NBC graphics build on London momentum with Brevity, ChyronHego Mosaic

Having established an ultra-efficient workflow in London a year and a half ago, the NBC graphics team has continued to refine its transcontinental operation, as well as upping the ante on some of its primary graphics tools this year in Sochi. While valuable tools like the Brevity file-transfer acceleration and transcode system are back in the fold, a handful of new technologies — highlighted by ChyronHego Mosaic XL on-air graphics systems and Nexsan NST5000 series servers — have also been brought on board for Sochi.

“For us, it has become pretty straightforward since we have had this workflow for a while now.”  ⎯ NBC Olympics’ Philip Paully

“For us, it has become pretty straightforward since we have had this workflow for a while now.” ⎯ NBC Olympics’ Philip Paully

“It’s not entirely different from London,” says Philip Paully, director of graphics, engineering and operations, NBC Olympics. “For us, it has become pretty straightforward since we have had this workflow for a while now, but the equipment is friendlier and faster, and the communications and IT infrastructure is the best we’ve ever had, so it has really been a pleasure this year.”

ChyronHego Mosaic in Sochi and at home
NBC Olympics is using 12 ChyronHego Lyric PRO-powered Mosaic XL on-air graphics systems: 10 at its IBC facility in Sochi and two for the curling production at its broadcast center in Stamford. The Mosaic units, which succeed the ChyronHego HyperX 3.1 systems used in London, rely entirely on solid-state drives and feature support for Windows 7 64-bit playout, stereoscopic 3D, scriptless transitions, and touchscreen-enabled graphics.

“The Mosaics are entirely solid-state drives with 2 TB total for recording, so I would say they are about six times faster,” says Paully. “We are also on Windows 7 now, so we don’t have issues.”

Nexsan servers boost storage power
Also new this year are the Nexsan NST5000 series servers, which replace the Apple Xsan servers NBC deployed in London. With 144 TB of storage and greater compatibility with the network’s Avid editing infrastructure, the Nexsan servers are considered a major upgrade.

“We went light this year with only 144 TB of storage,” Paully says with a laugh, noting that NBC has about 65 TB left just halfway through the Games. “I spent the last year researching servers, and I went with the Xsan NT5000 series. They are much friendlier than any of the Apple servers we dealt with in the past. In terms of dealing with our Avids and everything else, it is so much easier.”

Brevity once again the cool kid of the graphics workflow
One of NBC’s most valuable players from London has returned for Sochi, with the Brevity file-transfer acceleration and transcode platform allowing NBC to send files between Sochi and Stamford at lightning-quick speeds — and simultaneously transcoded to the necessary format. Brevity’s specialized video- and data-compression algorithms reduce the transport payload while maintaining high video quality. With lossless and visually lossless options, NBC can transfer more files in less time using less bandwidth.

NBC graphics has a 100-MBps pipe between Sochi and Stamford, but Paully says that transfers have actually hit up to 320 MBps thanks to the file-transfer-acceleration technology.

“The acceleration that Brevity gives us knocks everyone else out of the park,” says Paully. “With the acceleration, we are taking things that would normally take hours and doing it minutes. For us to do that is tremendous. It’s basically become commonplace now because we are so used to it. This will be in Rio [for the 2016 Summer Olympics]; we aren’t going to go away from it. For a live sporting event of this magnitude, [it] is just a huge advantage.”

Telos Zephyr streamlines communications
The NBC graphics team has also standardized its audio communications on the Telos Zephyr IP codec for the first time at an Olympics. The Telos Zephyr universal codec is compatible with every popular ISDN codec for full-duplex, 20-kHz stereo audio and lends itself to multisite remote operations like the Olympics.

“We did a voiceover session yesterday from L.A. with [actor and voiceover star] Liev Schreiber, and the piece was done out of L.A. to here,” says Paully. “It has been hit and miss with the Russian telecoms out here; as a result, we now have these IP codecs that are going through our switches and — boom — back and forth very easily.”

Creative and the Creative Cloud
The 2014 Games also mark NBC’s first use of Adobe’s Creative Cloud software portfolio. The software-as-a-service platform “was a big rollout for us at Olympics too, but it’s gone very well so far,” says Paully.

On the creative side for graphics, NBC Art Directors Dave Barton and John Schleef lead a team of 10 artists in Sochi, where nearly all graphics creation originates. These graphics are sent stateside for curling coverage and other NBC Olympics needs, with another four artists on hand to contribute.