Comcast video innovation chief on Olympics 4K/HDR presentation: ‘It worked and we want to do more of it’ 

NBC Olympics' prime time studio in Rio
Image: NBC

PHILADELPHIA – After presenting 83 hours of Rio Olympics coverage in UltraHD and HDR on 24-hour delay, the Comcast video innovation chief who spearheaded the project is describing it as a successful test case. 

“A lot of it came together last minute, but it was pioneering,” said Comcast Innovation Labs Fellow Mark Francisco, who worked closely with NBCUniversal on site in Rio over the summer to produce the 4K/HDR coverage. 

“We’re talking about an international world event in a stadium with pyrotechnics at night, with 3D optic-based audio thrown into the mix. I would say the thing that we learned the most was how to do a live HDR production. That’s pretty significant stuff right there,” Francisco told FierceCable on the show floor of the SCTE’s Cable-Tec Expo convention in Philadelphia Wednesday.

Francisco said Comcast has compiled a “100-page post-mortem” of the first major live-sports 4K/HDR production for a U.S.-based audience. 

He was particularly pleased with NBCU’s ability to interweave and up-convert non-HDR cameras with cameras capable of native HDR. 

“We only had a limited number of HDR cameras, but we had an event that had dozens of camera positions,” Francisco said, describing the coverage of the Opening Ceremonies. “We converted any of those cameras into HDR to interweave. So when we switched to a helicopter shot, which was an SDR camera, we perfectly mapped it over to the HDR picture. … If you look carefully, you may notice a bit of lost contrast in those pictures, but it was seamless.”

That's not to say the process was free of challenges, however. “We didn’t use the proper clippings on the mics, so when the explosions went off, they distorted the microphones. It was basic stuff like that," he explained.

Francisco also said that the 24 hours needed to process the images is too long to make 4K/HDR practical for live events. “Until we have more hardware-based acceleration, the duration of time for processing content is too long,” he said. “But Moore’s Law will take care of that."

“But this confirmed our ability to do this type of thing,” Franscisco added. “We want to do more of it.”

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