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Alibaba cloud will help broadcast the Olympic Winter Games 2022

By Ryan Morris-Reade
Fri 18 Feb 2022

In collaboration with the Olympic Broadcasting Services (OBS), Alibaba's cloud technologies will be utilised during the Olympic Winter Games Beijing 2022 to increase broadcasting efficiency.

For the first time during the Olympic Winter Games, Rights-Holding Broadcasters (RHBs) can receive live footage through the public cloud infrastructure. By leveraging cloud solutions, global sports fans can now experience immersive viewing from a wide range of angles.

"Amid the backdrop of COVID-19, our partnership with Alibaba Cloud has continued to transform the way we broadcast the Olympic Games," says OBS chief executive officer, Yiannis Exarchos.

"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."

Live Cloud for real-time footage transmission

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. Alibaba says for the first time in Olympic broadcasting, the new technology will be able to effectively rival the legacy solutions based on dedicated telecommunication lines and satellite links.

With the benefits of low latency and high resilience, content transmission via the cloud is on its way to outperforming other distribution methods when it comes to expandability, flexibility, and cost. That leads to a significant increase in productivity for broadcasters. At the same time, the stability, elasticity and worldwide agility of the cloud also ensure the quality of broadcasting, even during a surge in demand for live-streaming of the most popular events. 

"Transmitting live content through the cloud is a handy resource for broadcasters who cannot attend the Olympic Winter Games in person or afford the heavy upfront investment of on-premise infrastructure," says Alibaba Cloud Intelligence, general manager of International Business, Selina Yuan.
 
"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 the cloud

OBS and Alibaba have deployed multi-camera replay systems for frame-freeze slow-motion replays during the Games. It's also the first time Olympic broadcasting will rely on a cloud-based workflow for such replays, enabling a more immersive experience for global sports fans from a wide range of angles strategically placed around the competition venues.

Leveraging Alibaba's 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. Alibaba says 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 a high-quality 3D representation of the sports scenes in 4K quality. It takes less than a minute to render such true-to-life scenes.

Live content editing and remote production

Content+, OBS's 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, and 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, 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 RHBs can create sub-clips from the live sessions on Content+, letting them start editing while the live stream is being distributed. 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% fewer RHB broadcast personnel on-site in Beijing compared to the Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018.

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