TOBO provides everything from SD 4:3 to 1080i HD

TORINO, ITALY: As the host broadcaster at the XX Olympic Winter Games, the Torino Olympic Broadcasting Organization (aka TOBO), will shoot high-definition footage of the events in 1080i, "the primary format for Europe" and "format of choice among the majority of HD participants," according to TOBO's executive director for engineering and operations, Frank Grillo. This will be in addition to the standard feed.

"The high-definition standard here is another level of service to the broadcasters," Grillo said. "The standard television format for Torino is SD 4:3--that's the standard that the host broadcaster is required to provide to the rights holding broadcasters."

Five participating broadcasters will receive HD feeds with 5.1 audio: NBC, CBC, Torino Olympics Japan Consortium (comprised of 10 Japanese broadcasters), the Korea Pool (three Korean broadcasters) and Channel 7 Australia.

Included in TOBO's HD lineup are seven venues--the opening and closing ceremonies, two hockey venues, figure skating and short track, speed skating, freestyle skiing, and ski jump.

The biggest challenge will be dealing with three formats simultaneously, according to Grillo.

"Since the official IOC broadcast standard for the Torino Olympics is SD 4:3, all signals, regardless of how they are produced at the venue--HD or SD 16:9--must be converted to SD 4:3 for delivery to the rights-holding broadcasters, and also for official archiving," Grillo said. "This, of course, adds additional equipment for standards conversion and aspect ratio changing, as well as additional personnel to manage these changes and the increased levels of complexity."

AlfaCam, the largest provider of HD-capable mobile units in Europe, will supply the OB (outside broadcast) vans. A number of integrators will also be on board, including Aerial Camera Systems for tracking and aerial cameras; Camera Corps Ltd., for specialty cameras and beauty shots; Movie Engineering Srl for specialty camera mounts and apparatus; Audio-Technica for audio planning, equipment and installation; and Broadcast RF Ltd. for radio links and related radio frequency services.


Surrey, England-based Aerial Camera Systems is providing a high-speed linear rail with HD Cineflex mount and HD video link for the speed-skating events, and a CAMCAT cable system with HD Cineflex mount and HD video link for mogul skiing.

The TOBO-commissioned system for speed skating, based around a linear motor, is a J curve-shaped track of more than 260 meters and capable of speeds up to 20 meters per second. A Cineflex stabilized camera mount fitted with a Sony HDC T950 with Fuji HD X22 lens and an HD video transmission system is attached to a camera buggy, which is built over the motor.

There will be two HD links on the camera buggy, both available to the director to cut live on air, said ACS Sales and Marketing Manager Matt Coyde. ACS is supplying an HD link manufactured by Link Research (provided by Charter Broadcast UK) and NHK, host broadcaster to the speed skating venue, is supplying "an HD link specially designed by their team," he said.

"This is the first time that such a configuration has been used in live sports broadcasting," said Coyde. The system transmits pictures to receivers inside the venue.

AEC is also supplying an ACS-tethered blimp with an HD Cineflex mount to capture the opening and closing ceremonies as well as the biathlon, bobsled and alpine skiing events, a CAMCAT HD for the opening and closing ceremonies, and several systems built for SD.

Broadcast RF Sales Manager Chris Brandrick said TOBO is using a combination of Gigawave clip-on and MTV-D digital transmitters, plus MVL-D receivers and various antennas manufactured by U.K.-based Broadcast RF.

AlfaCam OB vans will use Grass Valley LDK 6000 cameras and LDK 6200 super slo-mos. EVS disk storage will be on board, too.

At the International Broadcast Center, Vistek Electronics and Panasonic products will play a key role in manipulating TOBO's HD signals, the first in regard to signal amplification and frame synchronization, the latter for monitoring and display.

TOBO will use Vistek Electronics V6153 (eight output) and V6154 (16 output) HD-SDI distribution amplifiers and V6402 HD synchronizer with V6302 advanced audio processor, said Pro-Bel spokesperson Katharine Guy, whose company recently acquired Vistek.

Guy also noted that the Vistek VALID test signal, introduced at NAB2005, would be used to correct any lip-sync errors before footage is supplied to the rights holders. She said no specific customizations were made to any Vistek equipment used for TOBO's Olympics coverage.

TOBO will transmit its HD signals from the venues to the IBC using Evertz and Network Electronics fiber encoders and decoders. Both, according to the TOBO crew, are equipped with the latest laser technology for maximum distance performance.

As an official Olympic Partner with TOBO, Panasonic will provide its P2 solid state gear as well as DVCPRO HD and DVCPRO50 recording equipment. In addition, 25 Astrovision giant outdoor video screens will be placed in various Olympic venues as well as 8,800 color TVs and monitors, including 200 plasma TVs.


According to Grillo, the host broadcaster will monitor discrete 5.1 surround sound, Dolby Pro Logic II Surround Sound, stereo, and even a mono mix to ensure quality and fidelity. He said the Dolby Pro Logic II Surround Sound efforts are a joint project with NBC.

Grillo, with the assistance of Isidoro Moreno, director of IBC engineering, and Dennis Baxter, TOBO's audio consultant, noted that most of the OB vans have a digital mixing desk designed to accommodate large-scale signal and routing flows.

The TOBO team said that the Olympics opening and closing ceremonies pose "an unusual challenge" due to "large loud crowds, pyrotechnics and large PA systems." This combination, they said, requires the use of a microphone "with wide dynamic range, very high fidelity because of the digital mixing consoles, and pattern control because of the PA."

As such, they chose to use the Audio-Technica AT4050. Although the AT4050 is best known for its use in recording studios, host broadcasters have used this microphone at the opening and closing ceremonies ever since the 2000 Olympic games in Sydney.

TOBO will also use TC Electronics System 6000 processor at the opening and closing ceremonies to expand the mix into the surround sound channels.