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Olympics give online viewers the power to choose

NBC Universal's coverage of this year's Olympic Games has raised the bar for live event streaming. In the process, live Internet coverage of the games provided a look at how interactive technology improves the viewing experience. When it’s over, 2200 hours of video will have been streamed live on the Internet at, powered by Digital Rapids' encoding and streaming systems.

However, the volume of streams to be digitized in a fixed number of systems, combined with the difficult-to-process nature of the content — from fast-moving events with extensive camera motion to close-ups and wide shots with minimal movement — created numerous encoding challenges. The solution leveraged the inherent advantages of the Digital Rapids DRC-Stream encoding hardware and software in tandem with Microsoft’s Silverlight technology.

In the past, the live streaming of major international events typically started with the satellite transmission of a single main feed from the source location to the destination country, where that single feed would be encoded, streamed and distributed. The content of that feed — the switching among camera angles, viewpoints and storylines — was controlled at the source.

For this year’s games, dozens of simultaneous live event feeds were encoded in Beijing and streamed to the United States for distribution to Web audiences. In doing so, NBC Universal put the control in the hands of the viewer, letting users watch multiple events concurrently while interactively switching between streams through a rich media experience enabled by the cross-platform Microsoft Silverlight technology.

Numerous Digital Rapids DRC-Stream encoding systems were deployed in Beijing, capable of ingesting and encoding more than 100 live video sources. Each source is encoded in three combinations of resolution and bit rate, tripling the amount of encoding to be performed.

Digital Rapids' DRC-Stream products combine hardware for video and audio capture and preprocessing with the company’s Stream software interface, delivering reliable, high-quality, multiformat media encoding and streaming for professional applications such as high-end Internet TV and IPTV. The advanced, hardware-based video processing features enable high quality and the most efficient use of bandwidth in the compressed result.

In addition to NBC, international broadcasters from China, the Netherlands, Australia and New Zealand used Digital Rapids encoders, transcoders and streaming systems.

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