The Olympic Games have always been, by far, the most complicated sporting event to broadcast.
Gravity Media’s challenge to facilitate the Seven Network’s coverage had to consider the increased diversity and volume of events run concurrently over little more than a fortnight, each requiring specialised production, channeled through a labyrinth of media platforms.
Then, when you throw in the layers of preparation required for the uncertainty of an international pandemic and Tokyo 2021, it makes the challenge that much more incredible.
Gravity Media partnered with Seven to organise the network of communications, using a combination of leased and itinerant services between all our locations across four countries, from RBC & BCM in Melbourne, IBC in Tokyo, The Production Centre in Sydney (PCS) and facilities in London. All sites were able to talk to each other using more than 136 talkback panels and 780 ports.
330 staff worked 75,000 hours across four production locations, each operating under strict compliance. But the broader situation of multiple state policies towards COVID-19, and the fluid situation in Tokyo itself, had the entire project on a knife edge, needing to pivot whichever way the outbreak turned, in Tokyo or Australia.
More than 600 hours of live coverage across two FTA HD Broadcast channels, and 13,000 hours of 7Plus HD Digital and VOD content were delivered flawlessly under these extraordinary conditions, using three studios with live hostings across two states. A three-hour highlights package was edited and played out simultaneously following 16 hours of live coverage daily. IBC Production based in Tokyo added to the Sydney and Melbourne control rooms and a DR control room. The flexibility that had to be built into this system was a credit to everyone involved in months of planning. Multiple options and back-ups had to be built into an already complicated system.
Logistically, the same flexibility had to be applied. 25,000 meals had to be served over 21 days – all under COVID protocols, with little warning as to which centre the production might have to rely on if government policy changed.
Our team of project and production managers had to provide multiple versions of floor plans and prepare for ever-changing guidelines for staff location and service capability.
In Tokyo, this required a web of connectivity to ensure a seamless blend of host and rights-holders broadcasting to provide for all those platforms. More than 90 SDI fibre feeds. Five connected venues integrating mixed zones, hosting positions, and ISO cameras.
If that’s not impressive enough, more than 80 incoming circuits and 20 outgoing video circuits at the RBC enabled OBS IP feeds, IBC/PCS and BCM SDI feeds. There were two MDS Satellite Downlinks for international signal backup and content delivery. Four Craft Edits and three Fast Edits at RBC with remote edit access at PCS, along with two Fast Edits at PCS and three Fast Digital Edits. There were four Off Tube Booths at RBC and two OTB’s at PCS with an additional VO Booth.
The stakes were high, as any breakdown in this vast network of interactivity – whether COVID-induced or technical – could compromise the integrity of the production. However, through all the up’s and downs, Gravity Media was able to deliver a flawless event, which in turn gained Seven the highest ratings and streaming numbers ever for an Olympic Games.
This amazing achievement during such unpredictable times is a credit to all the teams across Gravity Media and the Seven Network.
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