In the comfort of homes, in the secrecy of office cubicles, and together with friends in restaurants and public locations, fans are enjoying the spectacle of the 2012 London Olympics. The human drama – of both victory and defeat – never ceases to amaze fans worldwide. We turn on the television, computers or mobile devices, and the magic of the Olympics is at our fingertips. Tape-delayed, archived historical footage and real-time live events enthrall and entertain us.

But how are these images technically delivered to our homes and offices?

When you are watching the Olympics, it seems like a seamless and singular process,” explained Shujaat Ali, director of digital services at NBC to IEEE Spectrum. “But there are hundreds of pieces that have to work together.”

The first step is for the Olympic Broadcasting Services to film the events in high definition. In total, the Olympic Broadcasting Services will shoot 5,600 hours of footage using over 1,000 high-definition cameras. Some of the events are shot in Super Hi-vision, a next-generation TV format that provides greater clarity and resolution than high-definition. Other events like synchronized diving and gymnastics are shot in 3-D.

Then the raw data of hundreds of gigabits per second flows through an optic fiber network to the International Broadcast Centre inside Olympic Park in London.

From that point, the Olympic Broadcasting Services transmits live streams of the events and programming of the races by satellite to broadcasters worldwide. Thousands of engineers, technicians and producers from 148 broadcasters work on the world’s largest broadcasting effort in history.

Broadcasters in each country (e.g., NBC in the United States) receive the uncompressed data in both TV broadcast and Internet Protocol formats. From there, broadcasters can deliver the content via television or over the Internet.

Broadcasters convert the broadcast streams to both high- and low-resolution video files for editing purposes. The high-resolution data is edited for broadcast-quality programming and highlight clips for television viewers.

For Internet viewing, the Internet Protocol content is streamed to Google’s YouTube in the United States. YouTube then distributes the streams live over its network. The data is stored within the network where highlight clips are produced and a YouTube player on pulls the data from the stored data. This stored data is streamed to authorized viewers.

And voilà … we watch the Olympics, live or archived.

Photo shows 2008 Olympic medalists Keri-Anne Payne and Cassie Patten after the Olympic marathon swimming 10km.

Copyright © 2012 by Open Water Source


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