Every Olympics sees an increase in the power of digital distribution via social media and OTT on workflows and production requirements. Karen Mullins, OBS, Director of Production Managementsays that to help rights-holding broadcasters provide this dynamic environment in which viewers can experience content at their leisure and stay ahead of the curve, OBS has created a wide range of services for the digital arena.
“One such service designed primarily for digital is Content+, which is a cloud-based solution offering digest content from all Games, as well as all live content produced by OBS, which can be easily shared across all platforms,” she said. said. “OBS has dedicated teams to generate behind-the-scenes content from competition venues, Olympic Villages and select locations outside of the closed loop. OBS also generates content with smartphones, providing short video clips from the athlete-only areas that will be available almost instantly to the rights-holding broadcasters’ social media teams.
She says between 7,000 and 8,000 clips should be produced to help improve and complete the RHB coverage. Distributed via a user-friendly web portal, in three different resolutions, this short form content will be accessible by the RHBs’ digital and social media teams from anywhere in the world.
“For Beijing 2022, OBS has built a new integrated and agile editing feature, which allows RHBs to create sub clips from any content, allowing them to create their video content with optimal length for each platform,” she adds. “In addition, OBS produced quick clips of all sports, giving broadcasters quick and effortless access to highlight content. OBS will create over 340 sports highlight clips for RHB’s digital teams to post on social media in a timely manner.
Reliable, high-quality live web streaming and end-to-end video-on-demand solutions will also be provided to support broadcasters’ cross-platform strategies through the OVP suite.
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The Beijing Games also saw OBS improve the quality of production tools that create a more immersive broadcast experience. Kim Erdahl, OBS, Senior Graphics Managersaid 10 multi-camera replay systems (up from 4 in 2018) to provide replays of the action from multiple angles, allowing fans to see the action up close, from different angles, and experience Olympic winter sports more attractively, have been expanded.
Powered by a myriad of high-speed 4K cameras, Multi-Camera Replay technology provides the ability to move through the action at any time and watch it from different angles, in near real time. “Also, the replay can be interrupted at different points in the movement,” she says. “The effect is similar to action scenes from ‘The Matrix’ where the camera appears to pan 360 degrees around the lead actor as he floats in the air or dodges a bullet.
“For example, at the National Ski Jumping Center in Zhangjiakou, such a camera system will be installed near the end of the take-off ramp to capture the first seconds of the ski jumper’s flight,” she said. “Multi-camera replays will allow viewers to better understand how athletes use their bodies to control the jump, by having the ability to view it from multiple angles.”
The total number of 4K cameras varies from venue to venue (up to 120 cameras at Ice Hockey venues). They will be placed in selected locations for optimal viewing without obstruction. Distributed at regular intervals on a drilling structure, each camera is mounted on a robotic platform capable of precisely panning and tilting the camera in any direction. The camera’s zoom, focus, and pan and tilt capabilities are controlled from the production unit. For each replay, a single operator selects the point where the movement is frozen and can manipulate the replay from side to side around the athlete, as well as zoom without losing resolution (thanks to 4K resolution).
Because the system simply stitches these streams together and doesn’t have to create filler frames virtually, no rendering is required, allowing multi-camera replay clips to be ready in less than five seconds. For curling and speed skating, OBS has teamed up with global TOP partner Alibaba to use its industry-leading cloud solution to seamlessly stream multi-camera replays. This is the first time that OBS will rely on a cloud-based workflow for replays. All images captured by the network of cameras installed at these two sites will be sent to an edge server and reconstructed in Alibaba Cloud to generate the replay clips. These will be converted to 4K in the cloud before being sent back to the production unit within the grounds of the site.
The use of 2D image tracking, successfully introduced at Tokyo 2020, (for coverage of athletic marathons and walks, road cycling and mountain biking, water marathon swimming, triathlon, sprint canoeing and rowing) is also used this year. OBS will again use 2D image tracking technology (also known as “athlete pinning”) in Beijing, for all biathlon and cross-country events. This will help commentators and viewers follow the athletes’ position in real time throughout the event.
“Compared to other live athlete tracking solutions that rely on GPS positioning or wireless equipment, 2D Image Tracking is based on advanced image processing technology that enables movement tracking “, explains Erdahl. “A ‘patch’ (a square) is defined on selected video images in order to identify each of the athletes. The computer then creates a “tag” which is attached to each of the identified athletes and which will be retained even when the image changes. This captured data is then made available to a graphics rendering platform for on-screen presentation to viewers, letting them know the exact location of the athletes/groups.
Additional data captured using more traditional GPS positioning can be combined with the ‘tags’ to identify athletes, their speed, distance to go or relative position to the leader.
Live speed measurement during downhill skiing also made a big difference to viewers. OBS has teamed up with global partner TOP OMEGA to extend live speed measurement for downhill events on the fastest sections of the course, allowing audiences around the world to get a glimpse of the amazing speeds achieved by the Olympic skiers.
“The measurement of speed in the coverage of alpine skiing events was introduced as part of the Sochi 2014 television graphics,” Erdahl explains. “However, until now, speed was measured from a very precise position and limited to snapshots, or a few seconds of data. This was due to the limited sensor coverage available.
OMEGA has deployed a host of newly developed antennas with increased reception capability that allow more data to be captured over a much larger portion of the downhill course. Using such technology will also ensure better overall speed measurement in terms of accuracy and frequency of updates.
In conjunction with OMEGA, OBS also offers commentators additional jump data for certain sports/disciplines, providing new levels of jump analysis.
“Incredible motion sensors and computer vision analysis will help capture real-time data such as speed, height, length, duration, angles of skis,” Erdahl says.
Finally, OMEGA has also played a role in sports analytics for curling by introducing visualization of rock trajectories and new metrics.
“A virtual aerial camera will allow unhindered analysis of the position of the stones, the points of contact, the trajectory and the distance between the stones
one sheet at a time,” says Erdahl.