NBC Olympics snags five Calrec Omega audio boards

By Dan Daley
SVG Audio Editor
NBC Olympics has added five Calrec Omega with Bluefin
consoles as part of its coverage of the 2008 Olympic Games in
Beijing. The 56-fader consoles will provide
audio mixing for a number of events across several venues. Two consoles will
provide audio coverage for both the opening and closing ceremonies and the
athletics. Two other consoles will be used for gymnastics and trampoline, and a
fifth will be used for beach volleyball. “We will have some very large scale
venues like ceremonies, track and field, and gymnastics,” says Bob Dixon, NBC
Olympics’ director of sound design and communications.
Dixon
also notes that this is the first Olympics broadcast to be produced totally in
high-definition with discrete 5.1 audio. “We are still in a period of
transition in the
United
States, so most of our audience will still
watch the games on standard-definition television receivers with two channels
of audio,” he explains. “This means that everything we do in
China must
serve both [modes of broadcast resolution].”
NBC Olympics will send six discrete channels of audio with
HD pictures to the
U.S.
from each venue, but will also send a simultaneous two-channel program downmix,
as well as a stereo downmix of the sound effects that are used in promos and
post-produced pieces.

“We will also be paying the greatest attention to the
down-mix of those channels for our stereo-listening audience,” he says.

A Miranda Technologies XVP 811 cross converter card that
will convert the HD signal to standard def will actually do the downmix. That
two-mix is sent to 30 Rock and the
Broadcast
Center audio mixers can
confidence-monitor that from a network feed from WNBC. Additionally, a number
of Dixon’s friends in the
U.S. will be
checking the stereo mix and providing him with comments via email. “And we
check the AV Forum,” he says. “That’s the place to find the complaints.”

The mixers have some control over the automated dowmix.
Using metadata, the mix can respond to dynamic changes. “If the surround mix gets
hotter in the rear channels, we can [program] it to attenuate those in the
stereo mix so they don’t interfere with the announcers,”
Dixon explains.
The Omega with Bluefin console provides 160 channel
processing paths packaged as 48 stereo and 64 mono channels, allowing up to 24X
full 5.1 surround channels. NBC Olympics mixers are able to address all six
channels at once, or divide them up to provide independent control of each
channel, with full EQ and dynamics on all channel groups and main outputs.
NBC, owns the exclusive U.S. media rights to the Olympic
Games through 2012, which includes Beijing in 2008, Vancouver in 2010, and
London in 2012, will broadcast a record-breaking 3,600 hours of coverage from
August 8 to 24, about three times as much as the 1,210 hours of Olympic
coverage from Athens in 2004. That’s a lot of sound.