Gigantic Station Broadcast the Games
Panasonic Digital Broadcast System
The colorful entrance of the IBC
The Opening Ceremony of the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games, a fantasy based on the history and diversity of Australia. The lighting of the Olympic Flame by Cathy Freeman, an athlete from an Aboriginal family. Through the medium of television, the emotional impact of the many scenes symbolizing world harmony was felt by 3.7 billion people in 220 countries and territories around the world.
The Olympic Games are one of the sporting events with the highest viewer ratings in the world. For national broadcasters which intend to obtain broadcasting rights for the Olympic Games, it is important to provide free viewing to the viewers in their region. This condition is also imbued with the spirit of the Olympic Games as set out in the Olympic Charter which states : "...without discrimination of any kind and in the Olympic spirit, which requires mutual understanding with a spirit of friendship, solidarity and fair play."
The broadcast of the Games is produced with a truly global content, or without any bias towards one particular country or one particular athlete. This supreme sports broadcast, full of surprises and excitement, is created at the International Broadcast Center (IBC), some distance from the fierce battles which unfold daily in the Olympic Park.
Here in Sydney's IBC were the host broadcaster SOBO (Sydney Olympic Broadcasting Organization) which prepared the international signal, and the worldwide broadcasters who transmitted programs to viewers in their own regions after processing the international signal to suit their viewers interests. The IBC, which operates only for the duration of the Olympic Games, is the largest broadcasting station in the world.
Koji Yamamoto, Senior Chief Engineer AVC Company Matsushita Electric Industrial Co., Ltd.
Koji Yamamoto, Senior Chief Engineer of AVC, Matsushita Electric Industrial Co., Ltd. comments: "This was the third time, following on from Atlanta 1996 Olympic Games and Nagano 1998 Olympic Winter Games, that Panasonic had been given the contract for the IBC broadcasting system. Making the most of our achievements on the previous two occasions, we undertook responsibility for everything connected with a full digital system from design to construction to maintenance. Even though it was our third time, the digital system had a new format and the equipment was on a much bigger scale than anything we had done in the past. Despite having only five months to finish the actual construction work in the IBC, I'm proud to say that the final result was a first-class broadcasting system."
At the heart of the IBC were the broadcasting facilities of the host broadcaster SOBO which produced the international signal for the entire Games. These included more than 900 digital cameras, more than 400 recording VTRs, and 58 control rooms operated by a staff of 3500 people. All 300 and more events recorded by the SOBO team were made into the international signal of the IOC (International Olympic Committee).
The international signal was then transmitted to the national broadcasters who prepared their own programs for their own audiences. The IBC found room for a total of 190 TV and radio broadcasters. NHK, Japan's state-sponsored broadcaster, and various commercial broadcasters participated as a joint enterprise under the name of the "Japan Consortium." In the section of the IBC reserved for the Japan Consortium, each broadcaster made ready their own individual editing equipment and set up their studios in individual booths. There were 1600 such studios within the IBC.
A broadcasting station occupying as many as 1600 studios in a single building. A broadcasting station transmitting a program to 3.7 billion worldwide viewers at once. Such a phenomenon is seen only in the IBC.
In addition to the SOBO team, 12,000 members of staff from worldwide broadcasters worked in the IBC. These broadcasters, who had come from all over the world, produced and transmitted programs to suit their regional time zone. All functions in the IBC operated round the clock without a break. Three cafes and restaurants, banks, a medical clinic, post office, fire station, shuttle bus... Facilities such as these, which are so vital to people's daily lives, were also in continuous operation.
SOBO's 400 monitors and worldwide broadcasters
"The IBC was in operation day and night. Of course all these enormous broadcasting machines had to keep going throughout the Games so three shifts of maintenance staff also had to provide 24-hour support. We had to cover the SOBO broadcasting installations in the IBC and the various stadiums and also the Panasonic equipment used by national broadcasters and somehow we managed to do this all through the Games with a team of about 100."
Panasonic's "DVC-PRO5O" digital VTR was used to provide the international signal at the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games. The format, which was highly praised at the actual Games, allowed high-resolution digital image data to be recorded on tape only 1/4 inches wide.
"The DVC-PRO5O camcorder is lightweight and compact and enables you to film while you are moving at speed. From the air, from a boat, from a motor bike - we used it from all sorts of unconventional camera angles to produce images with a real sense of presence. Of course the poor camera had to put up with a lot of harsh treatment, splashed by waves, shaken by storms... (laughter)"
Problems which the Panasonic engineers had never foreseen were brought to the Panasonic support center inside the IBC. However the worldwide broadcasting teams were full of praise for digital VTR.
The DVC-PRO5O enabled everything from filming to editing and processing, relaying to the various national broadcasters and program transmission to be done quickly on a digital data basis.
"Work can be done rationally."
"There was no deterioration in the resolution."
"It changed the way programs are made."
These were just a few of the positive comments we received from people who were actually trying out fully digital program production for the first time.
Optic-fiber cable links the stadiums
The people involved in the broadcast were also surprised by the fact that the DVC-PRO5O digital VTR in the Sydney IBC was made to particular specifications which allowed it to use both major worldwide video formats.
"PAL" is used in Australia and the UK as well as most of continental Europe and "NTSC" in the USA and Japan. In fact, previous Olympic Games had been held alternately in each format region. The DVC-PRO5O also succeeded in breaking down the video format barrier which had divided the world in two up till now.
The international signal of the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games was 3500 hours long. The final scene of the Games was a firework display which wrapped the harbor bridge in light. The images of sparkling lights on countless monitors in the IBC were like a magic lantern projecting all the hard work and all the memories onto the minds of the people who had worked there throughout the Games.
Immediately after the Closing Ceremony, work began on dismantling the IBC which had taken two years to build from the planning stage. In just two weeks it was back to being a warehouse again. The various broadcasting teams went home to their own countries, sent on their way with a handshake and a smile from the people at Panasonic. At parting, these were the words on everyone's lips: "Let's meet again at the next Olympic Games."
* These reports were written in February 2002.
We changed the corporate name from Matsushita Group to Panasonic Group on October 1, 2008.
Some reports in this page use our former name because they were written before the renaming.