Rio Olympics: NBC Plans 4K and High Dynamic Range for Opening Ceremony Coverage

Swimming, track and field and basketball will get 4K treatment.
Buda Mendes/Getty Images

With an aim to deliver more dazzling images of the upcoming Rio Olympics, NBCUniversal has confirmed plans to include Ultra HD 4K and high dynamic range (HDR) as part of its coverage of the Summer Games, which will be made available to cable, satellite and other partners.

Select 4K coverage, made available on a one-day delay, will include the opening and closing ceremonies, swimming, track and field, basketball, the men’s soccer final and judo. The 4K coverage of the Aug. 5 opening ceremony, which will be produced by NBC Olympics, will additionally include HDR imagery and Dolby Atmos immersive sound. 4K, four times the picture resolution of today's HDTV, and HDR give the imagery a wider range between the whitest whites and blackest blacks — all amounting to more detailed images with more colors.

“The Olympics have been a consistent driver of technological advancements, and Rio will be no different,” said Gary Zenkel, president of NBC Olympics. 

This will have a limited audience, however, as a viewer will require access to the 4K HDR feed and a TV that's capable of displaying the images. NBC Olympics said it would distribute the 4K coverage, provided by Olympic Broadcasting Services (OBS) and Japan’s NHK, to U.S. distribution partners who will individually choose how they will make the content available to customers. 

OBS and NHK have additionally been experimenting with 8K (16 times the resolution of HD) since the 2012 London Olympics, and in Rio some 8K coverage will be part of a satellite broadcast trial in Japan.

“Recent technological advancements have allowed us to pursue this opportunity further for the Rio Games and to offer a 4K feed for a number of sports, down-converted from the original 8K, to NBC and other interested rights holding broadcasters around the globe,” said OBS CEO Yiannis Exarchos. 

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