Olympic Games coverage: HD, robotic cameras and 3D

The BBC has unveiled its "Stadium UK" title sequence and marketing campaign for the London 2012 Olympics. The campaign shows the landscape of the United Kingdom transformed into a giant sporting arena inside the Olympic Stadium. The BBC is the official broadcaster of the London 2012 Olympic Games in the UK

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Somewhere beneath the streets of London, four miles of fibre optic cables linking the Olympic Park to the BBC's Television Centre lie in darkness.

But when the Olympic opening ceremony starts on 27 July, data will flash through them as they transmit the highest definition pictures Olympic coverage has ever seen.

Technology has come a long way since the last Olympics in London in 1948, broadcast in black and white.

The cables will carry ultra-high definition video, which at a resolution of 7680x4320 is an astonishing 16 times the quality of HD television.

The video technology was developed and supplied by Japanese broadcaster NHK, and is known as Super Hi-Vision.

London 2012 - Begin your journey here

London view

It will be sent to the world's first ultra-high definition production centre at the BBC, and then over high-speed data networks to four giant screens around Britain, two in Japan and one in the United States.

"When you see this type of ultra-high definition television, it's just like looking though a glass window," said Tim Plyming, the BBC's Super Hi-Vision project leader.

"This is the highest definition that the human eye can understand - it's the end of the story in terms of resolution."

Going 3D

But with only a handful of screens around the world capable of displaying ultra-high definition pictures, an estimated 4.8 billion sports fans will be turning to their televisions, computers, or mobile devices to catch the Olympic action.

BBC video service

London 2012 will be the first Olympics to feature live 3D television broadcasts, and 33 "true 3D" cameras will be used to capture more than 230 hours of 3D coverage.

Start Quote

For moments involving British athletes, or major games moments, we have planned for a doubling of streaming capacity over the highest we have ever needed before”

End Quote Phil Fearnley BBC Future Media

The BBC will broadcast the opening and closing ceremonies and the men's 100m final in 3D, and pan-European broadcaster Eurosport will also be providing 3D coverage.

The BBC will broadcast more than 2,500 hours (equivalent to almost four months) of high definition television over the 17-day period, covering every sport, from every venue, on every day.

To squeeze it all in, the corporation will use 24 Olympic channels, which will be available via the BBC Red Button or channel numbers in the electronic programme guides on cable and satellite services.

The same 24 television channels will also be available as 24 high definition online streams, tailored for viewing on connected TVs, PCs, tablets and mobile phones, and the BBC expects online viewing figures will be the highest ever.

SHV camera Super Hi-Vision video equipment was developed and supplied by Japanese broadcaster NHK

"For moments involving British athletes, or major games moments, we have planned for a doubling of streaming capacity over the highest we have ever needed before," says Phil Fearnley, BBC Future Media's general manager.

The BBC has recently introduced a new video delivery technology called "chunked streaming " which makes it possible for a viewer joining halfway through an event to "rewind" the stream back to the start.

This technology will feature in the BBC's new Live Interactive Video Player, which is being introduced specially for the Olympics on its website.

It allows visitors to switch between the 24 live streams instantly, rewind to earlier parts of the action, receive alerts about big moments on other channels ("Tom Daley is diving now!"), and access real-time statistics and information about individual athletes or events.

"This is a knockout piece of technology," says Mr Fearnley.

Next-generation video coverage

  • Brings live HD video coverage to the desktop
  • Enables audiences to switch between 24 simultaneous live streams effortlessly
  • Gives the option to rewind live coverage, for audiences who missed the start of the action
  • Provides chapter markers, enabling simple navigation to those key moments within a session (e.g. the gold medal winning dive)
  • Offers relevant live data, statistics and information, while viewers are watching, in a seamless and unobtrusive way
Mobile experience

For mobile users, a mobile site will mirror much of the desktop experience, adapted to the size of their device's screen.

Apple and Android users will also be able to access the 24 live video streams and highlights.

BBC Olympics apps for Apple and Android smartphones will include all the features available on the mobile browser site, plus the ability to read content even when disconnected from the internet.

There is also a BBC Sport app for Virgin Media's TiVo service, Sony, Panasonic and Samsung internet-connected televisions and Sony's PlayStation games console, which allows viewers to watch online streams, on demand highlights and news headlines on their TVs.

Around the globe

The BBC's streams are only available in the United Kingdom, but viewers elsewhere in the world will be turning to other sources of online coverage.

Screengrab of Getty Images Getty Images, the official photo agency of London 2012, expects to shoot more than one million pictures during the Games

In the US, NBC will be adding to its broadcast and cable television coverage with streamed content delivered using technology provided by YouTube, and the International Olympic Committee plans to provide a live stream to sports fans in 64 countries across Africa and Asia using its own dedicated YouTube channel.

No Olympics would be complete without photographic imagery - and Getty Images, the official photographic agency, expects to shoot more than one million pictures during the games.

Start Quote

From the moment an athlete crosses a finishing line, a photograph will arrive at a newspaper as far away as Australia in about 180 seconds”

End Quote Ken Mainardis Getty Images

These will include 3D images - an Olympic first - and high resolution 360 degree panoramic photographs.

Some of London's Olympic venues, including Wembley and Excel, do not provide photographers with ideal vantage points, according to Getty Images' Ken Mainardis.

To get around this problem, Getty is pioneering the use of robotic cameras installed in the roofs of these buildings.

Photographers up to 200m away can see each camera's view on a laptop screen, adjust the camera settings using software running on a laptop, and move the camera and take photographs using a joystick.

Back in 1948, it took hours just to get photographs developed, but Mr Mainardis says fibre optic networks allow the best Olympic pictures to be made available across the globe in minutes.

