Article Overview

IAAF Review 2009: World Athletics from Berlin

Olympic Stadium Berlin

For the broadcasting of the 12th World Athletic Championships from 15th - 23rd August in Berlin, the German public broadcasters ARD and ZDF established the host broadcast service BERTA (Berlin Radio Television Athletics) to produce the official world feed of the championships in 1080i and to deliver it to broadcast right holders in more than 165 countries. For the installation and the operation of the technical infrastructure BERTA hired the Berlin based production company TopVision for all the events in the Olympic Stadium, while SWR together with Betamobile produced the signals of the walking and marathon disciplines at the Brandenburg Gate.

Almost 500 live production specialists from ARD, ZDF, TopVision, Betamobil, Media Broadcast, TV Skyline, MBS dutchView, RTS, PMT, Aggreko, DeltaTre, Seiko and Epson teamed up during the nine production days for the host broadcaster BERTA under the leadership of Dieter Gruschwitz from ZDF. TopVision alone was present with a team of 143 experts consisting of camera men, EVS operators, wireless specialists, vision technicians and Steadicam operators. The task of the team was the creation of the international TV signal (world feed) of all 47 decisions in 24 disciplines, the transmission of the signals to the EBU and all rights holding broadcasters (RHB) at the International Broadcast Center (IBC) and the creation of a daily highlights program of 52 minutes length, which was available “downlink ready” and on tape. Due to the fact that in the stadium partly up to four competitions were fought out at the same time, BERTA was able to produce four feeds in parallel: one feed for the track heats and the victory ceremonies (production 2), two feeds for the throw and short put events (production 3), one feed for the horizontal jumps (production 4) and one feed for the vertical jumps (production 5) – therefore more than 70 cameras were operated in the stadium. A further feed (production 6) was produced for the walking disciplines (17 cameras) and the marathon competitions (25 cameras) at the second broadcast compound at the Brandenburg Gate. Here the HD OBVans from SWR and Betamobile did the job together with the MotoCams and the helicopter cameras from MBS dutchView. Out of these six signals the integrated feed of the 12th IAAF world Championships in Athletics was compiled in the TopVision HD OBVan Ü5 (production 1). The target was to deliver all events live or with the shortest possible delay to the RHBs via the master control room (MCR) at the IBC. Via the MCR the RHBs also had access to their unilateral camera signals from the mixed zone or from their moderator platforms in the stadium.

The production of the world feed at the Olympic Stadium

In addition to the two HD OBVans Ü4 and Ü5 and its supporting tender trucks from TopVision with a total of six production areas (all equipped with MVS-8000 Vision mixers from Sony), the following facilities were located at the host broadcast compound: the statistical graphics (Epson/DeltaTre), the virtual graphics (ST Sportsservice) and the results networking system (Seiko). The vision control of the 72 cameras was distributed between the Ü4 (15 cameras), the Ü5 (24 cameras) and a container (33 cameras). Also located in containers was the central equipment room (CER) with 23 networked LSM XT2 hard disk recorders from EVS and the receiver equipment from BMS (Broadcast Microwave Systems Europe) for the ten wireless camera channels. The camera systems in the stadium were a mixtures of Sony’s HDC-1000’s, HDC-1500’s and HDC-1550’s plus six HDC-3300 SuperSloMos. Various special cameras systems like a Spidercam from PMT, a rail camera from RTS, four SportsCam from TV Skyline and the brand new FCB-H10 HD mini cameras at the high jump and pole vault bars covered every aspect of the different sports. And where these cameras couldn’t get close enough to the athletes eight HDC-1500’s on Steadicam with wireless adaptors from BMS did the job.


Close to the athletes: Wireless cameras

The wireless cameras always were very close to the athletes and delivered stunning pictures of victory and defeat first hand to the HD screens around the world. In the stadium BMS had set up ten wireless channels of the latest generation with a frequency range of 3.0 to 3.5 GHz by only using four receiving antennas. Four triax cables brought the signals to the CER where they were routed via a distribution system to the ten BMS diversity receivers. The vision control of the wireless cameras in the stadium was realized via BMS telemetry transmitters.

Victory ceremonies and more: Spidercam

Above the crowded stands in the Olympic Stadium the remotely controlled Spidercam from PMT was flying in three dimensions, delivering dynamic pictures of the action on the track or from the high jump. With four coordinated working sledge yarders the Spidercam operators were able to fly the two-axis gyro-stabilized remote head with the camera to the various venues or to accompany the athletes to the victory ceremony, delivering fascinating angles of view for millions of viewers watching the competitions.


Faster than Usain Bolt: Rail camera

In parallel to the 100m straight a RTS trackrunner with stabilized Nettmann StabC compact remote head was installed and accompanied the athletes from start to finish. And with a speed of 13.5 meters per second even Usain Bolt was not able to catch up with the trackrunner on his world records over 100 meters and 200 meters. But also for all the other track competitions the trackrunner with its HDC-1500 attached to the remote head gave the television viewers the feeling to be the ninth athlete on the running track.

