Behind the HDTV Scenes at the 2008 Summer Olympics
By Andrew Eisner
The 2008 Summer Olympics opening ceremony on August 8, 2008 is a few weeks away. As we recommended in other reports, we think you should stay at home, save gas, and watch HDTV. NBC has promised to make this Olympics a high-def extravaganza using over 1,000 HD cameras to create thousands of hours of high-def programming. All swimming finals and some of men’s and women’s gymnastics and beach volleyball will all be televised live in prime time. In addition to NBC, NBCU cable networks CNBC, USA, MSNBC, CNBC and Oxygen will also televise Olympic events.
Slo-motion in High Definition
Contributing to the high-def experience, will be high speed, high definition cameras named the Fastcam SA1 from San Diego-based Photron which is integrated into a new imaging system called SprintCam V2 from i-Movix, of Mons, Belgium.
The SprintCam Live 2 HDTV cameras will be recording high definition images at 5,400 frames per second which will be available for immediate slow-motion replay. Photron boasts the FastCam SA1 records high speed action with precision imagery, has excellent color fidelity, great light sensitivity, and offers microsecond global shuttering.
Sounds of the Olympics in 5.1 Channel Audio
Adding to the high-def experience, NBC has selected five Calrec Omega with Bluefin consoles as part of its coverage of the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing. "This is the first time the games will be produced totally in high definition with 5.1 discrete channels of audio," said Bob Dixon, NBC's Director of Sound Design and Communication.
Dixon added, "Our new Calrecs will give us the ability to address all six channels at once, or divide them up quickly and easily so we can address the delay on the surround channels separately, or the EQ on the center channel only. This is exactly the kind of quick flexibility an operator mixing a live event in Surround needs."
Sony HD Cameras Going to Beijing
NBC Universal will use Sony XDCAM HD systems as its primary ENG (electronic news gathering) source. The Sony XDCAM series has been around since 2004. The Sony PDW-700 uses big 2/3 inch CCDs to records 1080i or 720p high quality, MPEG HD422 video on 50 GB optical discs. NBC will also be using Sony’s companion PDW-HD1500 decks.
According to TVTechnology.com, “NBC crews will use the Sony camcorders to record athlete arrivals, interviews, press conferences and any other assignments that require portable recording and capture. NBCU’s Telemundo network will also use PDW-700 camcorders at its stand-up location overlooking the Olympic Stadium.”
The Olympics on Windows Media Center
Wavepress’ TVTonic will put high quality video of the Summer Olympics on your Windows Media Center. Users will be able to subscribe to their favorite sports and then watch the events on any Windows Vista Ultimate or Home Premium PC.
“This service will provide a fantastic viewing experience for Olympic fans with Windows Vista Media Center,” said Wavexpress President Michael Sprague. “They can choose their favorite sports, from diving to water polo to gymnastics, and extended coverage is automatically synchronized to their PC in the middle of the night.”
Motorized HD Cameras
Camera Corps of Shepperton, UK-based will have more than 200 HD camera systems including 18 motorized tracking systems, remote heads and large camera cranes.
According to Camera Corps, “The inventory of cameras to be positioned in and around Beijing includes 39 Camera Corps HD MiniZoom, 68 Hitachi, four Iconix and four Toshiba cameras. An Abakus fisheye stadium lens will be installed above the Velodrome at Shi Jing Shan to cover the 250m-circumference cycle track. “
Special HD Olympic Programming
In addition to the thousands of hours of programming that NBC will be generating, other channels like MOJO HD will offer a 10-Part series of high-def profiles exploring the mindsets and motivations of U.S. Olympic athletes, beginning July 28. Experts in each sport will be featured, detailing the psychological and body strength needed to compete including how to overcome injuries and setbacks and how these new competitors compare with previous champions.
How to Buy an HDTV Set For Watching the Olympics
It looks like it's going to be a 1080i experience for the HDTV Summer Olympics and there are many good values in 720p/1080i sets. Although 1080p offers the best future-proof product the process of deciding what to buy can be complicated. Retrevo.com has a unique approach to helping consumers navigate the often difficult path of selecting high tech gear and gadgets.
Retrevo crawls the web for expert and user reviews, applies sophisticated artificial intelligence including clustering, classification, and machine learning along with statistical analysis of large feature sets to come up with a graphical representation of price vs. features called a Value Map.
Each dot on the Value Map represents a product that has been positioned according to "bang for the buck." You can roll over a dot to identify the product and price range and the click on the dot for detailed information including manuals, reviews, and manufacturer's information.
A "thumbs up" or "thumbs down" representation indicates whether Retrevo's analysis engine thinks the product is a good value or not and also indicates the aggregated summation of expert and user reviews.
Retrevo crawls the web looking for reviews from experts and users and then summarizes the ratings. For example, this LCD TV got an average rating from amazon.com reviewers of 4.0 out of 5.
More Ways to Save Gas
For more ideas on how to save gas this summer and beyond check out these tips from Retrevo. Drive carefully this summer or better yet don't drive and watch HDTV.
Retrevo For Manuals and Reviews