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Gearing Up for an AV-intensive Olympiad

Jan 11, 2007 8:00 AM, By John McKeon


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Citius, altius, fortius—Faster, higher, stronger.

Those three words have been the motto of the Olympic games since the modern version of the games began in 1896. In the recent past, though, as broadcast and multimedia technologies have become more and more central to the games, it has seemed a couple of additional words might be added.

Perhaps, lucidius, clarius, citius. Brighter, clearer, and...well, faster again.

The upcoming 2008 Olympic games in Beijing, China, are nearly 20 months away, but they already shaping up as the most sophisticated to date in terms of communications and staging technologies.

The Beijing Organizing Committee for the Olympic Games (BOCOG) is working from a master plan that includes an entire section devoted to “the digital Olympics.” One of the committee’s goals, the document says, is to “make good use of such means as digital TV and broadcast, computer networks, mobile telecom facilities and telephones to ensure by and large that anybody at any time and in any place related to the Olympics can enjoy in a secure, convenient, swift and efficient manner the information service that is affordable, diversified, multi-linguistically intellectualized and individualized.”

This vision includes plans for “information kiosks within easy reach of ordinary people, satellite-positioning (directional) system, (and) giant-screen systems at public places.”

The Games will be a vast undertaking, spread among 37 venues, 32 in Beijing and five in other parts of China. The Beijing government plans to build 19 new facilities, as well as renovate more than a dozen others. The total tab for construction and other infrastructure investment is expected to top US$23 billion, according to the U.S. Commerce Department’s foreign trade statistics service. Commerce also estimates the bill for audio systems alone will be more than US$200 million.

China says its Olympic business will be open to bidders from other nations, and many U.S. firms, particularly manufacturers, are already deeply involved. Panasonic, for instance, has provided cameras, studio equipment, monitors, and other necessities for Olympic broadcasting for many years. The company has recently announced a new agreement to supply the Beijing Olympic Broadcasting Company with a wide range of equipment.

That will add up to quite a few truckloads. Last time around, in Athens, Panasonic provided more than 2,000 TV monitors, 400 digital VTRs, and countless DVCPRO cameras.

Avitech has announced that Beijing Olympic Broadcasting is integrating its MCC Multiviewer image display processors into a series of outdoor broadcasting vans, each of which will also include 14 Grass Valley LDK6000 cameras, a Jupiter control system, and other components.

The opening and closing ceremonies, of course, are typically media-driven extravaganzas. Although BOCOG has released very little information about its plans, it did extensively publicize the fact that many of its top officials pronounced themselves very impressed with the ceremonies at last summer’s Asian Games in Doha, Qatar.

Those ceremonies, BOCOG says, included “PIGI projection, AV projections, and imagery on the largest LED screen in the world. Sensitive as well as dramatic lighting merged these disparate elements into one picture. And the ceremony featured a broad range of lighting equipment, all of which are latest technology.”

Puyallup, Wash.-based McCauley Sound had the audio contract for the Athens ceremonies and designed a massive system that included 16 line array clusters, together with additional subwoofers and other speakers, driven by more than 200 amplifiers.

Because the Olympic venues are so widely scattered and high-definition video will be a given, the Beijing organizers will once again rely on fiber-optic connections to move video and other data around. An enormous data carrying and display capability will be required just to serve the more than 20,000 international news media representatives expected to cover the games.

The games will also have more of a “mobile” dimension than any previous gathering. For example, the commercial rollout of Digital Multimedia Broadcast (DMB) is expected before August 2008, with the promise of allowing people to watch the games on mobile phones. China is planning a trial of the technology in 2007, with commercial deployment to follow.



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