Skip to content
Geoff GordonJul 1, 20244 min read

Olympics Coverage: Picking up the UHD Torch

Olympics Coverage: Picking up the UHD Torch

The Olympic Games Paris 2024 is due to start later this month, and excitement levels are steadily rising. As always, the Games will utilize some of the latest and most advanced broadcast technology around, to bring its live sporting action to viewers around the globe. This year, through the Olympic Broadcasting Service (OBS) there will be more coverage than ever before, with an estimate of over 11,000 planned hours, covering all 329 medal events as well as extensive athlete-centric, behind the scenes pre- and post-event coverage. What’s more, as the Games’ host broadcaster, OBS will produce coverage in Ultra High Definition (UHD) and will include 5.4.1 immersive sound for a more realistic audio feel. Cinematic lenses will be used across all sports, for the first time, to provide a shallower depth of field creating a look and feel that is more ‘big screen’ than ‘TV’. In addition, more drones will be used than at any previous games, to ensure that every second of live action is captured for broadcast.

Another first comes with delivery, with cloud being the primary method of distribution. There will also be more focus on immersive technology with volumetric video being used to capture 3D footage of athletes. The Games will be streamed by NBCUniversal’s Peacock Service in the United States and Warner Bros Discovery’s Max in Europe, and these services will allow fans to choose what events to watch and will even enable simultaneous viewing of multiple feeds. Additionally, AI and machine learning algorithms will be used to enhance live commentary and provide real-time statistics and insights, to enrich the viewing experience.

The Move to Ultra High Definition

Together, these developments will allow viewers to enjoy their favorite events and discover new events, as well as get a real feel of the atmosphere and excitement in Paris over the course of the Games. This is the first year that all content will be produced in UHD, combined with High Dynamic Range (HDR) which provides four times more detail than Full HD (FHD). France Television has taken the step of upgrading channels France 2 and France 3 to UHD specifically to allow viewers to enjoy the event in UHD. OBS and NHK will collaborate to produce the Opening Ceremony and a select number of sporting events in 8K, a bonus to those early adopters with 8K TVs.

What Does UHD Mean for Viewers?

Theoretically, the higher the pixel count, the better quality the image will be, however in reality, it’s not quite as straight forward as that. UHD, of which 4K is a type, provides a display resolution of 3,840 x 2,160, approximately four times that of FHD at 1920 x 1080 pixels (a.k.a.,1080p). The question is, can the audience tell the difference between FHD and 4K/UHD? This depends on a lot of factors including how big the screen is and how close to the screen the spectator is sitting. The difference in quality is far harder to discern if watching on a small screen or if the viewer sits too far from the screen. But with a large screen that is at least 42 inches and when the observer is not sitting too far away, the difference in quality should be noticeable to the viewer.

In optimum conditions, the increased resolution and dynamic range mean that every detail, from the movement of the water during swimming or rowing races, to the texture of the track in track and field events, will be more vivid and lifelike. The colors will pop, the contrast will be striking, and the overall image quality will be enhanced. But is the difference notable enough to warrant the extra production costs and does the audience really care? For major sporting events like the Olympics, the Super Bowl, and the FIFA World Cup, the audience expects the highest quality possible, and delivering a superior viewing experience can significantly enhance engagement and viewer satisfaction. These events attract a global audience, and generate billions of dollars, so the added production costs of producing in UHD seems reasonable. However, for regular sports programming, until large UHD TVs are the norm in every home, 1080p HDR is perfectly sufficient.

Driving Forward Innovation

The Olympic Games Paris 2024 represent a milestone in Olympics broadcasting technology because it’s the first time the entire event is being produced in UHD HDR. Although this development will not benefit every viewer until there is broader adoption of large-screen UHD TVs, the Olympics as always, is playing an important role in driving forward innovation in sports broadcasting.

Ultimately, whether the audience will appreciate the enhanced broadcast quality will depend on their access to compatible technology, their expectations, and the viewing conditions. As the industry continues to innovate, the gap between cutting-edge technology and everyday watching experiences will likely narrow, bringing the benefits of UHD viewing to a wider audience.

MainConcept has been the premier provider of video and audio codecs, plugins and applications to the production, streaming and broadcast industries for three decades.To find out more about how MainConcept products can help support UHD, 4K and even 8K broadcast formats, including Olympics and sports broadcasting, get in touch.


Geoff Gordon

As vice-president of Global Marketing, Geoff oversees a team of product marketing, communications, and creative design experts and drives the overall marketing direction of MainConcept. With over 20 years of experience, Geoff has worked for a prestigious roster of companies such as Qualcomm, Intuit, Silicon Graphics,, and McDonald's. Geoff earned an MBA from the Thunderbird School of Global Management and a BBA from the University of Wisconsin, Madison. When not working, Geoff enjoys hiking, running, Scuba diving, reading and travel.