Shot put, hammer, javelin or discus throw: SportsCam

Everything that has been pushed or thrown was flying towards the SportsCam from TV Skyline. These cameras delivered new perspectives of the work of the athletes in the concrete-surfaced circle. The proximity in the very moment where the discus or the hammer was leaving the hand of the athlete, was covered by these remotely operated cameras.


Movements in detail: HyperMotion

In addition to the six HDC-3300 SuperSloMo cameras TopVision provided an Arri Media HiMotion camera system to cover the motions of the athletes with up to 600 pictures per second. This gave the director of the world feed the opportunity to replay e.g. the pole vault jumps of the athletes with a stretch factor of 12 times, showing very clearly how good the individual athlete had performed in his event. The recordings and the replays of the HiMotion pictures were performed via the EVS LSM XT2 hard disk recorders and the smooth motion of these pictures added another highlight to the world feed of the 12th IAAF World Athletics Championships.

The production of the walking disciplines and the marathons at the Brandenburg Gate

For the first time in history the start and the finish of the walking disciplines and of the marathons were not in the stadium. Berlin had convinced the IAAF with the proposal to relocate these competitions into the center of the city. Therefore BERTA needed to set up a second host broadcast compound at the Brandenburg Gate. Here the FÜ2HD from SWR was at the heart of the production and responsible for the generation of feed 6. The walking disciplines took place on a two kilometer circuit on the road “Unter den Linden” and the athletes had to walk it 10 or 25 times. The disciplines were covered with 17 cameras. The race course for the marathons was a 10 kilometer track right through the center of Berlin. The athletes had to circle it four times and on the last round an additional 2.95 kilometers were added to make the 42.95 kilometers. In addition to the FÜ2HD from SWR at the Brandenburg Gate the HD5 from Betamobil was placed at the “Museums Insel” as a sub-production. A total of 25 fixed cameras were placed at the track. In addition three motocams together with a Wescam assembled at the lead car and another Wescam mounted on a helicopter were hired in from the Dutch production house MBS dutchView. The helicopter delivered impressive pictures from the centre of Berlin and at the served in parallel as the relay station of the signals from the three motocams and the Wescam from the lead car. From the helicopter the signals were transmitted to antennas mounted on top of the roof of the RBB (the public broadcast station in Berlin), from where they were send via a dark fiber line with a capacity of 7 x ASI 18,096 Mbit/s (commissioned by Versatel) to the FÜ2HD at the Brandenburg Gate. Here the signals were mixed together with the signals from the fixed cameras to create the world feed. Via a transparent transmission line, backed-up by a satellite link (both provided by Media Broadcast), the signal was routed to the MCR at the Olympic Stadium, where it was available to all RHBs.


The production of the unilateral signals at the IBC

On an area of 6,350 square meters a temporary container city for more than 50 international television broadcasters was set up. Aggreko had installed mobile power supplies of more than two megawatts capacity to provide the HD OBVans, the tender trucks and the HD Uplinks with a redundant power source. Included in the services of the IBC was the operation of the mixed zone in the stadium with 28 live interview positions for the RHBs, far more than 100 commentator positions and the set up of nine moderator platforms ( for ARD, BBC, France Television, KBS, NBC, NRK, RAI, TBS, and ZDF). The central meeting point was the BERTA booking office, where all the various service requests of the RHBs were coordinated, including the allocation of slots for unilateral live cameras in the mixed zone or the playout of various tape formats. In contrast to BBC HD, Eurosport HD, France Television HD, KBS HD, NBC HD, NRK HD, RAI HD, YLE HD and many others, ARD and ZDF transferred the 1080i production signal to a 720p signal before it was transmitted via satellite or the via cable networks to the growing number of HDTV households in Germany.

BERTA has survived the nine day endurance test with excellence

All six feeds from the seven production units have delivered excellent images of the 47 decisions of the 12th IAAF World Athletic Championships and the story of each competition was told by impressive pictures. Not only the world records of Usain Bolt will be remembered, but also the fact that this was the first 1080i live production of the German public broadcasters in close cooperation with privately owned production houses. The experience gathered during the production of the 1080i world feed certainly will have an impact on the production of future international events in Germany. More than 90 percent of the international broadcasters demand to get the delivery of a 1080i signal – this is clearly underlined if you take a look to the production of the Olympic Games, the FIFA World Cup, the UEFA Champions League, the Tour de France, Wimbledon or Roland Garros. This prompts the question why ARD and ZDF transform all these 1080i signals to 720p before transmission? If the world feed is produced in 1080i and you convert it to 720p for transmission you combine the disadvantages of both systems: In production you have to live with a slightly less motion resolution and in transmission you throw away some of the picture resolution.