OLYMPIC SPECIAL REPORT: The Venues

No Olympic games is ever easy work for a broadcaster. But because Winter Games have many fewer venues than the Summer Games, and also tend to be more centrally located, those involved agree that the Winter Games are as close as they ll get to an easy games.

For example, only five towns other than Torino will host events when competition at the 2006 games begins this weekend. The host broadcaster, Torino Olympic Broadcasting Organization (TOBO) handles nearly all of the technical operations at the venues. It also makes the decisions on which events will be covered with HD cameras and which will use SD cameras.

The only events that won t get the HD treatment will be the alpine skiing events as the sheer amount of cameras needed (about 110 between the downhill, slalom and Nordic events) and the massively long cable runs make it cost prohibitive.

The downhill course in Sestriere Colle, for example, will have about 30 cameras on hand. As a result, Dave Mazza NBC Olympics SVP engineering, says NBC will only need to bring about six cameras to supplement the coverage with interviews at the bottom or top of the hill.

Widescreen treatment

While the skiing events won t be done in HD they will be done in standard definition 16:9. Mazza says the last thing he wants to do is stretch 4:3 content. Instead, Snell & Wilcox upconversion gear will be used to make the SD gear look as close to HD as possible.

The aforementioned Sestiere Colle facility will be the most sophisticated broadcast facility as it will pull in camera feeds for all of the downhill, slalom, and Nordic skiing events. More than 100 camera signals will travel via fiber from Colle, Borgata and Pragalato Plan to Colle.
We ll have a van on hand with three EVS recorders, two Sony MAV recorders, and four Sony disk recorders on hand at the skiing venues to record the feeds, says Mazza. We ll then drive that truck over to the editing facility and plug it in.

NBC will have a double Avid Adrenaline editing suite and two tape-based editing suites to edit the competition down before it s sent back to the NBC broadcast center in Torino.

The EVS servers and network will play a crucial role in the broadcast. Because of the time difference NBC has installed Avid editing facilities at the venues. The EVS and Avid systems will be used to edit competitions before the feeds even return back to NBC. That gives NBC s editing crew a chance to refine any story elements.

These events are all big draws in primetime, says Mazza. In most instances we ll shoot live to tape and then pull out things to fit it to the primetime program schedule. We try to avoid massive surgery on the coverage.

And not all of the venue facilities are permanent. The opening and closing ceremonies, for example, will be handled out of a production truck from NEP Visions, the European division of NEP SuperShooters in the U.S.

UP NEXT: THE HIGH-TECH TOYS OF TORINO