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Olympics: The Tech Behind the Games

NBC Tokyo Olympics
(Image credit: NBC Sports)

STAMFORD, Conn. & TOKYO—As NBCUniversal broadcasts and streams more than 7,000 hours of coverage at this year’s Games in July and August, it will be relying on a small army of technologists, both inside NBCU and at companies that will be providing a host of new technologies.  

Their behind-the-scenes work will be providing the first 4K HDR images, as well as rapid editing and replay systems that will bring the drama of the games to life and ad systems that will help NBCU monetize the massive investments it’s made in the games. 

Here is our guide to many of the companies, from Amagi to Xytec, that will be providing technologies and services to NBC Olympics during the Tokyo Games as well as a few vendors that are working with other organizations. 

Amagi

NBC Olympics will be using Amagi to provide UHD playout with cloud automation. The company will deploy Amagi CLOUDPORT, and the live sports/news automation solution, Amagi LIVE, to create Olympic Channel’s live coverage in UHD. With HEVC playout and mezzanine quality UHD encoding, Amagi CLOUDPORT architecture creates a new benchmark for video transmission over IP, especially for a global and premium live sporting event such as the Olympic Games. Amagi is also providing deep integration with NBCUniversal’s existing workflows to ensure seamless operational capability to the network’s various teams.

Avid

Avid’s production tools will be used to generate a record amount of content for broadcast, OTT and social media and will play a key role in the remote production workflows that NBC will be using during the games. To support expanded Olympic production from NBC Sports’ facility in Stamford, NBC Olympics will deploy Avid’s MediaCentral solutions to drive Tokyo-based remote and on-site productions and workflows for both linear broadcast and streaming coverage. NBC Olympics is also using Avid NEXIS shared storage, Media Composer Ultimate and the Media Composer Cloud VM option in multiple international locations to connect and collaborate in real-time for content production and delivery.

Calrec

Calrec has been selected as the audio console provider and will equip NBC Olympics with a mix of Artemis and Brio consoles as well as six RP1 remote broadcast mixing systems to expand NBC Olympics coverage over a wider number of events. In total, there will be six Calrec Artemis consoles in NBC Sports’ International Broadcast Center in Stamford, Conn., with a 64 fader Artemis and a Brio console in the Main Control Room in Tokyo. Also in Tokyo, Calrec is supplying 32 fader Artemis to handle audio in the 4K control room and two 40 fader Artemis consoles for NBC Olympics’ fly packs. 

Canon

NBC Olympics has selected Canon U.S.A. to provide a wide variety of 4K UHD and HD field, portable and studio lenses for its production of the games. The broad array of Canon broadcast lenses being used include the UHD-DIGISUPER 90 long-zoom field lens, which provides outstanding 4K UHD imagery. Canon’s 4K and HD lenses will be at every venue and studio in Tokyo, allowing viewers to see NBC Olympics’ presentation of all the action. In addition, Canon service technicians will be on-site in Tokyo to ensure that every piece of equipment is in peak operating condition at all times.

Chyron

NBC Olympics will be using real-time graphics authoring and playout solutions from Chyron, including the Chyron Lyric X, a 4K-ready solution for graphics creation and playout. The systems will be used at NBC Sports’ International Broadcast Center in Stamford, Conn., to enable an agile graphics workflow that will make it possible for the broadcaster to take graphics quickly to air. Other Lyric systems will be deployed in the broadcaster’s control room in Tokyo to support graphics creation and playout for a select group of events. In addition, the broadcaster will rely on Chyron’s PRIME Video Walls solution for its presentations.

Comcast Technology Solutions

NBC Olympics and Peacock are relying on CTS to provide multiscreen video management and delivery of its production and CTS is helping power digital video experiences across several platforms, including NBC Sports, NBCOlympics.com, Peacock and NBC affiliates, as well as across websites, apps and set-top box VOD services. As part of that, NBC has deployed a suite of CTSuite services to provide centralized ingest of video assets, workflow management, video processing, linear and VOD metadata management, availability windows, content protection and ad policies. It also is delivering content delivery services, video player technology with closed captioning and accessibility enhancements and publishing across devices, sites and apps.

Dell Technologies

NBC Olympics will be using Dell Technologies to provide high performance storage systems for its production of the Tokyo games. It has deployed the Dell EMC PowerScale family of storage systems to digitally store video content captured at the Tokyo Olympics for sharing with viewers in the United States. PowerScale, powered by Dell EMC OneFS software to unify storage clusters on a single intelligent file system, will store and manage petabytes of data—the equivalent of millions of gigabytes—across two NBC Olympics production locations in Japan and one remotely at its headquarters in the United States.

