Live From London: Canadian Broadcasters Streamline London Presence
After hosting the Winter Olympics in Vancouver two years ago, Canada’s Olympic Broadcast Media Consortium has not surprisingly taken very different mindset at the 2012 Games in London. With geographical location in its favor, the union of Bell Media and Rogers Media was able locate the bulk of its operations on site in Vancouver. For London, however, the Consortium opted to leave much of its production and engineering infrastructure and personnel back in Canada, creating a streamlined, cost-efficient onsite presence at the IBC in London.
“This is a totally different type of challenge [from Vancouver] and it is a fundamental shift in the way that we are doing things from a technical perspective,” says Mark Weeres, manager of video engineering, CTV Olympics. “With everything so geographically spread out, we had to figure out how to get the same quality of product with less people in London.”
Living Up to Vancouver
With this in mind, the Consortium has cut its on-site crew from 1,400 in Vancouver to 400 in London, despite upping its total programming from 4,800 hours to 5,500 hours (2,000 or TV and 3,500 online). The five primary control rooms are all located back in Canada along with the majority of its editing and studio facilities. Three studios have been erected at IBC in London (two almost identical English and French morning show studios and a smaller studio for one-on-one interviews) but all other studio programs originate from Canada.
The consortium has also established five Olympics control rooms in Canada: two at CTV’s broadcast center in the Agincourt neighborhood of Toronto, two at RDS headquarters in Montreal, and one at Sportsnet in downtown Toronto. These control rooms handle all programming that airs on CTV, TSN, RDS, RDS Info, Sportsnet, OMNI, OLN, V, ATN, CTVOlympics.ca, and RDSolympiques.ca. All five control rooms are interconnected via a comprehensive IP network that is tied directly to the IBC and all five of CTV’s unilateral venues.
“We are leveraging as much of our existing infrastructure in Toronto and Montreal as possible to build a smaller, less-expensive system here in London,” says Weeres. “For instance, two of our control rooms at CTV go into hiatus in the summer. So we basically just overlaid some more equipment in them and they became the Olympic control rooms for CTV and TSN.”
Less Is More in London
On-site at the IBC, the consortium is taking in more than 50 HD paths, including the OBS VANDA (Video-and-Audio) feeds and unilateral feeds from its five primary venues: Athletics, Aquatics, Gymnastics, the Velodrome, and Eton Dorney. Each of these venues is outfitted with up to five unilateral cameras (a total of 13 unilateral cameras across five venues), an audio-mixing facility, and an on-site commentary team (12 off-tube booths handle commentary at the remaining venues).
In addition to the OBS feeds and its own unilateral feeds, the consortium has agreements in place with the BBC, NBC, and Channel 9 Australia to share a variety of content (i.e. BBC commentators for soccer and the full NBC program feed for tennis).
On top of the unilateral cameras, the consortium also has 15 ENG crews shooting on XDCAM HD throughout London.
As for the IBC facility itself, the consortium worked with systems integrator Presteigne Charter to build out the baseband video and audio infrastructure following a successful partnership during CTV’s coverage of the Royal Wedding in April.
“We worked with them during the royal wedding and that relationship has worked out very well,” says Weeres. “They set up the nuts and bolts and most of the Evertz [infrastructure]. We rented the router, the Evertz [routing equipment], monitors, and intercom panels from Presteigne Charter and they integrated it for us. Then we did the networking, transmission, and large-scale intercom stuff.”
Connecting it All Together
In order to deliver all this content, the consortium has rented two 10 Gbps fiber transmission lines to deliver as many as 30 paths to Canada at any given moment. An Evertz ATP transmission system works in tandem with Evertz routers on hand at the IBC, Agincourt, and RDS to mix and match feeds to correct control room.
“Any one of those control rooms may be using any of the unilateral venues, so one day the Velodrome will be on Sportsnet and the next day it will be on CTV,” says Weeres. “As a result, we have to have the ability to connect any unilateral venue between any control room at any point during the day.”
Communications are also key with five control rooms in Canada and a broadcast center located an ocean away. The consortium has deployed a wide array of RDS ADAM matrix intercoms across multiple locations as part of a Consortium-wide communications system.
End of an Olympic Era
With the news earlier this week that CBC has outbid the consortium for the 2014 Sochi and 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympic rights, 2012 will mark the last Games for CTV and company, at least for the next four years. Nonetheless, Weeres views the developments from this year’s Games production as invaluable, regardless of the loss of the Olympic rights.
“Part of our thinking with this model was if we did get the next Olympics this would continue to be the model we used for every Olympics,” he says. “We just wanted to invest and strengthen the technology and infrastructure back in Canada and that would pay off if we did end up getting the Games. But even [without the Games in 2014], that infrastructure is going to help us in all areas in the long run.”