Tokyo Olympics

Live From Tokyo Olympics: ARD/ZDF Adjusts; Production Control Rooms in Mainz, Germany, Play Key Role

When German public broadcasters ARD and ZDF originally planned out their Tokyo Olympics effort, they included a studio with a view of Rainbow Bridge, a control room for the studio, edit facilities, and more. The studio, which is shared with Austria’s ORF and Switzerland’s SRG (each has its own studio), is located along the water, offers a dramatic view, and provides an opportunity for talent to interview athletes in person. Many of the other facilities, however, aren’t as originally envisioned.

Vito Zoiro of ARD/ZDF says that all production control is done out of Mainz for the Tokyo Olympics.

“Corona changed all of that,” says Vito Zoiro, ZDF, technical manager, special projects. “Now we are connected to production control in Mainz, where we have an infrastructure like the IBC here: the National Broadcast Center, which is a wooden structure with shipping containers. The studio is connected directly to production control in Mainz, and we don’t even see the signals here. We also have our own cameras from athletics and aquatics going directly to Mainz, where there is a sub-control room for each.”

Four 10-Gbps circuits from Telstra help transport signals to Mainz. LiveU systems are also in use, sending ENG signals directly from mixed zones to home. The IBC facility basically passes on the OBS signals along with audio signals from eight voiceover booths (an additional 18 are located in Mainz).

“In principle, everything is working,” says Zoiro. “We had a plan, and it took a couple of days for some of the commentators and producers to understand the workflow changes.”

ARD and ZDF alternate days of coverage for the linear channel and are also offering up to 10 live streams of online content.

One of the ARD/ZDF voiceover suites at the IBC in Tokyo

With the Games almost at the halfway point and everything running well, the only issue might occur on Aug. 3-4, when the fiber cable that is currently transporting the signals is replaced after having been damaged in the floods in Germany earlier this month.

“It will be repaired,” says Zoiro, “and we will have to establish a connection in a different way.”

Also helping back home is the Mobile Produktions Einheit (MPE) (for more details, click here), which Zoiro says was conceived when ARD and ZDF realized that it would be impossible to get equipment shipped from the Euros IBC in Netherlands to Tokyo in time for the start of the Games.

“We also can’t rent equipment,” he adds, “so we need some clever planning to be able to cover both.”

Other tools making a difference are the LiveU gear and the connector kit, which has a USB audio interface and commentary headset that can connect to a computer.

“After this,” he says, “we’ll sort out what we did and then take the many ways of doing things and reduce that to the useful ones, as not all of these workflows are really useful.”

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