Audio Plays Major Role in Olympics Story

The London Olympics offered a great show, with near-flawless performances by the technology sent to cover it. Audio played a huge part in that, as noted in an article on NPR’s Website that graphically lays out how broadcast audio has evolved over the past 15 or so years. Here is a look at some of the gear deployed and its suppliers’ perspective on its Olympic performance.

Riedel had communications well covered, with 18,000 digital TETRA radios (handheld and desktop) for all TETRA communication at the Olympic Games, as well as 2,000 conventional radios. During the Opening and Closing Ceremonies, the Riedel Artist system provided the primary communications among the production departments, show callers, stage manager, all the automation and motion controllers, sound engineers, and lighting and video technicians. The main stadium used a fiber-based CCTV system based on MediorNet backbone. Olympic Broadcast Services at the Olympic Stadium deployed 40 MediorNet frames and 20 RockNet Digital Audio Network devices.

“Because the world had the option to watch the live events on television, online, and even in cinemas, demand for audio desks was greater than ever,” observes Henry Goodman, head of Calrec sales and marketing, which had more than 50 consoles in use covering boxing, swimming, cycling, gymnastics, and athletics. There were so many that the company created a map of London showing venues, events, console types, and the location of playout centers.

“This is the third time the events have been broadcast in 5.1,” Goodman adds. “In terms of constructing the mix, working with multichannel signals was as simple as working with mono or stereo signals with a 5.1 channel assigned to a single fader. Calrec’s Surround Spill controls allow the legs of a multichannel signal to be spilled out onto individual faders for more detailed control when required. Calrec consoles were also used in this way to mix the audio for the 3D footage, which is another first” for the Games, he says. Calrec desks were deployed in the IBC and in the OB trucks covering most of the major sports events and ceremonies, all in 5.1 surround sound. Other consoles positioned in studios around the globe were used for domestic playout.

Genelec served as a main supplier of monitors for OB operations and for most of the surround mixing rooms at the Olympics. In London, Stagetec provided five rooms fully equipped for 5.1 monitoring at ExCeL, Wimbledon, and Earls Court, using a configuration of Genelec 8250A x 5 and 7270A subwoofers in each arena.

In addition, according to Lars-Olof Janflod, marketing and PR director at Genelec, most of the 60 OB vans rented by the host broadcaster were equipped with Genelec speakers. Many were supplied by Bexel, including those for the two 5.1-surround-sound quality-control rooms located at the IBC, which used the 8250As x 5 configuration plus the larger 7271A subwoofer. Janflod pointed out that, for this year’s Olympics, Madrid-based Olympic Broadcasting Services was the host broadcaster, whereas, at past events, the local national broadcaster served in that capacity.

“This means also that most of the gear that goes in [is] rented and not purchased,” he says. “However, most countries from the developed world also send their national broadcasters to the Olympics, and they have their own studio spaces at the IBC. Most of the rooms are temporary and not permanent. They leave a lot to be wished for in terms of acoustic design and/or treatment, and we were pleased to note how well our Smart Active Monitors, featuring automatic calibration, were able to deal with these inferior environments.”

BBC, NDR, RAI, CCTV and other broadcasters deployed an estimated 70 Stagetec Nexus base devices, 15 Nexus Star routers, and eight consoles in the Cantus, Auratus, Crescendo, and Aurus versions.

Among the broadcasters using Lawo consoles in studios and OB vans were German public broadcasters ARD and ZDF. Audio was mixed in the two broadcasters’ mobile-production unit on an mc²90 and an mc²56 and added to the broadcast output in the HD control room. A redundant-design Nova73 HD served as the router. ARD Radio’s equipment included a mc²56 mixing console. Finnish broadcaster YLE and Swedish national broadcaster SVT were equipped with an mc²66MKII console, various Sapphire radio and production consoles, and a Nova73 HD. Sapphire and Crystal consoles could also be found in the London control rooms of Estonian broadcaster ERR. Similarly, Austria’s ORF in London deployed an mc²66 MKII mixing console.