Dolby

Comcast, the parent company of NBCU, will deliver feeds of the 2020 Summer Olympics from Tokyo in Dolby Vision HDR and Dolby Atmos immersive audio to its Xfinity subscribers. Both Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos will be used to present the opening and closing ceremonies as well as popular sports, such as gymnastics, track and field, swimming, diving, beach volleyball, golf and tennis, at each night’s primetime show. NBC Olympics’ primetime coverage in Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos will be available in most markets, and all X1 customers with eligible devices will be able to view re-airing of the shows the next day.

EVS

NBC Olympics has selected EVS to provide XT-VIA production servers for its coverage of the games. The EVS’ XT-VIA servers are being used for their 1080p – UHD HDR production on-site in their Tokyo and Stamford broadcast centers and other venues for the Olympic Games in Tokyo this summer. With over three times the internal bandwidth of the flagship XT3 server, the XT-VIA provides 12-plus channels of 1080p and six or more channels of UHD-4K in both SDR and HDR, with a performance level that answers the high demands of NBC Olympics’ production.

Grass Valley

Grass Valley technologies, which has played a key role in the transition to IP at the NBC Sports facility in Stamford, Conn., will provide technologies and support for IP processing, control and monitoring of feeds during the Olympics. Grass Valley’s IP Media infrastructure has been deployed at the IBC, leveraging control of a Cisco Spine and Leaf switching topology through the GV Orbit NMOS compliant router control and configuration system. System management is enabled via the GV Orbit dynamic orchestration system. As part of the wider IP infrastructure, Grass Valley has also provided MADI audio gateway products, and the Audio Live multi-stream audio processing solution. 

Innovid

NBC Olympics has selected Innovid to provide ad management solutions for its presentation of the Tokyo Olympics. Innovid will manage third-party ads across NBC Olympics’ leading CTV apps, including NBC Sports and Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA, using the Innovid-powered Olympics Ad Manager. The service will be part of a new Olympics advertising suite, including NBCUniversal’s previously announced Olympics Ad Engine, which applies human curation, machine learning and computer vision to historical Olympic Games ad performance and data, and applies these learnings to new scripts, storyboards, or rough cuts of ads to make suggestions on how these ads can be modified for greater impact.

Mediakind

MediaKind will provide video contribution and distribution solutions for the production of the Tokyo Olympics, including a range of video processing and advanced modular receiver technologies. MediaKind’s specialist engineers will also provide assistance through the installation of equipment and system set-up. The engineers will be present on-site 24/7 to offer multi-site support throughout the event. MediaKind’s encoding solutions were used by NBC Olympics for the 2018 Olympic Winter Games and prior to that, MediaKind supported NBC Olympics’ production of Turin 2006, Beijing 2008, Vancouver 2010, London 2012, Sochi 2014 and Rio 2016.

Ross Video 

NBC Olympics will be using Ross Video for augmented reality productions during the Tokyo Games, with Ross will be providing both a graphics rendering solution and a production crew. Ross Video’s in-house creative and professional services division, Rocket Surgery will be deploying Voyager, the graphics rendering solution (based on the Unreal 4 engine from Epic Games) along with production crew to integrate the graphic elements designed by the NBC Olympics graphics team and operate the technology on the air.

RTS

RTS will supply broadcast intercom systems and support for the Olympics production as well as providing support for NBC Olympics’ transition to IP. RTS’s trunking solutions will allow all of NBC’s local and global locations to work together in a single virtual location. The installation for NBC Olympics’ coverage of the Tokyo Olympics will be full IP, comprising over 600 ports and leveraging two RTS technologies: Omneo high-quality audio for local communication and RVON for international comms. 

Signiant

NBC Olympics is deploying Signiant intelligent file transfer software. The software will move petabytes of footage from Tokyo back to Stamford, Conn. immediately after it is captured, allowing NBC to leverage their talent and equipment in Stamford. Signiant’s network optimization technology also allows for seamless transfer of the footage over standard IP networks, eliminating latency and packet loss, so that editors in Stamford can very quickly begin creating highlights. In addition, the software will be used to transfer content, including advanced graphics work and pre-recorded footage, quickly and securely back to the broadcast center in Tokyo.

Sony 

NBC will use nearly 100 Sony cameras as well as several Sony production switchers and 4K monitors to capture high resolution imagery. The technology will help NBC use newer, more flexible IP infrastructures and capture high resolution imagery with workflows for 1080p, 4K and HDR. A number of Sony cameras, including the HDC-3500, will be used for IP-enabled transmission, while the rest will operate in SDI. NBC Olympics will also use several of Sony’s production switcher models – including the flagship XVS-9000 4K/3G/HD IP-ready switcher and the XVS-8000 and XVS-6000 4K/3G/HD video switchers designed for IP- and SDI-based production. Hundreds of Sony’s professional monitors, including 4K Master Monitors, will also be deployed. 

