NBC Olympics Graphics Team Fulfills Need for Speed with Chyron, Adobe

For NBC Sports Director of Graphics Phil Pauly and his staff of more than 35 in Vancouver, the 2010 Winter Olympics will be remembered as a games where the speed of the athletes on the ice and hills was only matched by the ability to turnaround graphics using tools like Adobe After Effects, Chyron Hyper X3 Duet, and the Omneon Procast system. “It’s important to have a team that has done it before and can evolve with the equipment and new workflows,” says Pauly. “We aren’t watching machines get tied up anymore.”

The Olympic games culminated more than eight months of work during which more than 50,000 graphics templates were built and designed.

“Adobe After Effects [and Maxon Cinema 4D] were the primary tools used to build graphics along with Adobe Bridge,” says Pauly. “Adobe Bridge pulls metadata out of the database so that when you pull up a headshot things like the name and country pop up into the graphic.”

Chyron HyperX3 Duet graphics systems were used for play to air functions, a step up from the Hyper X2 systems used in Beijing. “The Hyper X2 Duet didn’t have the recall time or 3D effects we required,” says Pauly. “So we’ve been working with the X3 since last football season, the first time we were able to Beta test a graphics device before the Games.”

The Hyper X3 Duet also offers other advantages over the X2 Duet. New microprocessors are six times faster than X2 processors and the buffer speed to read a file has decreased from 30 frames to an adjustable 2-to-5 frames. Four dual-channel Hyper X3 Duet systems were used in the 2,876 sq. ft.  graphics area in Vancouver.

A big advantage in working with the Hyper X3 was the ability to work on the same SAN as the Macintosh computers used for creating the graphics. “We had fiber connectivity between every device and the servers were also connected to the Avid systems so we never had to see baseband video, everything was moved in files,” explains Pauly.

Five Avid HD units were on hand to ingest audio and video into the graphics area’s Avid ISIS systems (an EVS XT was also available). Also helping get graphics on air more quickly was Broadcast Unifying Gears (BUG), dual-processor quad core Apple Intel Mac Pro computers. A single drag-and-drop function puts graphics into the play list.

An Omneon Procast system, connecting New York’s 15th floor promotions department with NBC Olympics operations in Vancouver also played an important part in speeding up the production process. “We could transfer a seven GByte file in 15 minutes,” says Pauly. “Everybody was happy to be on one connected system.”

Pauly reflects on his first Olympics in Barcelona when it would take up to 20 minutes for a graphic to be built and rendered. “We didn’t even have a half TB of storage in the whole operation and here there isn’t a machine that has less than 4 TB,” he says.

Everything in Vancouver was so fast, in fact, that graphic artists were able to spend more time creating. “They could really let the creative juices flow because they don’t need to run a tape down the hall,” says Pauly.

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