NBC taps Visions, Bexel to supply HD flypacks for Summer Games

By Carolyn Braff
As a
result of size, space and economic constraints, flypacks will have a
larger presence at this summer’s Olympic Games, but that does not mean
that the production will be scaled down. NEP Visions Limited is
equipping NBC Olympics not with traditional broadcast trucks, but with
two state-of-the-art
HD flypacks, providing yet another parameter that breaks new ground for
Olympic broadcasts.

“Essentially
it’s got to do with economics,” explains Martin Anderson, managing director for
NEP Visions Limited, of the decision to use flypacks. “At the end of the day we
have other clients that we have to service, and most of the equipment going to Beijing we have to get out of Wimbledon.”
NEP has less than one week to get all of its equipment out of Wimbledon, pack
it and ship it off to Beijing.

“We cannot
afford the time that it is going to take to put OB trucks onto ships,” Anderson says. “That’s a
reflection of the mix of contracts that we’ve got and when our various
different sporting seasons start and end.”
The
flypacks NEP is providing are not your typical simple flypacks. Space and
convenience are of the utmost importance for an event of Olympic scale, but NEP
does not skimp on technology in favor of convenience. In addition to the host
broadcaster’s cameras, NEP is equipping NBC Olympics with 15 Sony HDC 1500 cameras,
10 super-motion and radio cameras, 60 additional remote sources, HD production
galleries with 125 monitors, Grass Valley HD Kalypso 4 M/E switchers, two Calrec Omega sound
desks, 5.1 surround sound audio, 256 x 256 trinix routers, full fiber
infrastructure and 136 x 136 Telex talkback at each venue.
Keeping in
mind that NBC’s technicians will call the new space home for three weeks, NEP
chose a Bespoke designed production environment that includes VTR areas with 120
monitors, a 125-monitor production monitor wall and specially designed technical
desks.
“This is
effectively a 24-hour operation,” Anderson
says. “Because of the time difference, the vast majority of this has to be
edited and repackaged and turned around, so it does help if when you design the
flypack, you design everything around the production workflows.”
New
additions to NEP’s 2008 Olympic coverage include implementing flat screen
monitors, 5.1 surround sound, Vinten Vector 950 stabilizing heads and more
EVS’s and IP Directors, but when it comes to change, NBC stresses evolution,
not revolution.
“As far as
NBC is concerned, the most important thing in the world is reliability,” Anderson says.“They do not
want us to be trying to pioneer brand new technology on what is the single most
important event on their sporting calendar this year.”
Although the
companies involved are excited by the opportunities flypacks create for this particular
production, the overall consensus among the mobile production companies is that
flypacks are not a permanent solution for Olympic coverage.
“It’s
great when you can’t get another 53-footer on top of a mountain,” says Craig
Schiller, vice president of broadcast services for Bexel, “but it’s not
perfect.”

“For these
Games, we’re integrating our dot-com operation,” explains Chip Adams, director
of venue engineering for NBC Olympics. “Lots of the larger venues will have
some presence of the dot-com people shooting video with camcorders, so trying
to integrate them and get them space on the compound has been a challenge for
us.”
Space is
an issue in terms of equipment, as well. Bringing a full production truck over
from North America for the production was not
economically possible for NBC, so the network has decided to put their
facilities into a fly pack operation.
“With a
fly pack, you have to get in there about a week before just to get the
facilities installed and get the cables run, just to get it to the level of a
truck that we had in past Games,” Adams
explains.
NBC will
not bring full facilities into every venue, but rather focus most of their
attention on the A-level venues.

“The real
challenge for us is to coordinate the equipment coming in, the install schedule
at the venues and work with the host broadcaster to get power for some of the
smaller venues,” Adams says.