German Broadcasters Come Together for HD Games

German broadcasters ZDF and ARD are working together to deliver their first HD Olympics to Germany, giving German sports fans the clearest look ever at hot sports like the biathlon and ski jumping.

A staff of more than 600 is on hand covering the action for both TV and radio and the networks have unilateral coverage at five venues. Three of those venues, the sliding center, Whistler Creekside (home of the alpine events), and the Richmond Oval (speed skating) are operating out of flypack units while NEP is providing two OB vans at the biathlon (SS19) and ski jumping (NCP12).

“The quality of the world feed has been improving so we’re mainly supplementing a few things,” says Volker Frank, ARD technical leader. Thomson LDK8000 cameras recording to P2 decks are on hand to capture the different start and finish zones, interview players in the mixed zones, and cover coaches. The biathlon also features Hot Head camera systems with 86x lenses that allow for tight coverage on the eye of the biathlete as they zero in for a shot.

The two networks are delivering 18 hours for a main channel and an additional 8 hours each on two digital networks that show complete end-to-end coverage of events that are edited for the main channel.

The core of the German IBC area includes an Avid ISIS that can store 1,300 hours of content and an EVS system that can hold 1,500 hours. Editing systems include 11 Media Composer editors and three EVS IP edit systems.

“We can transfer material both ways with the Avid Airspeed ingesting content into the Avid world,” says Frank. Compression codec is DNXHD at 145 Mbps.

Five Vizrt graphic systems are also being used for the broadcasts and the networks are using the Dartfish virtual enhancements provided by OBS. “I especially like the Dartfish at sliding and skiing,” says Frank.

In terms of planning, ARD handled the IBC set up while ZDF was in charge of venue operations. “It’s a big job to get everything going but it worked out very well,” says Gunnar Darge, ZDF, head of engineering and operations, special projects.

Germans are also being treated with extra-sharp pictures courtesy of uncompressed signals being delivered from Vancouver to Germany via STM16. An MPGE2 HD signal is also delivered via satellite for back up needs.

“This is the culmination of the two years of experience moving from SD to HD,” says Frank. “We’ve learned a lot but have a system that is stable, running, and working well.”

More importantly, the feed back from Germany has been very good.