Our Television Broadcast Engineer Patrick Mahon just returned from the summer games in Tokyo where he served as a transport signal quality control engineer at the technical operations center (TOC) at Odaiba Marine Park from July 9 to August 7, 2021. This Tokyo venue hosted various competitive sporting events, including aquatics marathon swimming, and triathlon.
The races were covered by various multi-format broadcast cameras, including underwater and slomo cameras, as well as RF cameras on motorbikes, helicopters, and a wire above the venue. Pat’s role was to oversee the quality control of unilateral and multilateral signals enhanced with high dynamic range (HDR), including UHD/4K signals with immersive sound and 1080/60p HD signals. Pat monitored live IP-based contribution and return video signals as they moved over two separate fiber optic paths between the TOC and the International Broadcast Center (IBC).
Having also served in 2016 as a transport signal QC engineer at the Rio games, Pat knew what to expect in Tokyo, except that this time, the Covid-19 pandemic and extreme heat and humidity presented unique challenges. “We started our stay with a 14-day quarantine. We were regularly tested for Covid, received lunches as boxed meals, and practiced social distancing,” he recounts. The TOC crew “needed to arrive as early as 2 am on various days to prepare for events taking place at 6:30 am,” he added. “These schedule changes were extremely difficult on the body.”
Technically, things went smoothly, although there was one instance where he noticed a momentary UHD feed disruption on his waveform monitor. “I immediately notified the IBC and they manually switched it out for a backup feed within seconds,” Pat said. To ensure redundancy, there were four signal transmission paths from the TOC, including an HD main, HD protect, UHD main, and UHD protect. All video and audio were routed, produced, and transcoded in a production truck next to the TOC.
“I enjoy the challenge of working with the latest broadcast technology on demanding live broadcasts,” Pat said. “Considering the heat and Covid, I thought as I watched the athletes compete that they must be having a more difficult time. All in all, I was very happy to be there.” Patrick Mahon has over 35 years of experience as a TV broadcast engineer and supports ENCO’s broadcast products, including ClipFire and enCaption.