Tokyo Olympics: can technology make up for the absence of fans?

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With the official opening of the Tokyo Olympics on Friday behind closed doors almost entirely due to the Corona epidemic, viewers will depend more than ever on the development of broadcasting technologies to experience the event.

Yannis Exarchos, CEO of OBS (Olympic Broadcasting Services), which has been responsible for filming and broadcasting all Olympic games since 2008, says that after the Games were postponed for a year due to the epidemic, “we pledged the capacity and quality of our coverage said Agence France-Presse.

Olympic broadcasts have come a long way since the first television trials in Berlin in 1936. With three cameras capturing images of an audience a few miles away.

But during the current Olympics, the OBS teams are preparing to record about 9,500 hours of footage, 30 percent more than in Rio 2016, and it will be available to TV stations around the world after it acquires the broadcast rights. . It thus promises viewers a unique experience through various technological innovations.

Among those innovations, Exarchus cites “3D athlete tracking,” a system that combines scenes from different cameras using artificial intelligence to see athletes’ movements from different angles.

“After a few seconds of the 100m you can recreate the entire race in 3D and for example determine the top speed of the athletes, which is a great way for the audience behind the scenes to see these amazing performances,” explains Exarchus.

For the first time, the games will be filmed entirely and made available to channels in 4K resolution, and Japanese viewers with more advanced TVs will be able to watch some of the competition in 8K, which is four times higher than NHK, the world’s largest TV. broadcaster in this field since 1995.

“One of the strengths of the K8 is that it displays the motion details of objects on the screen in an unparalleled way,” explains Takayuki Yamashita of NHK Technology Research Center, referring in particular to the high-quality slow motion produced by recently developed cameras.

But France Television’s sports director Laurent-Eric Le Lay believed that “the race should not be on display”, before appealing to the modernity of the channel for these games, a virtual reality platform on the Tokyo Bay.

He noted that “a virtual glass bubble will be created, with a backdrop showing the most beautiful buildings in Tokyo in the background. There will be a lot of work to revive this platform.”

To compensate for the absence of fans in stadiums, OBS has audio-recorded the noise from the crowd during previous matches to adapt it to each sport, and these will be broadcast at the match venues.

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Athletes can also receive cheers and chants on video screens (selfies) sent from around the world, and communicate with their loved ones via video once their competitions are over.

Strict sanitation measures have forced national carriers, for whom UPS provides broadcasting services, to send fewer workers to Japan to do some of the engineering work, such as manufacturing, from their country.

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By improving its system, France TV, like most providers, sent 180 employees to Tokyo, compared to 210 during the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio, a change made possible by OBS’s reliance on IP (Internet Protocol) and ” Cloud” (cloud) technologies.), enabling remote file processing.

But “it is very important for us that part of the team remains on the site, especially the editorial side and commentary on the matches,” said Le Lai, pointing to the broadcast of more than 30 journalists and some 40 sports consultants.

French athletes will be interviewed in Japan, according to Le Lay, noting that “it’s important for French viewers to be there, rather than being in Paris with a poorly framed Skype for the athletes”.

Exarchus, for his part, believes that “technology should be at the service of storytelling. This is one of our key phrases: we love technology, but it should be used to tell the stories of the best athletes in the world.”

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