S. Somasegar is the corporate vice president of the Developer Division at Microsoft. Learn more about Somasegar.
This past week has been a lot of fun to watch some amazing athletes compete in the 2008 Olympics games.
I’ve especially enjoyed watching Michael Phelps as he has become the most decorated Olympic athlete of all times. Phelps has six gold medals in six races and if he wins his next two races, will have the record for the most golds in a single Summer Olympics! It is awe inspiring to watch and good luck to Michael.
To enable the games to reach millions of people and enable hundreds of thousands of people to concurrently watch live events such as Michael’s swimming, NBC created an amazing site http://www.NBCOlympics.com that is powered by Silverlight 2 Beta 2.
Just to put in context just how massive this site has become, in the first four days of the Olympic games, there were 13.5 million video streams, 16.9 million unique users, and 291.1 million page views. In the entire Athens Olympic games four years ago, there were only 2.2 million video streams launched. Amazing!
Here is a little background on how the technology is working in Bejing. NBC has HD cameras in Beijing that capture each event from multiple cameras and angles. There are NBC control rooms and producers in Beijing that then do real-time shot selection at the event. The resulting video is then encoded in real-time and sent to NBC headquarters in NY. There additional commentary and play by play annotations are added in real-time by dozens of analysts (who have taken over the Saturday Night Live set at NBC headquarters for the two weeks surrounding the games). The video is then streamed out live over the web at both 350kbits and 650kbits using Windows Media Services 2008 servers. There are two CDN (content delivery network) providers hosting the site throughout the Olympics.
The video player for the Olympics site is built using Silverlight 2 Beta2 – which is a 4.6MB download. It takes less than 10 seconds for a user who doesn’t have Silverlight installed to download and install it on their system. The Olympics Silverlight application itself is written using managed code and on top of the .NET Framework subset included with Silverlight.
The Olympics application showcases a ton of unique Silverlight capabilities. One of the most immediate is the quality and capability of the video delivered over the web. This is testament to the great video codecs which ship with Silverlight, the excellent encoders and encoding frameworks, the great media server technology, as well as to the focused tuning that has been done to optimize the video display and graphics as much as possible.
This is watching the Olympics like never before.