Vitec Videocom Helps Broadcasters Bring Winter Games from Sochi to the World

At this year’s winter games in Sochi, Russia, Vitec Videocom and its many product lines and services divisions once again proved its unparalleled ability to help broadcasters cover large-scale, multi-venue events in the most efficient way. Among a number of unique challenges, the expert teams for Anton/Bauer, Autoscript, Bexel, Camera Corps, Litepanels, Sachtler, Vinten and Vinten Radamec were tasked with supplying a multitude of equipment and helping NBC Sports and a host of international broadcasters cover many of the 98 sporting events.

This year, Bexel continued its support of the games by providing over 40 tons of equipment and 31 skilled engineers on site. Pre-planning and setup for the 2014 international sporting event began several months earlier, with Bexel installing fiber-optic cabling for the Alpine events and stadium venues in order to establish a robust HD signal distribution infrastructure on site. Crews arrived in early November 2013, and worked on selected venues installing a mix of traditional broadcast, SMPTE and fiber optic cable. Depending on the application and location, some cables were terminated on site while others were terminated by fusion splicing on pre-terminated fiber optic “pigtails.” In all, the Bexel crews terminated more than 10,000 optical and copper connectors and provided technical services and support until the end of the games.

Bexel also supported the opening ceremonies with a fully equipped flypack production system that was shipped in early for use during rehearsals. The system consisted of several camera systems and video monitors to manage the lighting effects and staging, plus Evertz routing and Sony switchers for the production.

Bexel crews managed the technical coverage of the curling venue with 30 Grass Valley camera systems on Vinten Radamec robotic heads, Vinten tripods and Vector heads for ringside shots, and Sachtler tripods with fluid heads. They then installed more than 100 microphones between the four sheets of ice to capture the sound of the sport up close. All of the action on ice was funneled into four production control rooms for 18-hour-a-day live coverage.

To cover all Alpine and International Broadcast Center (IBC) press events, Bexel set up two networked control rooms with HD cameras. These systems were used to cover all public announcements and interviews with athletes and officials.

Bexel supplied 50 Sony and Grass Valley camera systems, 30 Panasonic P2 ENG cameras, and over 100 different varieties of Canon and Fujinon HD lenses to cover a host of sporting venues, including alpine skiing, cross country, the biathlon, freestyle skiing, snowboarding, ski jumping/Nordic, figure skating, ice hockey, short track and the opening/closing ceremonies.

Within the IBC in Sochi, Bexel supplied over 1,000 pieces of gear throughout the facility, including audio processing and monitoring, video conversion, video monitors, video recorders and a variety of terminal accessories.

“Like many of our large-scale projects, the Olympics are never short of unique challenges that we have to solve quickly and with the appropriate amount of effort,” said Scott Nardelli, senior vice president and general manager, Bexel Engineered Systems & Solutions (ESS). “While the winter games, by nature, are smaller than the summer games, our crews really did a great job of helping broadcasters prepare for the worldwide telecast. From our perspective, this is the type of event the Vitec Group of companies excels at.”

Also within the IBC, the Bexel team helped to set up a fully-featured production studio for NBC’s “The Today Show,” and equipped it with 30 1x1 Litepanels Bi-Color lights, 10 Autoscript prompters on Vinten Vector heads and Quattro pedestals, Anton/Bauer batteries, Sachtler and Vinten Vision heads on heavy-duty camera tripods, and more, all used by the NBC ENG crews on site in Sochi. The Bexel team provided them with engineering support (and spare parts when necessary) for NBC’s traditional newsgathering activities, while many NBC network TV stations (owned & operated as well as affiliated) brought their own Vitec Videocom gear, which they used daily for their local newscasts.

NBC also created a set of studios in the park, relying on camera supports from Sachtler and Vinten.

Furthermore, the Camera Corps team brought over many specialty cameras for almost every venue – 70 to be exact. In addition to the usual robotic and commentary cameras, including Vinten Radamec FH-145 and the Q-Ball, which NBC called the “work horses” of Sochi coverage, Camera Corps also provided most of the SMPTE coax and fiber-optic cable systems that helped transmit the images back to the IBC. Camera Corps provided a wide variety of specialty camera systems, like the Polecam, Telescoping Tower Cams, and miniature radio cameras developed by Camera Corps for the opening/closing ceremonies as well as the medal presentations. Nearly all the remote pan-and-tilt cameras were controlled from outside the field of play using Camera Corps and Vinten Radamec control systems. These camera systems were utilized for curling, speed skating, short track, figure skating and other events, providing unique close-up and POV shots for viewers at home.

Over 11 days of curling competition, the Bexel and Camera Corps teams helped plan and support more than 300 hours of on-air coverage, accounting for one-quarter of the total broadcast coverage. This required over 2,000 technical man-hours among nine people over two-and-a-half weeks. The curling events alone incorporated seven Camera Corps tethered cameras that were shared by several worldwide broadcasters, two virtual cameras, 17 video replay channels (with eight mixed in true 5.1 surround sound audio), and 37 MADI streams to move audio signals around the venue and back to the control room in the IBC.

Many major broadcasters from almost every continent, including the BBC, ITN, NBC, NHK, RTV and CCTV China, were also supported by Vitec Videocom brands. Vinten and Sachtler camera support systems as well as Anton/Bauer batteries for power were the equipment of choice for the main press center.

Paul Dudeck, vice president of Strategic Accounts in the Americas, who attended the games, said, “I could look around at any point during the event and see that Vitec Videocom products were the dominate choice for image capture – by a significant margin. And Anton/Bauer powered a majority of the U.S. TV stations. It was validating to see so many broadcast productions choosing our reliable, high-quality products to make their jobs easier.

“A mix of Sachtler and Vinten was used at every venue capturing ringside and game footage in the venues,” Dudeck observed. “The Vector head was the most popular, closely followed by the Vision 250 and some Vision 100s. My conservative guess would be that Vinten was used by over 90 percent of the broadcasters covering the games.”

He added, “The curling venue was a typical example of how our brands delivered invaluable support from every angle. Of all the tripods on the court, Sachtler was the most dominant tripod for ENG use – there were nine Sachtler Video 18 models and the other was a Vinten Vision system.

“Beyond the curling floor, there were an additional 10 tripods in the stands, which were all Vinten Vectors or Vision 250 heads,” he noted. “I’m proud to say the Vitec Group’s products and services were well represented, and our international appeal was very obvious.”

In the end, these winter games, like many before it, spotlighted the breadth and popularity of the portfolio of products and expertise from Vitec Videocom brands for pulling off major, multi-venue events.