High-tech TV tips for a fanless Tokyo Olympics
There will be no fans in the stands and less media on the pitch, so when it comes to covering the Tokyo Olympics, broadcasters rely on technology to give viewers a more vivid experience.
After the coronavirus pandemic forced the Games to be postponed by one year in 2020, many broadcasters returned to the drawing board in their coverage plans.
Olympic Broadcasting Services has been in charge of filming and broadcasting the Games since 2008, but there has never been one like this.
“The main commitment after the postponement (was) that we would not reduce the scope of what we do at all,” said OBS CEO Yiannis Exarchos.
In fact, OBS crews plan to shoot around 9,500 hours of Olympic footage in Tokyo 2020, 30% more than in Rio in 2016.
The images will be distributed to television stations around the world which have broadcasting rights.
Olympic broadcasts have come a long way since the first Televised Games in Berlin in 1936, when three cameras captured footage that was transmitted to an audience just a few miles away.
Broadcasters now promise viewers an enriched experience with a range of new technologies.
Among them is 3D Athlete-Tracking, a system used by OBS that takes images from multiple cameras and combines them using artificial intelligence to show athletic action from all angles.
“Take the 100 meters… you can go back after a few seconds and recreate the whole run by identifying the different peaks or speeds,” Exarchos said.
“You are starting to understand how such a fast race really went,” he said.
“It provides additional color for commentators, but especially for viewers, helps to really understand what is going on behind these incredible performances.”
For the first time, OBS will film the entire Games in ultra high definition (4K).
And Japanese viewers with the latest TVs will even be able to watch in 8K.
Japanese national broadcaster NHK is a leader in the field and will use cameras that have only recently been developed.
“One of the strengths of 8K is that it displays the details of how bodies move with unprecedented detail on the screen,” said Takayuki Yamashita, of NHK’s Technology Research Center.
But Laurent-Eric Le Lay, sports director of the French national channel France Televisions warned against a “race of” K “.
France Télévisions’ innovations for the Games include visual effects that will make the studio appear to be floating on Tokyo Bay.
“We are creating a virtual glass bubble through which viewers will see the most beautiful buildings in Tokyo. There is a lot of work to be done to bring this set to life.
And there are specific techniques in place to make up for the lack of spectators at Games where organizers have banned nearly all fans due to strict anti-virus rules.
OBS used recordings from previous Games to create ambient sound suitable for each sport for use during competition.
Spectator-deprived athletes will also be able to see fans cheering on them via screens in venues that will display mosaics of selfie videos sent from around the world.
And some will be able to briefly talk to their families on video screens at the end of their competition, but only for 90 seconds. Although there is a video of their cheering parents, there will be no sound.
Strict virus measures have forced many domestic broadcasters to send smaller teams to Japan and manage technical operations in their home countries.
France Télévisions has reduced its team from 210 in Rio to 180, in part because OBS’s adoption of IP and Cloud technology allows large files to be processed remotely.
But some things, especially athlete interviews, can’t be done remotely, Le Lay said.
“I think for French viewers it is important that we are on the pitch and not in Paris trying to talk to the athletes on Skype.”
And Exarchos says technology can’t do it all.
“It’s technology in the service of storytelling,” he said.
“We love technology and we love sports. But we don’t want to get carried away.