SVG Year in Review: The London Games

Every year SVG covers dozens of big sporting events and the big productions that bring them into viewers homes and onto their mobile devices. But nothing was anywhere near as big as what took place this summer in London when the Olympics captured fans’ imagination, broke ratings records, and resulted in some of the most trailblazing technical innovations in recent memory. So we’ve decided to dedicate an entire section of SVG Year in Review to the 17 days of competition, innovation, and perseverance that were the 2012 Olympic Games.

SVG Europe’s three-person team went behind the scenes at nearly every venue and spoke with a variety of production professionals, networks, and related organizations at the International Broadcast Center (IBC). Check out SVG Europe’s Live From London 2012 Technology Blog for all of SVG’s comprehensive coverage, but below is a quick recap of our coverage…

SVG Editorial Director Ken Kerschbaumer provided an in-depth look at the IBC – both in terms of OBS (Olympic Broadcast Services) and the dozens of rights-holding broadcasters on site – as well as a look at how these groundbreaking workflows will change the future of sports production.

Check out SVG’s two-part Photo Gallery from the Games: The Technology and The Personalities.

For OBS CEO Manolo Romero, the 2012 Olympics represent the end of an era, of sorts, as he shifts roles and will become vice chairman of OBS as of 1 January. The godfather of Olympic Broadcasting delves into his history and his present at the Games in this in-depth sit down with Kerschbaumer.

NBC Sports had arguably its most successful Olympics ever, delivering record-breaking viewership on multiple platforms and renewing America’s passion for the Games. Learn how the man behind the curtain – NBC Olympics SVP of Engineering Dave Mazza – and his team made it all happen.

The Opening Ceremony tested the mettle of CTV, provider of the technical facilities, as the project came together in the past five months and required kit not only for a gallery that was built into the stadium but also a central apparatus room and an OB unit on hand as a backup.

If there was a single ubiquitous force at the IBC, it was EVS gear. The company’s presence within the IBC included not only 33 XT3 replay servers in use by Olympic Broadcasting Services (OBS) but approximately 190 other servers used by broadcasters within the IBC.

The Opening Ceremony marked the first time a live event was produced and distributed around the world in Ultra HD, a format that offers eight times the resolution of HD, 22.2 channels of surround sound, and a hint at what many believe will be broadcasting’s future beyond 2020. The system was also up and running for the next three weeks, capturing a wide variety of sports action thanks to the efforts of OBS, NHK, and the BBC.

Panasonic and OBS teamed to bring the Olympics to homes in 3D. Available in 20 countries, the London Olympics was the most widely taken 3D program ever, both domestically and internationally.

Finnish broadcaster YLE experimented with the concept of producing the majority of its content from home during the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver. But this year, it returned to the IBC, with content for its main Olympics channel produced on site in London.

Sky Italy’s large-scale production was headquartered within the IBC but had OB units at the Olympic Stadium and Aquatics venue and studios around London.

Uniquely for these Games, the BBC used an independent production company, Sunset + Vine, to produce its unilateral add-on to the OBS feed from the sailing competitions.

Using Cisco’s Videoscape technology, NBC offered some users at Olympic venues and grounds a first-of-its-kind multiscreen experience through mobile and tablet devices.

Forty students from Ball State University coordinated on “BSU at the Games,” a multiplatform offering that aims to tell the best stories that the 2012 Olympic Games have to offer.

The London 2012 Olympic Games will be remembered for a number of landmark sporting events, but, in broadcasting terms, it is significant as the point where the EBU (European Broadcasting Union) said goodbye to standard-definition transmission for all major sports coverage.

The Aquatics Centre was a central focus of NBC Olympic operations since the Games began. And once again, CTV OB helped NBC tell the story of the U.S. swimming and diving teams the way it wants to with OB9 in the compound.

Croatia’s Hrvatska Radiotelvizija (HRT), a network that had planned to go to a complete file-based workflow, but, because of budget cuts, was one of two networks within the IBC that recorded all events on tape and cut linearly.

Grass Valley was out in full force in London, supporting the broadcast backbone for numerous events and broadcast-rights holders, including Russia, Brazil, and Estonia.

It was not too long ago that the London Olympics seemed destined (even seemingly willed by some) to be a fiasco of mammoth proportions. But, thanks largely to BBC Sport Executive Producer Paul Davies and his team, the Games proved to be massively successful both on television and on-site. Read more about BBC’s monumental efforts HERE.

NBC Sports was once again onsite at All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club for coverage of Olympic tennis, and NEP Visions was once again supplying OB units for NBC’s presence at the home of the Wimbledon Tennis Championships.

ESPN International constructed an overarching workflow in London that allowed ESPN Argentina, ESPN Brazil, and ESPN Star Sports to work in tandem so they could share content, resources, facilities, and costs.

