A Melting Pot in the Olympic Hockey Compound
Canada Hockey Place, where the Olympic hockey games are played, is a hockey venue year-round, so it did not require many changes to make it Olympics-ready for the Vancouver Games. The truck compound outside of the venue, however, is a different story. In addition to the host feed, domestic broadcaster CTV, and American broadcaster NBC, vendors from around the world have set up shop to help support the first Winter Olympic hockey broadcasts in full HD and 5.1 surround sound.
“There is quite a big presence here,” explains Aristeidis Nikoloudis, broadcast venue manager of Canada Hockey Place and BC Place for Olympic Broadcast Services (OBS). “There are kilometers and kilometers of fiber inside and outside this venue. Because this is a hockey venue, they’re used to TV coverage, so a lot of it was pre-cabled, but I came in here with [coordinating technical manager] Jim McCauley on the 19th of January to do the final stages.”
In addition to the OBS truck and trailers in the compound, CTV has a truck for its English-language coverage, and a separate truck for French-language coverage. NBC has a truck for coverage from Canada Hockey Place, as well as for UBC Thunderbird Arena, where the women’s hockey games take place. That venue is fibered to the truck in the Canada Hockey Place compound to avoid having to roll out an additional truck. CTV and NBC are also both connected to adjacent BC Place arena, where the Opening and Closing Ceremonies take place.
“The biggest challenge here,” McCauley says, “is making sure that all the broadcast providers can integrate properly.”
Indeed, although OBS is in charge of the technical setup of the venue, McCauley and Nikoloudis recognize that while the OBS production team must be happy with the setup, the international rights holders need to be just as pleased.
“We have to make sure that the rights holders are getting everything as they have paid for it, which is not only the video feeds, but the audio feeds as well,” Nikoloudis says. “It gets complicated because we’re doing 5.1 surround and a lot of the feeds that they want are suddenly multiplied. We have to make sure that they’re getting it clean, with no noise or grounding issues.
“This is the big challenge,” Nikoloudis continues, “to make sure that all these new technical things that we provide – super slo mos, robotics, 5.1 surround – can all successfully reach our customers.”
Those technical provisions include 26 cameras inside Canada Hockey Place, including robotic cameras stationed on the plexiglass, hanging cameras over the goalies, and three Arri HiMotion super slo mo cameras.
“The super slo mos are very good for replays,” Nikoloudis explains. “For the first time you can really see details like the puck when it’s going fast and the shot was near the goalie. In real time you would never be able to see how the puck got in, but on a super slo mo you can see it in perfect detail.”
Worldwide Support, Inside the Compound
The upkeep of all of these technical innovations is difficult with such a crowded compound, and it is made even more challenging by the fact that the equipment providers are largely international.
“We have providers form around the world,” McCauley explains. “Vendors from France, the UK, Austria, Germany, Belgium, everywhere. But in Europe, there is a different power standard, so we had to get transformers to transform the power.”
Once the troubleshooting of the providers was taken care of, those providers were able to do some troubleshooting of their own, on behalf of OBS.
“Vendors from around the world come in to support us with their specific technical knowledge,” Nikoloudis explains. “If we see that a connection doesn’t work as it should, they come in as troubleshooters and try to resolve last-minute issues. In such a complex operation, sometimes you need that.”