Yankees-Mariners To Serve as Testing Ground for 3D Transmission

Like most live 3D telecasts thus far, this weekend’s 3D production of two New York Yankees-Seattle Mariners baseball games will be an exercise in experimentation. However, unlike previous sporting events broadcast in 3D, the YES Network-FSN Northwest production will be transmitted out to a total of eight distribution partners, the most of any 3D sports telecast yet.

On Wednesday, Blue Ridge Communications, Cablevision, Comcast, Cox, Service Electric Broadband Cable, and Time Warner Cable joined the previously announced DirecTV and Verizon FiOS as 3D carriers for the July 10 and 11 games. DirecTV will run fiber directly from Safeco Field in Seattle for transmission and use the satellite uplink as a backup; the other carriage partners will receive the feed via satellite.

“This is obviously very historic,” says John McKenna, chief engineer, YES Network. “It’s the first 3D baseball game that anybody has done, and we’re pretty proud to be involved in doing it. “It’s definitely a milestone in a lot of careers for the people involved.”

The 3D capture end of the production
alone will be a massive undertaking, but the transmission side will be just as challenging. Two discrete left-eye/right-eye 720p 16×9 feeds will run into NEP’s SS31 3D production truck. Both will be fed into a Miranda Imagestore processor, which will insert YES 3D branding graphics and provide a full-screen YES 3D graphic to be displayed instead of black screen before the game and during commercial breaks.

From there, the signals will be fed into a SENSIO 3D encoder provided by PACE. The SENSIO encoder takes the 720p left- and right-eye signals and merges them into a 720p side-by-side picture. The newly merged signal is then sent through a Harris NetVX series encoder and on to the uplink truck. YES and FSN Northwest are using the AMC1 satellite and 18 MB bandwidth to distribute the signal to their affiliates. The feed will be transmitted directly from Seattle; YES headquarters in Stamford, CT, will not play a role in the transmission process.

“We don’t have 3D parallel or 3G capability here in Stamford,” says McKenna. “We had not expected at this point to need that kind of bandwidth yet. So we figure, it’s easier to go right from the site because there’s nothing we can do with it [in Stamford]. It’s all coming right from the site to the affiliates.”

The production team will run a “3D dress rehearsal” during tonight’s Yankees-Mariners game to gain some live-game insight and give distribution partners a chance to optimize their 3D capabilities.

“The [Friday-]night game will be a dress rehearsal for 3D, and we’ll put it up on the satellite for the affiliates to have a six-hour window to tune and tweak and make sure everything is working,” says McKenna. “Anything we glean from that, we’ll be able to apply to the next game or anything after that.”

The real deal will start on Saturday night, when the Yankees and Mariners take the field at 10 p.m. ET. Sunday’s game will begin at 4 p.m. ET. DirecTV and Panasonic will be presenting sponsors of the two 3D telecasts.

“It’s a very steep learning curve for everybody,” McKenna acknowledges. “We know that, when 3D is good, it’s great, but, when it’s bad, it’s absolutely horrible. We have to start off on the right foot.”