Canada’s CBC Back in Olympics Mode After Two-Games Absence

Back as an Olympics rightsholder for the first time since 2008, CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corp.) is one of many broadcasters in Sochi relying on robust connectivity and tight integration between its IBC facility and its broadcast center back home. The Canadian public broadcaster and its French-language counterpart, ICI Radio-Canada Télé, are supplying viewers in the Great White North with every Sochi Games event live on CBC, ICI, and cable sublicensees TSN, TSN2, Sportsnet, and Sportsnet One and is also streaming 12 live commentated multilateral feeds online and on mobile.

CBC is accomplishing all this with a minimal on-site team that essentially serves as a content-gathering operation feeding to CBC’s operations center in Toronto and ICI’s in Montreal, where the respective on-air telecasts are produced. CBC does not have a single control room or edit suite at the IBC, opting instead to send everything to Canada for production and distribution.

“This remote-production [workflow] allows you to access all your best existing facilities: playout, servers, archive. All the high-quality [equipment] is at your fingertips,” says CBC Television Head of Sports Production Trevor Pilling. “We have less than 300 people here for English and French sports, news, and radio. That is essentially the same number of people we had in Torino [for the 2006 Winter Games], but we are doing twice as many broadcast hours, plus all the digital streaming.”

Connecting Toronto, Montreal, Sochi
Sochi is connected to Toronto and Montreal via a redundant OC-192 fiber path that carries a total of 83 1080i signals (with just 85-ms delay), including 14 of the 23 OBS multilateral feeds, 20 CBC 60-Hz unilateral feeds, and 34 return video feeds to Sochi. This pipe also carries all CBC phones, Internet, communications, and remote studio-equipment controls, allowing the network to use CBC’s core Montreal- and Toronto-based infrastructure without deploying new hardware and traveling fewer people to Sochi.

“Remote production, as it applies to the CBC, is a concept of producing content with minimal infrastructure deployed at the remote site,” says CBC Television Technical Producer Rob Bunn. “With only the necessary resources on-site, costs are reduced, but, more important, quality and accessibility of media are increased by utilizing existing robust infrastructure at home to support remote talent.”

Combined, Toronto and Montreal provide six control rooms and 30 edit suites to support broadcast and digital shows in both English and French. In Sochi, Pilling and his ICI counterpart Françoise Messier each have an intercom panel and a video monitor tied directly into their control rooms in Canada, allowing immediate face-to-face interaction.

“One of the challenges in working with so many feeds and gathering content here on the ground is that we need to make sure that it’s shared between Montreal and Toronto,” says Messier. “We have to have confidence in both production teams. Sometimes, it becomes more difficult to communicate, so we always need to reinforce the importance of collaboration so that both Montreal and Toronto are telling a good story and understand each other’s coverage.”

The Maple Leaf Footprint On-Site
Although CBC does not have control rooms or edit suites at the IBC, it does have an ingest station with permanent lines feeding back to Canada for ENG content. In an effort to further streamline the workflow to Canada, CBC is, for the first time, shooting all its ENG content in 60 Hz so that it can feed directly into the Toronto and Montreal facilities without transcoding. The OBS feeds, which are provided in 50 Hz, must still be converted to 60 Hz, however.

In addition, CBC boasts a wealth of unilateral cameras, studios, and commentary positions, as well as much of its A-team on-air talent (including Hockey Night in Canada’s Ron MacLean and Don Cherry for Team Canada hockey telecasts) on-site in Sochi.

“Almost everyone who calls and works on the big games and big events for us is here,” says Pilling. “Add in all the producers and editors that we have here and the relationships they have with the players and coaches. Then we deploy those resources within the venues to tell the stories exactly they way they should be told.”

The broadcaster’s studio setup at the IBC consists of nearly identical, dedicated three-camera studios for both CBC and ICI Radio Canada with a shared interview space between them (two cameras with a rolled-in jib from one of the two sets). All studio programming for both networks is produced here. All three spaces were designed, built, and tested in Canada before being shipped out to Sochi in August.

CBC has also established dedicated commentary positions at all venues except for the Laura Cross-Country and Biathlon Center and the RusSki Gorki Jumping Center and mixed zones at all Coastal Cluster venues and a handful of Mountain Cluster venues. Two voiceover booths are also available inside CBC’s IBC sector.

In terms of unilateral cameras, CBC has at least one at every Coastal venue, one at the Rosa Khutor Extreme park (for freestyle and mogul skiing events), two at the Bolshoy Ice Dome (hockey), Shayba Arena (hockey), and Fisht Olympic Stadium (Opening and Closing Ceremonies).