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NBC Olympics plans for simultaneous 5.1, stereo broadcasting

NBC Olympics has selected five Calrec Omega with Bluefin consoles to be used as part of its coverage of the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing.

The 56-fader consoles will provide audio mixing for a number of events across several venues. Two consoles will provide audio coverage for both the opening and closing ceremonies and the athletics; two other consoles will be used for gymnastics and trampoline events; and the fifth will be used for beach volleyball.

“This is the first time the games will be produced totally in high definition with 5.1 discrete channels of audio,” said Bob Dixon, NBC Olympics’ director of sound design. “We are still in a period of transition in the United States, so most of our audience will still watch the games on standard-definition television receivers with two channels of audio. This means that everything we do in China must serve both communities.”

The plan is to send six discrete channels of audio with HD pictures to the United States. Special care will be taken to downmix those channels for NBC’s stereo-listening audience. Audio from each venue will be sent as a 5.1-channel program mix and simultaneously as a two-channel program downmix and a stereo downmix of the sound effects. The stereo sound effects mix will be used in promos and post-produced pieces, he added.

The new Calrecs will enable NBC Olympics to address all six channels at once or divide them up to provide independent control of each channel. The consoles will provide the quick flexibility needed by an operator to mix a live surround event.

The Omega with Bluefin console provides 160-channel processing paths packaged as 48 stereo and 64 mono channels, allowing up to 24 full 5.1 surround channels. This capacity is provided on one DSP card, with full EQ and dynamics on all channel groups and main outputs.

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