3D-4U Delivers 360-Degree Experience

Live 3D sports production will have a new player come September. 3D-4U is looking to transform the consumer experience of live 3D with its new patent-pending camera/hardware/software system. A camera platform with 3D cameras mounted to provide either a 180- or a 360-degree view of the action gives viewers at home the opportunity to select their favorite camera angle.

“It’s as big as a bushel basket and weighs as much as a briefcase, plus it only takes 90 minutes to set up,” says Jason Coyle, COO of Silver Chalice New Media, the Chicago-based company that represents 3D-4U in the sports, entertainment, and new-media industries and provides strategic advisory and other business services. “It provides an immersive experience where we are basically [placing the viewer] in a courtside or front-row seat.”

The 360-degree system has 10 small, proprietary 3D camera systems mounted around it, all pointing outwards. Signals from them are pumped through a server located in or near the TV-production truck.

“The secret sauce,” says Coyle, “is in the camera hardware and its ability to tie the images together with software.”

Dr. Sankar Jayaram, founding partner/chief technology officer of 3D-4U, says the resolution is better than HD and the convergence is automated via the software. Signals are transmitted at 8 Mbps per camera.

“One camera system can capture the whole scene,” he says. For basketball, three systems would provide the best experience, with one mounted behind each goal or basket and another at the scorer’s table. Football, he adds, would be best experienced with the system mounted on the sideline cart. The more camera systems deployed the more immersive the 360-degree 3D experience becomes.

“There is also directional audio and full surround-sound audio,” says Jayaram. “So, when the viewer hears a sound, they can use the joystick to look at where the sound is coming from.”

In terms of getting  the signals to homes, early distribution is expected to be via the Internet. In September, a Web browser will be available that uses a graphical user interface or keyboard commands for viewer control. The system’s signals are compatible with standard 3DTV screens, 3D computer monitors, 3D headsets, and even 2D sets (with those signals not being viewable in 3D).

Plans include the ability to deliver content directly to consumers’ 3DTV sets. That will require distribution deals with cable, satellite, and IPTV operators, as well as software that will reside on the cable set-top box. Delivery to the home would require about the same amount of bandwidth as three linear HD channels.

The sports market is just one important segment the company is addressing. Nature programming, live events like concerts and theater, and even security also hold potential.

“This gives the viewer an opportunity to experience a live event or the planet in an immersive way,” says Coyle. “It can stand alone as a supplemental second-screen experience or be available via traditional broadcast.”

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