BBC successfully demos 3D HD for rugby match

By Kevin Hilton

SVG Europe editor

The BBC successfully tested the potential of 3D stereoscopic sports
coverage last week in London with a presentation of the England-Scotland rugby
union match last weekend. The Calcutta Cup fixture of the 6 Nations
tournament was shown live on a big screen to an invited audience of
television industry types and journalists at the Riverside Studios,
London, in a joint production between BBC Sport and the 3DFirm

BBC Resources OBs supplied the facilities and
equipment for the coverage, with three pairs of Sony HDC950 cameras
arranged around Murrayfield Stadium in Edinburgh, one high and central
for the main wide-shot and another at ground-level. The third rig was
also initially to be pitch-side but due to the unrelenting wind and
rain on the day it was moved into the grandstand on one side of the

The director of the 3D coverage, Rhys Edwards, says this
worked out better than the original configuration might have done.
“That third angle gave a completely different feel to the coverage,”
explained Edwards, who works for BBC Wales and is the son of Welsh
rugby legend Gareth Edwards, “with the camera looking over the heads of

For those watching in London this was probably the
most effective shot, giving the impression of being at the game.
Occasionally the urge to shout at someone to sit down in front,
forgetting the person was in Edinburgh, was quite strong. Some
low-level shots from the pitch-side also gave a sense of depth and

Edwards said that in the main he used the central
camera, with its wide shot of most of the pitch, cutting away to the
other two angles occasionally to break things up. The two HDC950s in
each rig were bolted to a mounting plate, joining them together so that
any sideways or up-and-down movement applied to both lenses equally.
The operators had a large single viewfinder for framing.

preserve a proper 3D image the signals from each pair of cameras were
gen-locked together. A standard vision mixer in the BBC OBs scanner was
used to mix the signals in sync, although Edwards and the camera
operators monitored in 2D. Two multiplexed HD signals were then
uplinked from the BBC’s Link 21 truck direct to Riverside Studios. The
feed was decoded as a HD-SDI output and fed to two Christie projectors
for the screening.

The audience wore special glasses, but not
the old-fashioned cardboard pairs with the red and green lenses. A
polarised 3D system was used rather than the colour spectrum method,
for the purely practical reason that the necessary filters would not
fit on the projectors.

Commentary of the match was relayed from
BBC Radio Five Live, as that was considered to be more descriptive for
the wider camera angles. This was mixed into 4.0 surround sound with
crowd effects and the referee’s mic by sound supervisor Dave Rolls,
working at a Studer Vista 8 console.

Whether 3D will appeal to
the serious sports fan will have to be seen. Those who cannot get to
see a game live would probably want the multi-camera TV coverage with
graphics, zooms and slo-mos and may see a three-angle presentation,
even in 3D, as a step backwards.

Adding more cameras with all
the expected extras might tip the balance in favour of 3D, especially
for screenings in venues rather than standard TV viewing in the home,
but even that would not have saved a terrible game, which was won 15-9
by Scotland, the prime contenders for this year’s 6 Nations wooden

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