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Fiber's Time To Shine At SLC

Itâs not surprising that fiber optic cable has qualified for the Winter Olympic Games. The multiple venues operating simultaneously could have been tied to the International Broadcast Center by coax, but NBC opted for fiber optics instead. "We're running fiber optic cable from our broadcast compound at the base of Snowbasin [one of the Olympic venues], to a secondary broadcast compound 10,000 feet up on the mountain in the middle of winter. Under these conditions, the fiber optic equipment is an essential part of a successful transmission system," said Chip Adams, director of Venue Engineering at NBC Olympics. "You can't run 10,000 feet of coax and expect to see anything at the end."

NBC Olympics is using Telecast Fiber's Viper II modular communications platforms and Adder multiplexers to deliver coverage of the opening and closing ceremonies in Salt Lake City, as well as events at the Park City Mountain Resort, the Snowbasin Ski Area, and the Deer Valley resort.

The extensive NBC broadcast set-up included one camera at each event venue, connected via fiber links to the mobile units located at the base of the resorts. Using fiber cables that have just 1/10 the weight of coax cabling and cover 10 times the distance, the Telecast equipment allowed NBC crews to obtain high-quality audio and video signals, and then transmit them to mobile receiver units positioned near each venue.

"The real benefit of the fiber network is that we are able to get high quality signals without ground-loop problems or line losses, as you would experience with coaxial cable," explained Adams. "Fiber provides a reliable route for capturing the signals we need quickly and without any complications."

For coverage of the 2002 Games, NBC Olympics added Viper II throw-down modules to its existing store of Telecast Fiber equipment. NBC also rented Adder 162 multiplexers to deliver remote audio and recording and signal transmission. While one might suspect that fiber optic cables would be susceptible to outdoor winter conditions, experience has shown that any contraction the cables might experience have yet to effect quality signal delivery.

The Cable TV Connection

Another Winter Olympics coverage problem was settled by AT&T's Broadband Cable Television Network when it selected Multidyne fiber equipment for a fiber optic backbone between the International Broadcast Center and AT&T's on-site Network Operations Center. Separated by several hundred yards, a transport system was needed for analog video, serial digital video (SDI), and audio.

The engineering firm Information Super Highway (ISH) selected Multidyne DVM-2200 modular 12-bit video and 24-bit audio, and an SDI fiber optic transport system for its analog video and audio feeds. The DVM-2200 is available with an option to support SDI as well as analog video and audio, according to Jim Jachetta, Multidyne's vice president. Since ISH needed simultaneous analog and digital support, the SDI transport was configured separately.

Another requirement for the project was transporting 20 SDI feeds. For this aspect of the project, ISH deployed the Multidyne DTV-220 modular SDI fiber system.

Spectator Sports

It's not unusual these days for major sports events to include live video boards. Big Screen Network (BSN) Productions, a company that creates video board programming and operations, provides its entertainment and live action programming using fiber optics. It is using the Telecast Fiber Viper II MTX/MRX 5122 modules to transmit audio and video from its production trucks to video screens at competition and entertainment sites.

"We provide continuous coverage from the moment the doors open at an event, and it's often a one-shot deal, so we've got to get it right the first time," said Paul Kalil, president and CEO of BSN.

"Out biggest challenge is bringing signals from our trucks to the video boards --sometimes located thousands of feet away--without interference or ground loop problems."