as the systems integrator for all the IBC venues.

Susan Ashworth is the former editor of TV Technology. In addition to her work covering the broadcast television industry, she has served as editor of two housing finance magazines and written about topics as varied as education, radio, chess, music and sports. Outside of her life as a writer, she recently served as president of a local nonprofit organization supporting girls in baseball.