IBC Conference Saturday: Sports Day

On Saturday at IBC 2012 the main theme around that conference was sports. In the morning it was all about London 2012 and in late afternoon there was a session on the need to change the live production workflow in sports.

Overall, a much better day than the first two days.

There was some insightful comments on the organization of the various broadcast by representative of the BBC, NBC, TV 9 in Australia, NHK and various others… and we also did learn that in their broadcast facility in London NBC had a Starbucks and the BBC had a “kettle”.

Some of the most significant information came for the representatives from the NHK who talked about the experiments of broadcasting U-HD at 8K resolution in the UK, US and Japan. He did point out that the objective of U-HD is to provide an “immersive viewing experience”. To do that, they had only 2 cameras, very few and slow moves and very few cuts. The sound is 22.2 surround and is acquired by one surround microphone… and there is no commentary. This made think that maybe there is a qualitative change with U-HD. The transition between SD and HD didn’t really change the way we produce things, but 8K does. It’s not only a resolution matter it is different quality-wise. Is it a different medium?

We did also watch some 3D footage from the NBC Olympics. It is clear that for the broadcaster 3D was far from a priority and they didn’t give much effort into it. New media was the priority; more not different. The NBC spokesperson said that they had “3rd pick” for the camera spots. Regardless, one thing that did struck me in the NBC footage was the prevalence of graphics (the NBC logo, leaders, timing…) like in 2d. Maybe it’s just me that I found that information incredible invasive and counterproductive. In 3D, like in U-HD, we are trying to create a more immersive experience. We want to audience to be more involve to feel closer to the action. Yet, it seems to me that those graphics breaks that feeling.

This leads me to the last session “The Business Of Live Production – Is Transformation Overdue?” where an impressive panel did discuss how sports production is pretty much being done the same way as 30 years ago with a bunch of trucks, equipment and crew going on-site to cover event. The problem is that now they need to produce more feeds (mobile, 3D, web, broadcast) for less money.

Some are proposing to go to an hybrid model where only cameras, microphones and their operator would be on-site along with the talent and that the rest would be streamed back to a central location where the control would be located along with the graphics and the rest. Most do agree that it is technically possible but that the human factor, the need to “feel the grass” would stay a big deterrent.

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