PyeongChang 2018

Live From PyeongChang: ORF Austria Delivers Unique POV Prior to Alpine Events

The national broadcaster also sends ready-to-air signals to Vienna

ORF Austria is on hand at the PyeongChang Olympics with a team of 110 that is doing it all — TV, radio, and Internet coverage — for winter sports fans back home. But they also have on-air talent that does something no one else does: ski down the downhill and other courses literally minutes prior to the competition with a small handheld (or helmet cam for slalom events) recording not only POV video but also commentary to give viewers back home a first-hand account of course conditions.

ORF talent wearing a mic and carrying a camera zip down the alpine event courses just prior to the events for a pre-race commentary and analysis.

According to Hans Peter Trost, head of sports TV, ORF, the cameras record the content on cards, and, at the bottom of the hill, the video and audio file is transferred to the IBC for playout.

It’s all part of an effort that has a production team doing what very few broadcasters at the IBC are doing: producing all of the content from a control room there and sending a ready-to-air signal back home, where master control handles final play-to-air and commercial insertion.

“There is no remote production,” says Trost. “We have one control room, so everything comes to here and then is sent on three lines home.”

And, for a nation that loves a large number of the winter sports, most notably anything that involves going down a hill on skis, the 650 hours of coverage ORF is delivering resonates with viewers.

Robert Waleczka, head of operations, ORF, says that coverage is on two channels: ORF1, the national broadcaster’s main channel, and ORF Sport+. By law, the most popular sports need to air on ORF1. That means that Sport+ has some of the less popular sports and, if necessary, simply broadcasts content from the Olympic News Channel, which is available from OBS and is ready-to-air content.

ORF’s proprietary POV camera for on-course recording

The ORF studio is located at Austria House, and, arguably, every broadcaster should be so lucky as to have a studio at the national house. Such houses tend to be a hotbed of activity, with VIPs, celebrities, and, most important, athletes spending time there.

“It’s a good situation for us,” says Trost. “We work closely with them, and it makes us possible to have athletes as soon as possible in our studio.”

The last couple of days have been particularly challenging to everyone: dangerous wind conditions have delayed the alpine events. Events like the men’s downhill are tremendously important to Austrian viewers, but the ORF team gives Olympic organizers credit for postponing events early rather than attempting to wait out the conditions.

The postponed events are setting up what Waleczka calls “Super Thursday,” when the women’s giant slalom and the men’s downhill will be run on the same morning. Fortunately, ORF has separate commentary teams for the men’s and women’s alpine events, so there will be no need to have a broadcast team call an event off-tube.

ORF’s control room delivers a completed feed to ORF in Vienna.

Says Trost, “Our talent does a lot of different jobs: one day doing commentary, the next a reporter, and the next being a host in the studio. It’s very different from the way others do things.”

In addition, says Waleczka, nothing is scripted, giving viewers a more natural and spontaneous experience.

According to producer Martin Krischke, Adobe Premier CC on Macs plays a key role in IBC operations.

Claudio Bortoli, supervisor, production management, TV, ORF, says that five 12- to 16-channel EVS XT4 servers record incoming feeds from OBS: two in the control room play back highlights and record the most important feeds; the other three record content from other relevant feeds. German integrator Sono VTS was responsible for providing all of the technical facilities at the IBC, including a Harris routing switcher and Riedel intercoms.

For more of our coverage from the PyeongChang Winter Olympic Games, including interviews, videos, podcasts, and more, visit our SportsTech Live Blog. 

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