The Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018 were hosted in South Korea and took place between 9 – 25th February. With more than 92 nations and 2,922 athletes participating, this year was the biggest Olympic Winter Games yet. The action-packed event was screened on Eurosport, the Home of the Olympics in Europe, across 48 markets and was also the only place to watch every minute of the action via its digital platforms. Based on its reputation for delivering innovative broadcast technology to international sporting events, White Light was called upon to provide the consultancy, design, equipment and support for all of the studio technology for Discovery and Eurosport’s on-site presentations.
WL was initially approached by Discovery early last year regarding their coverage of the Olympic Winter Games. WL’s Technical Solutions Director Andy Hook comments: “We’ve grown a formidable reputation for providing the technical solutions on several high-profile sporting broadcasts including numerous Football and Rugby World Cups. Discovery wanted a company to work closely with them to create state-of-the-art studios and broadcast facilities; all of which had to keep with their ambition to transform the Games’ viewing experience on what would be their first Olympics”.
WL was tasked with providing the creative technology for over 20 studio presentation areas – including several indoor studios at the International Broadcast Centre (IBC), outdoor presentation positions at sporting venues, the innovative Eurosport cube immersive studio, as well as several on-site studios in National Houses. Prior to the Games, WL collaborated closely with Set Designer Paul Sudlow, Lighting Designers Chris Hollier and Andy Cottey along with production teams from Eurosport’s numerous local markets across Europe.
As preparation for the Games, WL conducted a test build at its state-of-the-art facilities in London. It was here where the company invited stakeholders from Discovery, Eurosport and their European markets to experience the studio concept and technology; providing hands-on training and opportunities for development. Andy adds: “By having the test build in London, this allowed us to play with the whole concept as well as aid setup and rehearsal time; allowing for a completely smooth transition when we travelled to South Korea”.
The two flagship studios used throughout the Games included the Norway and Sweden Studios at the IBC. Using the very latest AV technology, WL was able to create a large wrap-around LED display behind each presentation position, dynamically updated using perspective camera tracking. Drawing on the disguise media server platform, the company created a digital canvas that closely integrated the studio design, lighting/video equipment and augmented reality technologies. Bringing in the team from Bild Studios, WL also delivered a bespoke tablet-driven user interface for the studio display canvas, allowing flexible control from multiple studio galleries.
Alongside the main studio spaces, WL helped create perhaps the most innovative broadcasting experience of the entire competition: the Eurosport cube. The Eurosport cube is a mixed reality studio that creates a fully interactive environment for Eurosport’s experts and guest medal winners to analyse the action; with traditional green screen workflow being replaced by physical video displays that can be interacted with. Andy explains: “The Eurosport cube was simply revolutionary. We drew on the latest LED video technology and disguise media servers from our rental stock, and worked alongside broadcast graphics specialists deltatre to deliver content from Discovery and Eurosport’s graphics hub into the immersive cube. Using camera tracking technology, this allowed the content to be perspective tracked and appear 3D to the camera.
He adds: “The Eurosport cube really came to life when Eurosport’s experts were analysing the action. It immediately allowed them to not sit behind a desk but, rather, use their hands, arms and bodies and interact with the immersive content around them”. The Eurosport cube also had a range of other uses on site from quick turnaround interviews with medal winners who were able to drop in at short notice, to fully scripted and rehearsed pieces of detailed analysis”.
Following a long preparation period in London meticulously prepping and configuring the equipment ready for installation, the WL team flew out to South Korea where they completed the on-site build and testing in just 4 weeks. This all had to be completed by a specific date in order for handover to the production teams from Discovery and Eurosport for the first rehearsals.
Harry Greenfield, WL’s Project Manager, comments: “With a project like this, the deadlines simply cannot be moved and we needed to ensure that, as a company, we were fully prepared to deliver everything on time. Alongside this, we also had to offer support for all studios and spaces 24/7 as broadcasting was non-stop. When one studio could come off air, another would literally start so it was a continuous operation”.
The Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018 was shown by Discovery channels and platforms, including Eurosport, across 48 countries in 21 languages. Andy concludes: “We are extremely proud of what we delivered with the Olympics coverage. By drawing on our creative flair, technical knowledge and in-house expertise, we were able to partner with Discovery and Eurosport to develop and achieve their creative vision and ensure that this was realised to our usual high standards. Ultimately, we were able to integrate with Discovery’s teams, both centrally and across their markets, solve any problems that arose along the way as well as match the scale and time dependency of the entire project”.
Dave Schafer, Senior Vice President of Olympic Operations & Planning at Discovery, comments: “The Eurosport cube was a great example of how Discovery helped transform the Olympic Winter Games viewing experience. By bringing together the latest AR and VR technology, the new mixed reality studio created a fully interactive environment that took analysis from the flat screen and enabled our experts to explain the technical aspects of sport using their hands and their bodies, telling more immersive stories in a way that made the complicated simple.
He concludes: “WL was a crucial partner, sharing its expertise, key personnel and the technological solutions to deliver such an ambitious project. We always believed it was vital to fully integrate our partners and WL became a key part of our ‘one team’ which helped to push the boundaries of broadcasting the Olympic Winter Games.”
Photos courtesy of David Carlier and Discovery Eurosport.