CCTV broadcast matches athletes’ performance
As the Chinese gobble up medals, the pressure is 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. So, for Wang Dagang, CCTV Olympics general technical coordinator, and a team of 400, the goal is to get the most out of their equipment, four studios in London, and a wealth of OBS feeds recorded on a Chinese-manufactured video-server system and edited using a mix of Sobey and Avid editing systems.
Chinese sports fans have three channels of content to choose from, with CCTV5 branded the Olympic Channel, dedicated 24/7 to the Olympics, and broadcasting 17 hours of live content every day. Two additional channels broadcast 15 hours of live Olympics coverage every day.
CCTV has basically built the equivalent of a TV station in the IBC, albeit one in cramped quarters. Construction began on 23 June, starting with the four studio sets and then the broadcast infrastructure. Two of the studios have three Sony cameras; the other two, one in the IBC used for Internet broadcasts and a fourth in a nearby TV tower, have two cameras each.
“We were planning to have 1,500 square meters but only received 1,000 square meters. So, for our people, it’s not quite enough space,” says Dagang. “We just transmit the program signal back to Beijing live, with all of the Olympic Channel production done here, including postproduction, packaging, archiving, and live broadcasts. And the other two networks that carry Olympics get the live signal from here.”
The IBC facilities are centered on a server that records 12 OBS multilateral feeds as well as 30 unilateral feeds. Dagang says the Chinese brand of video server is similar in concept to the EVS server. “But our operators are not very good at speaking and reading English, so we must use Chinese software that was developed by ourselves, including the character generator.”
There is also an Avid ISIS server tied to 10 Avid Media Composer editing systems for high-end postproduction and graphics creation. Quick highlights are cut using the 20 Sobey editing systems.
Content from the servers and editing systems come together in one master-control room, and there are also two studio-control rooms, all with Sony vision mixers.
One challenge facing CCTV is the need to translate the Olympic Data Feed and Broadcasting Data Feed from English into Mandarin. “All that data and information needs to be translated into Chinese in advance,” says Dagang, “but our team has the experience from previous Olympic games to know the structure and the system.”
One advantage of producing the coverage completely in London is that only two STM1 circuits are required to carry content back to China. “One STM1 circuit can carry up to seven HD channels,” he adds.
Diving for the final couple of days will be the major emphasis for CCTV, especially now that Liu Xiang was unable to compete in the 110-m hurdles final after hitting the first gate. The diving team, however, is a different story.
“We call the diving team the Dream Team,” says Dagang.
Covering the Games been fairly smooth sailing for CCTV, with the biggest glitch being an uninterruptible power supply (UPS) that was damaged during shipment by … UPS. All the equipment was brought over from China by CCTV.
“We don’t see any big technical issues, and the time difference is tricky because we start doing our broadcast at 6 a.m. which is noon in Beijing,” explains Dagang. “And, at midnight, we start doing the morning news, so it’s a very long day that requires two shifts.”