Rio 2016

Live From Rio 2016: NBC Olympics Tackles HDR, Atmos Surround

The Olympics are often a time of technical trials, not just for new workflows but for new technologies as well. The 2016 Olympics were no exception, and topping the list was an effort by NBC and Sony to cover the Opening Ceremony in 4K HDR on the video side and by NBC and Dolby to cover the Opening Ceremony using Dolby Atmos.

NBC Olympics set up an HDR viewing area that ran different demos (the one here shows how SDR material can be upconverted to HDR) in order to help Olympic staffers and guests understand concepts around HDR.

NBC Olympics set up an HDR viewing area that ran different demos (the one here shows how SDR material can be upconverted to HDR) to help Olympic staffers and guests understand concepts around HDR.

“The end result was stunning and exciting, and, as difficult as it was, it was worth it because so many of the images captured were stunning,” says Dave Mazza, SVP/CTO, NBC Sports Group and NBC Olympics. “It was the perfect event to showcase HDR with the Olympic flame and the reflections off of the cauldron.”

A small engineering team from Sony helped build a small six-camera flypack outfitted with Sony HDC-4300 cameras.

“The Sony guys built it in the hallway,” says Mazza. “All during the process from when we thought about doing this, there was a whole lot of inventing along the way and gnashing of teeth because there really isn’t a good plan yet for how to do HDR. There is also a lot of debate in the industry about delivering HDR to the home so we decided to forget about that and focus on the production side.”

The HDR feed was shot in Sony’s sLog3 format, and BT.2020 color space. The sLog3-2020 signal was converted to ST2084-2020 with a target peak brightness of 1,000 nits and fed into HEVC encoders, where ST-2086 static metadata (commonly known as HDR10) was embedded for transmission to the U.S. in the PQ format.

“Only the new Sony BVMX300 monitor can do HDR, so we also had to deal with how to monitor HDR on non-HDR monitors,” says Mazza. “We had to make use of Fujifilm IS-MINI LUT converters to get the signal into monitors that do not accept sLog3 or PQ.”

According to Chris Seeger, director, advanced content production technology, NBC Universal, the FujiFilm LUT converters came with a software interface very familiar to color correctors.

“This interface allowed us to create a ‘trimmed LUT’ during conversion from SLog3-2020 to ST-2084,” he explains. “The IS-MINI software allowed us to group multiple IS-MINIs into quads and control them through Ethernet. Ultimately, it would be great if LUT conversion could be integrated into a common video switcher so HDR workflows don’t require so many moving parts.”

DaVinci Resolve was used for native SLog3 color correction with conversion to PQ for monitoring and export. Adds Seeger, “Technicolor inverse-tone-mapping plug-ins allowed us to convert standard dynamic range into PQ for VOD content. The dynamic range is expanded a bit while controlling ‘large-area brights’ with something called Bright Spot so the scene doesn’t look artificial. We processed approximately 2 TB of HDR and SDR 4K/UHD content per day for VOD.”