"From the moment an athlete crosses a finishing line, a photograph will arrive at a newspaper as far away as Australia in about 180 seconds," he says.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 286.

    Technology amazing!


  • rate this

    Comment number 285.

    I see this is a hugely popular topic for discussion. As many have already said the Olympics are so over hyped that most of us are sick of it already. I really enjoy watching many sports and participating in some however, we have been bomarded with so much info most of us have had enough already. If we don't win the projected 94 medals will that be a subject for discussion on HYS? Thought not!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 284.

    Expensive 3D camera technology... robotic coverage... even missiles on peoples rooftops... these Olympics will surly go down in history as typically English... crazy, dangerous, very scary but above all... typically decadent. Seb... what on earth was you thinking lad?

  • rate this

    Comment number 283.

    For those of you interested in the Olympics, I hope you enjoy it. I'm afraid I'm dreading it. I have to travel in and out of central London every working day. It's going to be a real nightmare for those of us who work there. Added to that the very high probability of some sort of terrorist attack - if they can't get to the games it will be 7/7 all over again - and perhaps you can understand why!

  • rate this

    Comment number 282.

    27 Minutes ago
    The last time I stared at a TV scene in rapt attention was the moon landing in 1969.

    ....... Ahh but the difference is that the Olympics are real - was the moon landing? I have serious doubts.

  • rate this

    Comment number 281.

    As a 3D fan Im looking forward to 3D coverage of the olympics. For Those that are not a fan Im sure there will also be 2D coverage of the same events. The price of a 3D tv is now affordable for most people. I bought my second set last week for £250 for a new 32inch 3D telly, much more affordable that it was even 6 months ago. 3D is the future of TV and Im looking forward to loads of new content

  • rate this

    Comment number 280.

    High def, robotic cameras, 3D, fibre optic cables; it'll be an all-singing, all-dancing Olympics.....then the BBC can go straight back to its usual menu of repeats, Eastenders and reality dross.

    Yes, I really can't wait to see Dad's Army wheeled out again for the umpteenth time; it really makes my TV Tax worthwhile.

  • rate this

    Comment number 279.

    163.maximus Actually maximus I am less than easily pleased, the true fact that I pay a TV licence is so I can watch Sky, truth be told if I had the choice I would cancel the BBC service to my house and not pay the licence. However finally there will be something on the BBC worthwile watching is my point.What impact does the commercial side have on me or you actually watching the olympic events?

  • rate this

    Comment number 278.

    3d & HD aside do something about the inane commentary.

    Get the numpties who do it to stand by a War Memorial in the rain for a few hours before they squeal with delight when someone shaves 0.001 of a second off the record for cycling round in circles like a big soft kid.

  • rate this

    Comment number 277.

    How dare the BBC waste public money on 3D and HD, surely we should learn of these events through the daily press coverage and not rely on whimsical technology to inform the masses!

  • rate this

    Comment number 276.

    I'd prefer to go to the Olympics but wear special 2D glasses to reinact the experience of actually watching it at home.

  • rate this

    Comment number 275.

    Home 3D has moved on. It is now at cinema quality if you can afford the appropriate screen and smart glasses.

    You can always argue that such technology is a waste of time and money. I recall the same arguments about colour TV. However, we would never progress if someone didn't pioneer, at great expense. No doubt 3D will eventually be glasses and headache-free. Ordinary HD will become old hat.

  • rate this

    Comment number 274.

    I have not seen 3D TV so I can't comment on that but I have HD TV and I'm unable to tell the difference between HD and normal TV. Maybe my hardware is not up to it, but best wishes to the people who can see the benefit of HD TV.

  • rate this

    Comment number 273.

    254. Flankerman
    I'm really looking forwards to the Olympics and no one does it better than the BBC but please no Gary Lineker. He's just so insipid and makes too many mistakes.
    I'm looking forward to Gary's coverage of the walkers.

  • rate this

    Comment number 272.

    The last time I stared at a TV scene in rapt attention was the moon landing in 1969.

    That was in the School library with about 200 other people, on an old black and white set one of the teachers bought in.

    I rather doubt Beach Volleyball in 3d will come close.

    In the great scheme of things is an Olympic record really that significant?

  • rate this

    Comment number 271.

    I think the BB are right to try and push the technology, if nobody had tried anything new we would be watching the olympics in black and white. What I am annoyed about is all the tickets that suddenly are unsold, I applied for about 20 tickets in the ballot but got none only to find there are many available now it is too late to make travel plans and days off work.

  • rate this

    Comment number 270.

    Wouldn't it be a phenomenal success if we could watch the Olympics in 3D! We'd be there! Wouldn't it be a phenomenal success if we could watch the news in 3D! We'd be there! Have you got your taste buds back already?

  • rate this

    Comment number 269.

    As a special thank you, to all who are paying for this extravaganza, the beeb and the government are clubbing together to give every home in the country a HD/3D tv.
    Cheaper than giving us tickets, apparently.

  • rate this

    Comment number 268.

    Don`t have a 3d tv and will not get one until I can watch it without glasses and when the price is reasonable, so, I am guessing this is a few years away. So in the meantime why can`t the beeb broadcast 3D that I can watch on my normal telly with a pair of the cardboard/colored lens specs we used to use and then everyone can try it out?

  • rate this

    Comment number 267.

    We are where we are on Olympics. The public anger of waste and incompetence is palpable while this government enforce cuts/privatisation of essential public services such as NHS, police and armed services.

    Yet this Condemnation government call on highly skilled and trained public services to pick up the pieces of a private company.

    Bad language not allowed on HYS. £billions of cuts bleeps ok?


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