NBC is producing a lot of content for their coverage of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. Like, a real lot. About 1,539 hours of footage over their 18 days of coverage. That’s an incredible 64 days-worth of footage. As a frame of reference, ABC produced 43-1/2 hours of content for their coverage of the 1976 Winter Games in Austria. Obviously technology has come a long way since 1976, so let’s take a look at exactly how NBC is able to accomplish this feat in Sochi.
- NBC has production teams working around the clock at their home base in Stamford, CT and at their broadcast center in Sochi. Both locations are connected with large fiber and data pipes, which allows content to be shared between both locations quickly and seamlessly. This is the first time that NBC has connected production venues in this manner.
- NBC is using server and media assets tools developed by AVID, EVS and Harmonic. They’re also utilizing a file-transfer platform – FileCatalyst – that allows production teams in both locations to search for clips and send files back and forth across the Atlantic all via Level 3 circuits. During NBC’s coverage of the Summer Games in 2012, they kept a separate media-asset platform in Stamford and in London.
- Personnel in Stamford, CT are logging all NBC footage and tagging it using metadata. This allows production staff in Sochi to search for clips or files by typing in key words. The metadata contains information about when an event started, who competed and who won. It can even be as specific and descriptive as “an athlete hugged his mom” or “an athlete fist bumped a teammate”.
- NBC’s Olympic production center overseas is using 41 AVID edit suites and 4 EVS playback machines to pull logged content from Stamford using metadata and begin editing. The AVID systems can hold 288 TB of data while the EVS machines can hold 85 TB. In Stamford, NBC has over 5.5 PB of archived footage (PB stands for petabyte, which equals 1,024 TB. Seriously. I had to look this up).
- NBC has a staff of about 300 people in Stamford alone who work on everything from logging footage to producing original programming like “Olympic Ice”, a daily studio show covering Olympic ice hockey that streams to the NBCOlympics.com website.
- Much of the camera and event work is handled by Olympic Broadcasting Services (OBS), a group founded by the International Olympic Committee in 2001 that is responsible for host broadcasting. This allows NBC to spend more time focusing on editing and building packages.
When you understand exactly what’s involved in NBC’s coverage you really gain a great deal of respect for the magnitude of this undertaking.