The thrills of the Olympic Winter Games Beijing 2022 were made even more exhilarating for viewers thanks to a collaboration with the Olympic Broadcasting Services (OBS) and Alibaba Cloud. Its cloud technologies are being utilised further during the Games in an effort to increase broadcasting efficiency whilst bolstering the coverage of the Games through a more innovative and inclusive viewing experience for global sports fans.
Now for the first time during the Olympic Winter Games, Rights-Holding Broadcasters (RHBs) can receive live footage through the public cloud infrastructure – a more agile option with only a fraction of the cost compared to other transmission methods. In addition, leveraging Alibaba’s leading edge cloud solutions, global sports fans can now experience immersive viewing of the exciting competition moments from a wide range of optimal angles.
Yiannis Exarchos, OBS Chief Executive Officer, commented: “Amid the backdrop of COVID-19, our partnership with Alibaba Cloud has continued to transform the way we broadcast the Olympic Games. OBS Cloud is one of the most profound technological changes to our operation: it not only offers broadcasters unprecedented efficiency, but also enables endless opportunities for innovation and to seamlessly deliver the excitement of the Olympic Games to the widest possible audience.”
During Beijing 2022, over 20 broadcast organisations are using Live Cloud to receive the multilateral live signals of the Games in either ultra high definition (UHD) or high definition (HD) via OBS Cloud. For the first time in Olympic broadcasting, a very new and innovative technology for global contribution for live content has been borne, able to effectively rival the legacy solutions based on dedicated telecommunication lines and satellite links.
As part of the OBS Cloud, an innovative broadcasting solution brought together by OBS and Alibaba, Live Cloud has been introduced as a standard service to RHBs during the Olympic Winter Games Beijing 2022. Prior to this technology breakthrough, broadcasters had to rely on dedicated and more costly international telecommunication optical circuits and spend a considerable amount of time to set up the equipment, in order to send live footage halfway across the globe back to their home countries. Now leveraging the highly scalable, resilient and secure global infrastructure of Alibaba Cloud, the digital technology and intelligence backbone of Alibaba Group, OBS is able to deliver all the live multilateral content in high quality over the public cloud at a fraction of the cost and minimum time for set-up.
With the benefits of low latency and high resilience, content transmission via cloud is on its way to outperform other methods of distribution when it comes to expandability, flexibility, and cost. That leads to significant increase of productivity for broadcasters, while the stability, elasticity and worldwide agility of cloud also ensures the quality of broadcasting, even during a surge in demand for livestreaming of the most popular events.
As part of Live Cloud, OBS has also made the most out of the agility offered by cloud delivery by implementing an application allowing broadcasters to choose which feeds they wish to receive at any given time.
“Transmitting live content through cloud is a particularly useful resource for broadcasters who cannot attend the Olympic Winter Games in person or afford the heavy upfront investment of on-premise infrastructure,” said Selina Yuan, General Manager of International Business, Alibaba Cloud Intelligence. “We hope that cloud technologies will not only reduce the cost associated with broadcasting, but also bolster the coverage of the Olympic Winter Games as more RHBs can access the live footage and choose the feeds they prefer. Ultimately, we hope more sports fans around the world can enjoy the excitement of the Olympic Winter Games.”
Multi-Camera Replay System and High-Quality Reconstruction on Cloud
To create further dynamic and engaging viewing experience for Beijing 2022, OBS and Alibaba have deployed multi-camera replay systems for frame-freeze slow motion replays during the Games. It is also the first time that Olympic broadcasting will rely on a cloud-based workflow for such replays, enabling more immersive experience for global sports fans from a wide range of angles strategically placed around the competition venues.
Leveraging Alibaba’s advanced edge cloud solution, live multi-angle footage of the Curling and Speed Skating will be captured and compiled via the edge cloud for real-time processing and editing, before the chosen moments are shared as a replay through the multilateral feed. The seamless reconstruction of the most exciting moments only takes seconds to get ready in the cloud and integrated as part of the live coverage.
For the less time-sensitive coverage such as daily or event highlights, the footage can be further processed in the cloud supported by Intel’s 3rd Gen Xeon Scalable processors to generate high quality 3D representation of the sports scenes in 4K quality, making the viewing experience more authentic and compelling. Leveraging Alibaba’s proven cloud technology and Intel’s processing power, it takes less than a minute to render such true-to-life 3D scenes.
Content+, OBS’ content delivery platform hosted on Alibaba Cloud, will continue to serve RHBs with broadcasting services, including access to short-form content, all HD live streams, as well as all the additional content produced by OBS in a range of resolutions for browsing and download purposes. During the Olympic Winter Games, it is expected that over 6,000 hours of content will be produced by OBS to enhance RHB coverage, including 900 hours of live sports and Ceremony coverage and an additional 1,200 hours of unseen competition footage through the Multi Clip Feeds – doubling the amount of sport competition made available compared to PyeongChang 2018.
It is also the first time that RHBs have the capability to create sub-clips from the live sessions on Content+, letting them start editing while the live stream is being distributed – a more efficient way of working remotely on large volume of content and producing clips for social media distribution. OBS will also use cloud-based editing to quicken its publishing workflows, with a team of editors working remotely for the first time.
Driven by the increasing shift to remote production utilising cloud-based services, and in the context of the global pandemic, the size of broadcast teams covering the Olympic Winter Games has been reduced dramatically, with nearly 40 percent fewer RHB broadcast personnel on-site in Beijing compared to the Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018.