Despite receiving plenty of criticism among the social media and blogosphere universes, NBC came away from the Games on top, according to NBC Sports Chairman Mark Lazarus.

NBC tapped Adobe to help build its two primary Olympics applications: The NBC Olympics Live Extra and NBC Olympics apps.

There were plenty of examples within the Olympic IBC of broadcasters tying their IBC facilities more closely to their home broadcast facilities but there may be no better example of possible future workflows than Swedish public broadcaster SVT.

France Télévisions Olympic coverage from the IBC is once again worked closely with the France Télévisions broadcast and production operations in Paris.

After hosting the Winter Olympics in Vancouver two years ago, Canada’s Olympic Broadcast Media Consortium not surprisingly slimmed down its operations at the 2012 Games in London.

NBC Olympics operations and facilities at the IBC in London look and feel very similar to its operations in both Vancouver and Beijing. But underneath the hood, there were variety of new technologies that have helped the network make the move to completely file-based operation.

Athletics action from Olympic Stadium in London dominated the sport world’s attention and for NBC Olympics it called for a special personal touch. Operating out of an NEP Visions OB unit, the team not only brought in cameras from OBS but also 26 additional cameras.

With total programming breaking the 5,000-hour mark, it was no surprise that NBC’s graphics team delivered a monumental amount of content. Luckily, Brevity’s transport solution alleviated what could have been a very difficult challenge.

Switzerland’s SRG SSR’s IBC facility is serving out Olympic content to three channels for three distinct regions and languages in Switzerland (a German network in Zurich, French in Geneva, and Italian in Lugano). Despite this multilingual effort, SRG SSR was able to stay lean and efficient at the IBC.

As the Chinese gobbled up medals, the pressure was on CCTV to ensure that billions (literally) of viewers back home have a TV-viewing experience that matches the level of performance on the field. Thankfully, CCTV succeeded just as much as their nation’s athletes.

London 2012 marked the eighth consecutive Games that Sony has worked with NBC Olympics, and it’s of little surprise that the popular tech company had an overwhelming presence within the International Broadcast Center (IBC) in London.

The London Games will mark the end of an audio era as Bob Dixon – NBC Olympics’ director of sound design and communications – will now retire. Dixon offers up his favorite Olympics moments in this piece and those who have known him best remember their beloved audio guru.

And for an in-depth look at Dixon and NBC’s overall audio efforts CLICK HERE. SVG Audio Editor Dan Daley also provides a look back at the overarching audio techniques used by broadcasters during the game HERE and HERE.

Australia’s Channel Nine and Foxtel were among the few broadcasters that elected to run their entire operation – or at least nearly – out of the IBC, leaving very little responsibility back in Australia.

For the first time, Eurosport transmitted the Olympic Games in 3D, with more than 100 programme hours over the Sky 3D and Virgin Media platforms in Great Britain and some selected distribution outlets from Panasonic all over Europe.

German public broadcasters ARD and ZDF once again combined forces for the Summer Olympics, a strategic move that split costs, responsibilities, and branding while creating a single channel of Olympic content.
TV2 Denmark gave France Television’s studio in a double decker bus a run for its money for most original studio location with a houseboat studio located at Catherine’s Dock.

Elemental Technologies was all over the London Games, helping several broadcasters to deliver their content seamlessly to a host of different devices and platforms.

Despite flying a massive crew over to London, NBC Olympics ran much of its operation out of the Saturday Night Live studio in New York, where its Highlights Factory operation was located.

While many can get caught up with the video side of things, rights-holding broadcasters’ Olympics coverage would be nothing without quality audio production and technology.

Mexico won its first-ever Olympic Gold in football (errr soccer) and TV Azteca delivered every second of the teams run – and much more – back home.

Like many broadcasters, Sky New Zealand elected to keep the bulk of its crew and infrastructure at home while still delivering a massive dose of Olympic action to its Kiwi viewers.

Learn wow SIS LIVE and France Television were able to cram a full studio into a double-decker bus. And read more on the complicated doubl-decker undertaking HERE.

NBC generated record TV ratings in the U.S., and saw monumental streaming and mobile traffic throughout the games. The Games proved to be game-changer for live streaming of major sporting events – both in terms of the audience and the producers.

Before the Games began SVG venue beat writer Karen Hogan gave readers an in-depth look at the variety of Olympic venues scattered across London and the UK in three parts: PART 1, PART 2, and PART 3.

SABC and SuperSport handled the production efforts for South Africa. In addition to its home nation, SuperSport served as the lone pay-tv satcaster to deliver the Games throughout Sub-Saharan Africa.

Rights-holder SBS teamed with sublicensers MBC and KBS to bring the Games to South Korea.

The Crewing Company (TCC) supplied personnel including camera operators, VTR managers, and technical operators; and Alias Hire, which has taken on additional staff to cope during the Games.