NBC Olympics

NBC is using ScheduALL’s innovative Enterprise Resource Management (ERM) solution to schedule and manage feeds.

Abstract

For its third consecutive Olympic broadcast, NBC is using ScheduALL’s innovative Enterprise Resource Management (ERM) solution to schedule and manage feeds — representing more than 3,600 hours of coverage — for the network’s coverage of the Olympic Games in Beijing.

Introduction

As the exclusive media rights holder to the Olympic Games through 2012, NBC has rightfully earned the title of “America’s Olympic Network.” In August 2004, NBC offered a record 1,210 hours of Olympics coverage from Athens, with more than 203 million viewers tuning in to watch live prime time sporting events on NBC Universal networks including NBC, MSNBC, CNBC, USA, Bravo, Telemundo, and HD affiliates.

During the 2008 Beijing Olympics, the broadcasting logistics for NBC have been far more complex than previous Games. With more than 3,600 hours of coverage planned, more than the total hours for every summer Olympics ever televised in the United States, the Beijing Olympics represent the most ambitious single media project in history. Also, for the first time in the United States, NBC will provide live streaming video coverage of events over broadband outlets including Web sites and cell phones.

In order to help manage the logistical challenges of such a massive media undertaking, NBC Olympics turned to ScheduALL, the leading provider of broadcast ERM software. For the third consecutive NBC Olympics broadcast, ScheduALL is being used to schedule and manage the ingest and distribution of all video feeds across a wide array of broadcast and broadband media outlets.

“ScheduALL is an integral part of this content platform and is critical to our success.”

Situation Analysis

The complexity of NBC’s production environment is best expressed in the numbers. Each of the 31 Olympic venues located in and around Beijing has its own production facility responsible for numerous camera positions, which will provide hundreds of feeds that will be processed and delivered to air over the course of the games. The video components of each feed — its location on the router, its satellite assignment, whether it will be recorded or broadcast live — must be scheduled, tracked and managed. NBC Olympics will be providing feeds for up to 48 HD broadcasts and will be supplying up to 42 streaming encoders with content for live and on-demand Webcasting.

Prior to its first ScheduALL implementation for the Athens Olympic Games in 2004, NBC relied on a manual process for managing and scheduling feeds. “Even in those days, sharing information and tracking the different components of a broadcast had become very burdensome. Now that we’re repurposing huge volumes of content for broadband streaming, in addition to providing 24-hour broadcasts from any number of our networks, we have far too many feeds to handle manually,” said Errol Foremaster, Vice President of Engineering Operations for NBC Olympics. “In such a high-pressure situation, we have no margin for error — so we can’t afford not to choose the absolute best-of-the-best technology solutions that work flawlessly and effectively. That’s why we continue to partner with ScheduALL.”

The ScheduALL Solution

As the broadcast industry’s leading workflow and ERM solution, ScheduALL is designed to support complex news and sporting event operations, as well as production and transmission workflows. The software’s intuitive user interface and adaptive framework saves administrators time and effort by providing heightened project visibility. ScheduALL connects workgroups, enhances communications, minimizes duplication of effort and reduces human error.

At NBC, ScheduALL is a key component of a comprehensive digital asset media solution, currently in implementation, that will manage all video feeds and streaming encoders for transmitting Olympic content. Sitting at the core of this media environment, ScheduALL captures and manages critical information, such as start and stop times for each event, video router assignments and satellite uplink scheduling, and then passes this information automatically to downstream systems to facilitate on-air coverage for each feed. In addition, ScheduALL generates reports with scheduling and resource allocation data that can be easily accessed worldwide by personnel in NBC’s Beijing operations center, as well as in the company’s central broadcasting facility at 30 Rockefeller Plaza in New York City.

Coordinating Resources Halfway Across the Globe

In the months leading up to the Olympics, NBC has operated ScheduALL on a test environment in New York. There, ScheduALL played a key role in live coverage of U.S. Olympic trials events such as swimming and track and field. Next, the ScheduALL database will be replicated to the Beijing operations center to facilitate faster access from both locations and to provide redundancy.

An important component of the system is NBC’s “highlights factory,” a digital asset management system enabling engineers to mirror low- and high-resolution video between New York and Beijing. This more effectively leverages the home facility in New York, where editing facilities are dedicated to Olympics production work. “Our video editors in New York can do shot selections on materials as they’re being recorded, based on low-resolution versions. That way, the only high-resolution versions we have to transfer to New York are the ones they’ve selected for editing, which cuts down on our network overhead. It also keeps us from having to build edit facilities in Beijing,” said Craig Lau, Vice President of IT for NBC Olympics. “This would be difficult to accomplish without ScheduALL, which lets us share information and book editing resources across time zones and across our production community at large. The result is a significant savings of time and cost.”

A Winning Formula

ScheduALL’s graphic view of all resources, facilities and schedules has been a boon to NBC’s ability to manage production for the Beijing Olympics. “ScheduALL provides a graphical means for us to track, schedule and manage people, resources and equipment across multiple time zones in a highly complex, constantly changing environment,” said Lau. “The more you can give your team members a graphic view across time zones, equipment, satellite bookings and other resources, the more efficient they’ll be with fewer opportunities for errors.”

“Our goal is to build an integrated content platform that facilitates ingest, storage, transport, production and playout of live video for all Olympics events. In this situation, when you only have 17 days to process the equivalent of eight days of footage every day, the task would be nearly impossible in a tape-based environment,” Lau added. “ScheduALL is an integral part of this content platform and is critical to our success.”

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