From starting gun to smartphone: delivering the Olympics to your device
Head of Product
Now that we're well into the Games, it's thrilling to see that concept become reality, as huge numbers of people watch and interact with events online at the BBC Sport website, on mobile and tablet, and on connected TV. We're breaking digital audiences records every day.
At the end of last week, I talked about the trends in multi-platform viewing behaviour that we're observing as this mass of data flows in. Today I want to explain a bit more about how our interactive coverage gets from the event itself to the device at your fingertips, wherever it is around the country that you are watching.
It's a fascinating process that begins with a camera capturing the action, and finishes with a complex mix of video and data brought together on your device.
The image above illustrates what happens in between, in the background, as audiences watch the final of the Women's Individual Cycling Sprint this afternoon.
The trip from the velodrome to your device is really two parallel processes, which we bring together at the end to deliver our live Olympics streaming experience across multiple platforms. Desktop audiences enjoy the full interactive video offering, but we have ensured all 24 streams of coverage are available to audiences on all four screens (PC, mobile, tablet and connected TV) as well as Red Button.
The BBC's gallery at the International Broadcast Centre in Stratford
When the event starts, cameras filming trackside send their video coverage via the BBC's gallery at the International Broadcast Centre in Stratford to BBC Sport's new production HQ in Salford, where it is prepared for different devices. This encoded video is then sent to our content distribution network (CDN) ready to be delivered to audiences.
At the same time, a whole host of data about the event is being sent by Olympics Broadcasting Services (OBS) to our database. Key event stats, schedule information, and highlights logged by trackside observers all flow into our content store. We also have a team of loggers in Salford who augment that data to make sure all the key moments are marked - concentrating on the Team GB athletes.
Video and data together
At the end of this process, the video and the data come together to deliver the full BBC Olympics live interactive video experience.
Video is loaded into the player, which figures out which event is playing and displays the appropriate data from the database (brought to audiences in the Extras panel at the bottom right of the player when you watch on desktop).
Schedule information enables us to provide info about which events are live now and who is currently competing (surfaced in the "Olympics Live" data panel of the desktop player).
As the cycling progresses, the logged events sent in from OBS enable us to create chapter markers, so audiences watching on PC can instantly rewind back to the key moments they might have missed, or want to watch again.
This is, of course, a simplified version of the journey from starting gun to smartphone: Oliver Barlett and David Rogers have gone into more technical detail about how we use the OBS data and how it flows through the system. Senior Technical Architect Matthew Clark is also preparing a blog post with more technical detail about the end-to-end delivery chain.
It's important to emphasise that this is a collaborative endeavour, one that relies on the BBC harnessing the expertise of a number of partners from across the broadcast and technology industry - from OBS to the CDNs, they all play a vital role in this journey.
Hopefully it goes some way to illustrating how many incredible processes have occurred in the background, as you press play and prepare to watch Victoria Pendleton go for gold.
Cait O'Riordan is the Head of Product, BBC Sport and London 2012