Olympics Video Player Debuts

The summer games are just a little over a month away, but you can start catching Olympic fever online now, thanks to the new video player on NBCOlympics.com. With more than 2,200 hours of live footage being streamed from the event, the new player offers a host of features that will literally let you catch all the action (though some of it will be delayed).

To try it out, visit NBCOlympics.com and click on video. It’ll bring up the standard player, but you need to switch over to the Enhanced Player to get the new goodies.

The best feature is one that won’t be activated until the games start: the Control Room, which lets you watch four video streams at once, and flip between them.

Another way to watch multiple videos is through the picture-in-picture feature. If you’re watching track but want to keep an eye on the weightlifting, you can have the heavy lifters running in a small window in the corner of the screen and flip between the two, or swap weightlifting out for a different event.

Because of the breadth of coverage, you can finally watch the “long tail” of Olympic events, not just what’s on the networks. Fan of tae kwon do? Click on the Olympic Sports button in the control panel to bring up a listing of all the events. Then choose tae kwon do and a list of all the available video will appear.

Also, as you’re watching, expert commentary with bits of trivia will pop up as an overlay during the event. For instance, if Michael Phelps is swimming, it might say he’s won X number of gold medals, this is his strongest event, etc.

The one real bummer is that the webcast isn’t in HD. I guess that’s a lot to ask given the limited bandwidth most people have and how huge the games are going to be — but still, it’s a disappointment.

This will be a big test for Microsoft’s Silverlight. Schematic, the design company that built the player, used Silverlight 2 beta 2 (selected for its DRM capabilities) for its creation, but we’ll have to wait until the games are up and running to get a full sense of how it’s performing.

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