Beijing 2022: OBS Ready to Innovate for Winter Games, Set to Create More than 6,000 Hours of Content
Later this week the Olympic flame will be lit for the 2022 Olympic Winter Games in Beijing, igniting 17 days of competition that will be the largest Winter Olympics production ever and capping off an intense period of production that saw OBS and rights holders from around the world tackle two Olympic Games in less than seven months. Of course, there was a time when that was the norm, but that was also a time when the scale of the games and the broadcast operations were much smaller.
In the next 17 days OBS will produce an estimated 6,000 hours of content for rights holders and sports fans, delivered via 41 HD multilateral feeds and 31 UHD multilateral feeds (plus 43 HD and 36 UHD distribution feeds). More than 660 cameras and 1,600 microphones will be used by production teams working out of 16 production trucks and nine datacenter-based production units. And home base for OBS and various rights holders will be two IBCs: a 30,000 square meter IBC at the newly built China National Convention Centre Phase II in the Olympic Green in Beijing (which also includes the Main Press Center for the first time) and a 5,000 square meter mountain IBC at the Zhangjikao Mountain Broadcast Centre. The Beijing IBC will be home to eight rights holders (representing 38 organizations, counting sublicensees) while the Mountain IBC will be home to five rights holders which represent another 16 organizations.
OBS says it has been a unique build-up to a Games as the COVID-19 pandemic caused not only travel restrictions, but also forced the postponement of the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 to the summer of 2021. That disrupted the broadcast preparations for the Olympic Winter Games Beijing 2022 and planning has needed to be nimble and flexible, requiring a new way of thinking and constant adaptation to an ever-changing situation. However, OBS says the many lessons learnt from the safe organisation of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics have helped put in place everything required for a smooth and efficient broadcast operation. Moreover, the guidelines laid out in the Beijing 2022 Playbook mean everyone involved with the Games will be able to work in a safe and secure environment.
From a broadcast perspective, Beijing 2022 will offer an exciting glimpse into the immersive and virtualized future of Olympic broadcasting, exploring new and innovative ways of producing the Games while engaging worldwide audiences further. Beijing 2022 will again mark a leap forward in Olympic Games broadcast technology. The Olympic Games Beijing 2008 were the first to be produced and broadcast entirely in High Definition (HD) and now, 14 years later, Beijing 2022 will be the first time an Olympic Winter Games is natively produced in Ultra High Definition (UHD) High Dynamic Range (HDR) with immersive audio.
OBS will achieve this level of coverage thanks to a brand-new, state-of-the-art IP-based core system that will allow for additional services, new formats and more flexibility, while dramatically reducing the carbon footprint of the broadcast operation in the host city.
To showcase Beijing 2022’s celebration of winter sports, OBS will introduce a series of innovative technologies to improve the overall Olympic viewing experience and provide worldwide audiences with the genuine feeling of being at the Games. Working with Worldwide partners, Alibaba and Intel, OBS plans to use the latest technologies to deliver a far more immersive experience than in previous Games. Together with Intel, for example, OBS will capture, produce and distribute the Olympic Winter Games in live 8K Virtual Reality (VR) for the first time. Through a much improved, smoother user experience, Olympic fans (via participating RHBs) will be able to watch the action in higher quality, true-to-life VR and feel like they’re actually there alongside the athletes, while broadcasters will be able to use these VR feeds in 8K to create virtual backdrops for their television studios.
OBS will generate further engaging and dynamic viewing experiences in Beijing by deploying more multi-camera replay systems for frame-freeze ‘bullet-time’ slow motion replays. These systems will allow viewers to move around the athlete and capture an up-close look at the action from various angles.
For curling and speed skating, OBS has joined with Alibaba to use its leading-edge cloud solution to seamlessly deliver unique replays to viewers around the world in mere seconds. The wider adoption of cloud and 5G technologies in Beijing will reshape the way the Games are broadcast.
The OBS Cloud will once again support the backend of Olympic broadcasting and play a key role in content distribution and post-production workflows. OBS will distribute the feeds in HD and UHD through the cloud for the first time to more than 20 broadcast organizations. Not only do the RHBs have a new means of receiving the live signals in their home countries but they also have a more agile solution to choose which feeds they wish to receive.
The full 5G coverage implemented across all Olympic venues also provides new opportunities for live coverage, and for the first time, OBS will capitalize on super-fast 5G wireless connectivity to deliver live signals from several cameras, including those fitted on snowmobiles at cross-country skiing and also those used in the start and finish areas at alpine skiing.
Teaming up with Intel, OBS will also explore more flexible and modular production environments by designing a revolutionary virtualized Outside Broadcast (OB) van. With the full adoption of an IP-enabled infrastructure, certain functions of the in-venue production units can be moved away from the legacy broadcast components into using virtualized Commercial-Off-The-Shelf (COTS) Information and Communications Technology (ICT) servers and networking, opening up new opportunities that could lay the groundwork for producing the Olympic Games in an entirely new way in the near future.
Virtualization, says OBS, will redefine broadcast production requirements and allow for the possibility to scale services and greatly reduce the set-up time.
And after proving so popular at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, the Digital Fan Engagement initiative will return to Beijing 2022. Fans around the world will again have the chance to show their support for their favorite athletes and teams. Once again, athletes will be able to connect with their loved ones and share with them, live in the moment, all the emotions of participating in the Olympic Winter Games. Unlike in Tokyo, where it was available at selected sports only, OBS will offer these athlete moments from all Beijing competition venues and incorporate them as much as possible into the live coverage to convey the athletes’ emotions beyond the arena.