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NBC's HD winter Olympics go live

NBC's HD winter Olympics go live

The people over at the Peacock got the cold shoulder from many observers for not airing the HD version of their Summer Olympics 2004 coverage until 24 hours after the events took place. I remember having to decide on more than one evening whether to watch the live, standard-definition telecast--with its real-time updates, first-string announcers such as Bob Costas, and universal coverage of different venues--or the high-def version, with its tape delay, amateurish graphics, no-name announcers, and seemingly endless coverage of gymnastics. More often than not, I would choose SD, reserving the HD version for times when I just wanted to fill the screen with a nice-looking picture.

For the 2006 Winter Olympics in Torino, Italy, the network is simulcasting its coverage in HD, meaning that the HD broadcasts are as live as the standard-def broadcasts and will use the same cameras, graphics, and announcers (the SD coverage will actually be downconverted from HD cameras). NBC specified that it plans a total of 416 hours of coverage, much of which will be available in HD, including hockey, figure skating, and speed skating, as well as most skiing events, such as ski jumping. Events that won't receive the HD treatment, due to lack of HD cameras and production equipment at the event facilities, include some skiing events, curling, and luge (too bad--the luge helmet cam in HD would be sweet).

According to the Los Angeles Times, the east coast will receive most of the coverage live, while the west coast will have to deal with the standard three-hour time delay for NBC's prime-time coverage. Per a release on broadcastbuyer.tv by way of Phil Swann's new blog, the HD broadcasts will be available in Dolby Digital 5.1 on NBC's local high-def affiliate stations and also on UniversalHD, NBC's sister network that's available from satcasters DirecTV and Dish Network as well as from select cable providers. The opening ceremony will be broadcast in high-def on NBC at 8 p.m., Friday, February 10.