Sony Equips NBC Olympics With HD Broadcast Technology, 24/7 Support

For the past several weeks, Vancouver has been brimming with Sony equipment. The technology provider has partnered with NBC Olympics since the 2000 Summer Games in Sydney, and the International Broadcast Center (IBC) in Vancouver is currently packed with Sony HD broadcast technology, as is a mobile support center that will support all of NBC’s coverage of the 2010 Winter Olympic Games.

“This year, we’re providing NBC with a very broad range of HD products from what has now become their workhorse format, XDCAM HD,” says John Garmendi, manager, strategic sales, broadcast and production systems division at Sony. “We’re providing everything from decks and switchers all the way up to studio cameras and super-slo-mo cameras as well.”

NBC is using more than 50 Sony HD studio and portable cameras. Among them: the flagship HDC-1500s, which are placed at venues and on mobile-production trucks; the HDC-1400s, which are on mobile trucks, inside the venues, and used on smaller studio applications through the IBC; and HSC-300s and HXC-100s. NBC will also use 22 PDW-F800 XDCAM camcorders for ENG acquisition.

Crews will use camcorders at each venue to record athlete arrivals, interviews, press conferences, and anything else that requires portable recording. Several PMW-EX3 XDCAM EX solid-state-memory-based camcorders will be used for shots that require a more mobile production tool. NBC will also use 140 PDW-HD1600 XDCAM decks for its coverage.

A MVS-8000G switcher is deployed in the primary control room in the IBC, and eight MVS-6000 switchers are deployed throughout editing areas affectionately referred to as TOES (traditional old edit suites) as well as the curling venue. Those switchers will handle the feeds from each venue and also originate NBC’s HD cable coverage on USA Network, MSNBC, and CNBC.

Nearly 500 monitors are deployed throughout the venues, a mix of 9-, 20-, 24-, and 42-in. broadcast-level monitors from the Sony BVM-L and PVM series. “In addition to those, we’ve got some displays more on the order of eye-candy,” Garmendi says. “Those are the FW PD 1s, public-display-type monitors.”

The PCS HG 90 video-conferencing system is also set up in Vancouver as a traditional communication device but, in a pinch, can be used to bring H.264 video back from the athletes village.

These equipment numbers do not count the service spares, boards, supports, and test gear that has also been deployed to Vancouver. A small Sony service center has been effectively boxed up and taken to the IBC, along with 10 engineers, to offer 24/7 support throughout the Games.

“We have about 10 engineers staggered in and out from Jan. 1 all the way through March 2,” says Jay Chaney, director of sales support engineering for Sony. “The staggering has to do with when the equipment is being deployed. We wouldn’t want to bring in someone who is going to work on venue switchers any earlier than a week before those venues come online, which traditionally happens only a week before the Games begin. There would be no point in having him here any earlier.”

In past Olympics, Sony has deployed technical specialists to specific venues, where they would be assigned for the duration of the Games.

“Because the equipment is so reliable,” Chaney says, “we no longer have that need. We work out a shift with NBC so that we cover venues during a certain time period and then they come back and spend the majority of their time at the IBC. NBC would rather have those resources back at the IBC as opposed to a venue, where somebody would literally be sitting around waiting for something to happen.”

The logistical work of defining the product list, getting the equipment built, and sending the gear to Vancouver began last April and will not be completed until March.

“We have a dedicated member of our product-loan-management team who is the last one to arrive in Vancouver,” Garmendi explains. “He’ll get there sometime in the middle of the second week and stay for two weeks to make sure everything that went gets back on the containers and comes back to Sony. He’s got a big job to do.”