Ultimate live production – OBS at the Olympics

Are you watching the 2016 Summer Olympics from Rio? On satellite or cable TV? Online via various platforms or apps? Even on over-the-air from your local station (CBC in Canada or NBC in the US)? We are too but with extra attention on the broadcast details.

obs capture

Compared to decades ago, the coverage of modern Olympics since 2008, winter or summer, is intense and fully featured. Thanks to CBC here in Canada we get to see many of the events and competitions on TV and via their app. Even some of the unique and niche events such as Women’s 25mm Handgun target shooting. What makes this of interest to us the broadcast infrastructure in place to support this type of coverage. Many of the local/country broadcasters tap into a feed from the Olympic Broadcast Services for the events and then add their own icing on top such as interviews and hosted analysis.

cbc olympics

Use of a ‘pool’ feed is not uncommon for many events such as sports or even from governments. For the hosts this ensures a common and high-quality (hopefully) feed for the event as well as cutting down on the chaos multiple camera/reporting crews onsite can cause. The Olympic Broadcasting Services or OBS coverage is incredible in the management, logistics and variety of media types they produce. And in multiple languages too.

On their website at www.obs.tv (at the time of this writing) you can watch a video of their work at the Sochi Winter Olympics and the London 2012 Summer games. Absolutely incredible. Watch the video all the way through to get the picture. They give out numbers that are huge when it comes to the infrastructure and content they produce. Just imagine how much more there is for the Summer Olympics from Rio. In addition to the OBS team based out of Madrid Spain, they also make use of local crews. They tapped into production talent from across Canada when they broadcast from Vancouver many years ago.


When we produce a live event it comes nowhere near an OBS production (of course) but some of the same rules apply:

Planning – even a simple one camera event requires us to work with our client to determine the  what, when, who, where and how to make this a successful event. We perform a site review before hand and  determine what are the best angles, power and internet access points. Plan, plan, plan. Things can always happen that are a surprise but if the basics are covered then you will have time to deal with the odd problem when it occurs.

Reliability – test everything to make sure it works and then have a backup just in case. Even a $5 battery can bring a huge production to a halt if they go dead at a crucial moment.

Innovation – avoid being generic and look for new ways to produce your video to enhance the viewing experience. Staying on top of the latest in video technology can be costly and the learning curve can be time consuming. Innovation can come in many forms including just changing your angles and adding effects that you wouldn’t normally use. Be creative. If new technology is required, then think about sub-contracting. For instance we use a free-lance drone operator for the times we need that point of view. He’s invested in the gear and knows how to use it. OBS is broadcasting 360′ VR as well this year.

Client relationship – stay connected to the client and ask questions, give answers and keep them in the loop. Connect with the people that matter and work with them to establish a good communication channel. When things change in the schedule or venue, you don’t want to be the last to know.

Lots of content – pre-event, event and post event. In some situations you can help your client promote their event by producing promos which can be used on websites and social media platforms. After the event you can produce features or post-event commentary to add to the experience. OBS produces features, travelogues, interviews and b-roll for broadcasters to insert into their regular programming.

BTW: As we enter into the last week of the Rio Olympics (at the time of this writing) it appears that hardly a moment was missed with all of it being captured in audio, photos and videos. At times it was overwhelming. Thanks to all the camera crews, directors, producers and cable wranglers for the great images from the Rio Olympics.

Then (BBC)
Now (BBC)

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