The 2021 Tokyo Olympic Games have come to a close . As athletes celebrate their wins and ponder over their losses , the technicians that produced this event in all its socially distanced glory , also have something to celebrate . This year ’ s Tokyo Olympics was a triumph in live tv production . By combining 4K , HDR , and Dolby Atmos sound , NBCUniversal created immersive and compelling stories out of a live broadcast .
While few people managed to see the broadcast of the Tokyo Olympic Games in all its visual and audible glory , NBCUniversal ’ s experiment bore hearty fruit . While still in an early experimental phase , technologies that have been a staple of modern cinema and television , are now making their way to broadcast . Remember the question everyone kept asking a few years ago ? “ Who needs 4K ? Everything is broadcast in HD !” Well , the answer is here .
Before we dive into NBC ’ s broadcast experiment , let ’ s chat about standards . The A dvanced T elevision S ystem C ommittee , or ATSC, is an industry group that determines what technologies are and can be used for broadcasters across the nation . Back in 2009 , they did this with the ATSC 1 . 0 Standard . This moved televisions over from an analog signal to digital . This allowed for compressed video and additional data , giving us 1920 by 1080 HD resolution and digital closed captioning .
In 2017 , we first saw glimpses of ATSC 3 . 0. Initially rolled out in South Korea , this new standard is spreading like wildfire . By packing more data into the signal , the bit rate has almost tripled over ATSC 1 . 0.
When paired with modern video codecs such as H . 265 and MPEG – H , what used to be only available on streaming platforms , can now be broadcast by TV stations . Even 8K resolutions are possible with this new standard , as well as frame rates up to 120fps . Hold on, I think I hear Ang Lee trying to break down my door.
While the latter may seem another decade or so away , there were a few providers that carried NBC ’ s coverage at 4K in Dolby Vision with Dolby Atmos sound . Notably , Comcast Xfinity on its Xfinity X1 platform . While YouTube TV carries 4K in most regions , it does not always have Dolby Atmos sound . fuboTV , Altice , and Verizon Fios also carry high – resolution signals in several regions . Unfortunately , there is no consistency and it is difficult to suss out where to get the entire picture and sound package .
2020 2021 Tokyo Olympic Games
So what ’ s all the fuss about NBC ’ s broadcast of the games this year ? Well , imagine all those technologies that have been perfected for cinema and television — HDR, Dolby Atmos sound , and 4K resolution . Now implement them into a live broadcast at 30 fps .
Swimming events have vibrant crisp splashes while creating contrast with the dark water of the pool . Skin tones are more vibrant and pronounced . Clouds in the sky , which were always lacking in HD resolution , now pop out in the image . Viewers can see tiny golf balls stand out against the green grass , as well as fast – moving volleyballs over the sand .
During the opening ceremony , the utilization of Dolby Atmos sound allowed the NBC ’ s technicians to place the source of live music where they saw fit within the soundscape . No longer is the sound of the broadcast escaping your television . It is not an immersive wave that comes from all sides .
Given the circumstances at the games , such as limited crowds at the events , technicians took further steps to elevate the soundscape of the broadcast . The starting gun popped from the back , putting viewers in the athlete ’ s shoes . Competitors could be heard mid – event . Balls , rackets , and whatever objects are used have a texture and presence in the soundscape .
While NBC is making strides to embrace ATSC 3 . 0, there are still plenty of hurdles to overcome . The technology of the high – end consumer market is still too fragmented to utilize the combination used for the Olympic Games . While HDR may look stunning on some televisions , other brands can have little effect on the image .
The lack of a universal standard that all manufacturers adhere to , cripples any chance at a quick turnover . On top of that , HDR must be utilized with other display tech , such as wide color gamut , local dimming , or miniLED . But as long as manufacturers continue to throw around PR buzz words and proprietary technologies , the consumer is left waiting .