TAG Video System

TAG Video Systems is the OTT monitoring provider for the production. TAG Video Systems will provide NBC Olympics with an integrated software-based IP probing, monitoring and multiviewer solution to monitor MPEG Transport Streams originating in Tokyo, which are then logged, categorized and archived in NBC Sports’ International Broadcast Center in Stamford, Conn. The system will run on true COTS off-the-shelf servers and give NBC Olympics the ability to view metrics and evaluate the health of the signals every step of the way. It will also allow NBC Olympics the flexibility to custom configure the broadcasts on its multiviewers to fit any desired scenario. 

Telestream

Telestream’s products will be used for media capture and automated processing workflows during the Tokyo Olympics in ways that will allow the broadcaster to simultaneously produce both high-dynamic range (HDR) and standard dynamic range (SDR) content. NBC Olympics will utilize Telestream’s Lightspeed Live Capture and Vantage media processing platform to perform the unique, mixed HDR/SDR workflow. The Lightspeed Live Capture systems will receive 1080p59.94 HDR signals from the events and create media simultaneously to two different formats. In addition, NBC Olympics will leverage the complete suite of UHD/4K Waveform Monitors from Telestream’s Tektronix Video product family supporting UHD/HDR formats and ITU-R BT.2020 wide color gamut (WCG), Master Sync and Master Clock Reference Generators to support its coverage.

Xytech

Tokyo will mark the ninth consecutive Olympic Games where NBC Olympics will be using Xytech’s ScheduALL to manage the complex production of Olympics. The deployment will allow NBC Olympics to leverage Xytech’s software and services to orchestrate the logistics of people, equipment, locations and transmission feeds.

Other vendors who have announced what they will be doing at the Olympics include: 

LiveU

NBC Sports is using LiveU exclusively and rented 15 LU600s and 2 LU800 PROs.  NBC Sports will be leveraging LU800 to shoot in HDR and will use LiveU units to mix in their own camera angles, in additional to the OBS cameras, for 25 sports. They are also leveraging LiveU’s next-gen IP video management and distribution platform, LiveU Matrix to share content across other NBC stations including the NBC Sports Regional Sports Networks.

NBC Station Group rented 12 units and LiveU set up 12 Matrix channels to stream directly to. The NBC & Telemundo stations are taking whatever of the 12 shots they want directly from Matrix in real-time. They are also sharing the feeds with NBC Network, NBC News CH, NBC Sports & CNBC.

Telemetrics

The Associated Press is relying on a unique, remotely controlled robotic camera system designed and built by Telemetrics to capture images of the Opening Ceremony and to capture still images of swimmers and divers as they hit the water and swim up from the depths of the pool for diving and swimming events, including synchronized swimming. In all, AP will use six of the robotic camera control systems. Some will be equipped with a Sony Alpha 9 II mirrorless camera; others with the Sony Alpha 1. A Telemetrics PT-CP-S5 remote-control pan/tilt head inside a Telemetrics PT-WP-S5 weatherproof camera housing, which is placed inside a waterproof housing, called the PL-HOUL-S5 pool housing, will keep the system dry and give AP full control over the cameras.

TVU Networks

TVU has announced that it is providing extensive support for new and existing customers at the Summer Games with a variety of services and products. TVU’s help at the game includes tech support, live pool feeds, rights cleared access to live video feeds, free use of TVU Anywhere full HD live transmission of video for athlete interviews and stories, and on-site studio and camera crew services. TVU also has an extensive inventory of TVU One mobile transmitters for rent in Tokyo, as well as the TVU Remote Production System (RPS) for multi-camera REMI production and professional ENG camera crews to cover the event.

latakoo

Austin based latakoo provided file transfer and media workflow technologies that were used by major such broadcasters Nexstar Nexstar Media Group. latakoo’s Flight app allowed journalists to securely drag, drop and upload video from their computer or phone, allowing stations to access the content and push it out quickly to viewers on-air and online.

latakoo also gave athletes and their families access to the Flight mobile app so they could easily send candid behind-the-scenes videos and photos from their phones directly to media organizations. With extensive pandemic precautions in force in Tokyo, latakoo simplified the transfer of video among athletes, content producers and broadcasters.

George Winslow

George Winslow is the senior content producer for TV Tech. He has written about the television, media and technology industries for nearly 30 years for such publications as Broadcasting & Cable, Multichannel News and TV Tech. Over the years, he has edited a number of magazines, including Multichannel News International and World Screen, and moderated panels at such major industry events as NAB and MIP TV. He has published two books and dozens of encyclopedia articles on such subjects as the media, New York City history and economics.