Alfacam OB Fleet Sparkles at Beijing Olympics

By Ken Kerschbaumer

Olympic track-and-field stars from around the world aren’t the only ones kicking into high gear today. Alfacam, with a fleet of 19 HD trucks on hand for all across Beijing’s Olympic venues, will have its trucks that covered the Opening ceremonies lit up for actual event action for Beijing Olympic Broadcasting. “Things have been going well, to absolute perfection,” says Gabriel Fehervari, Alfacam CEO. “Things are much better and easier than they were in Athens [for the 2004 Olympics.]”

For example sunshades were already installed at the venues so trucks had to simply roll in to place. In Athens the sunshades were assembled after the trucks were on location, requiring some tricky maneuvering.

The Olympics conclude a busy period of construction that began more than two years ago with assembly work on 12 new HD production trailers. For the previous 18 month the company had a team of 20 engineers building out those units with massive amounts of Thomson Grass Valley equipment as well as JVC monitors, Lawo audio consoles, EVS replay devices, and Canon lenses

Thomson Kayak production switchers and 200 Thomson cameras, including 24 new LDK-8300 super-slo mo systems and 128 LDK-800 cameras, play a key role in covering not only the track and field events but also gymnastics, swimming, diving, badminton, archery, football, hockey, fencing, handball, wrestling, and boxing.

“The 8300 cameras were absolutely perfect,” says Fehervari. “And the 566 JVC monitors, for example, have a built-in power supply which prevents having power supplies hanging around the truck.”

Seventy EVS XT HD instant replay servers were also built into the trucks “Both our team and BOB worked together and there was a great amount of knowledge transfer,” says Fehervari.

The biggest change since the Athens games was moving to a single 16:9 HD workflow, a move that has made things easier with respect to video signals. The major difficulty this year compared to Athens was dealing with surround sound issues but 17 Lawo consoles are helping get the job done. “With HD you just change the cameras but with 5.1-channel recording it changes everything, especially if you are recording multiple channels for super slo-mo and isolate records,” says Fehervari. “It’s very, very hard and a big challenge.”

Once the Olympics end the trucks will begin their return voyage to Europe where they will have an impact on the HD transition in Europe by giving content producers and networks more HD options. “We do around 2,400 HD productions a year of which 800 are football and another 800 are other sports,” explains Fehervari. “We’ve been waiting seven years for this moment when the industry transitions to HD in Europe as we were an active promoter in the early days.”

The units are also all 1080p capable thanks to 3Gbps routing and cabling (even the JVC monitors are 1080p capable). “It’s still a bit too early for 1080p but 1080p/50 is perfect for big events, in particular operas and high-end concerts,” adds Fehervari.

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