IDS Real-Time Data Systems Back in Action for NBC Olympics
By Jason Dachman, Managing Editor, SVG
February 25, 2014
Stass Iordanov is no stranger to the perfectionist style of NBC Olympics. Having served as a technology provider for the Peacock since the 2000 Sydney Games, the senior IT manager for IDS (Information and Display Systems) knows firsthand just how hard NBC works to make sure every element of its coverage is perfect, and the network expects the same from its tech vendors.
“NBC is unique in that they want to be different, they want to do it their way, and they want to do it better than anyone else,” Iordanov said last week in Sochi. “They challenge everyone around here, including IDS, to create a better product. One of the keys for us is that we have been reacting to NBC’s changes on the fly. You can’t go into an Olympics expecting that you are 100% covered. You have to adapt to accommodate everyone and be successful.”
In Sochi, IDS (a division of SMT) once again supplied real-time data, results, and timing interfaces to NBC Olympics. Iordanov’s nine-person support team was responsible for collecting real-time data and delivering TV-graphics interfaces for NBC Olympics’ Mosaic systems covering alpine skiing, freestyle skiing, snowboarding, figure skating, short-track speed skating, speed skating, bobsled, luge, skeleton, ski jumping, and the ski-jumping portion of Nordic combined.
“We take the data feeds from every venue, and there has not been a single Olympic Games since we started where it hasn’t changed,” said Iordanov. “You have sport changes, rule changes, and data changes. You have to be on top of it and adapt your system [accordingly].”
IDS’s Point-in-Time data allowed the NBC production crew to go back to the precise point in a competition to illustrate points being made by the announcers, for both live and taped coverage. With one click of a button, the software system could locate and connect NBC Olympics to a specific point in the competition, even from previous days, enabling reporters to show how a race began, when a lead changed, where an athlete improved his or her performance, and other key events.
“With the big-time zone difference between the U.S. and Sochi, NBC is doing a lot of postproduction. That is where we come in,” said Iordanov. “They can roll the tape back in terms of data. They can easily pull up, for example, the American who was fifth on the start list. We reset our point-in-time data to that point, and you get there instantly. That can be for live or for taped. To get that level of live data at the Olympics is a huge advantage for them.”
NBC was also looking for a unique way of tracking judging data during the figure-skating competitions. Although, the network had been working toward this effort since Salt Lake City, Sochi marked the first large-scale deployment of the IDS-designed system.
“I told them that we finally have the data we need to do this, so let’s build something custom,” said Iordanov. “So we showed up, put a few pieces together, spoke with the producers and the crew, and were able to make it happen. We built something that has really wowed everyone, and the commentators love it.”