Bright Future for 3D Sports Predicted at 3D Entertainment Summit

Mel Lambert, principal of Content-Creators.com, a Los Angeles-based consulting service, reports from the 3D Entertainment Summit, presented in association with Variety at Universal City, CA, Sept. 15-16.

“Sports sells TV sets. It worked with HDTV, and it’s now working for 3D. But, to make 3D work, you have to have compelling content,” said Alec Shapiro, of Sony Electronics’ Professional Solutions of America group, during the opening-day session The Drivers in Sports: The Impact and Challenges of Live Sports Broadcast in 3D at the third-annual 3D Entertainment Summit. “FIFA’s recent World Cup 3D broadcasts were tremendously successful.”

Citing the progress made since invitation-only 3D-viewing parties for NBA All-Star Saturday Night and All-Star Game at Mandalay Bay Hotel in Las Vegas in 2007 and the BCS Championship games shown in 3D at 88 theaters in January 2008, session moderator Jonathan Dern stressed the commitment to 3D made during the past 12 months by PGA, NHL, NASCAR, FIFA’s World Cup, X Games, and the US Open tennis tournament. “Once people see 3D on the big screen, they are converted; they go out and buy a 3D TV to enjoy sports at home.”

The president of Cinedigm Content and Entertainment Group, Dern has produced a number of live and recorded 3D sports events, including the NBA All-Star Saturday Night 2009 and the NCAA Final Four 2010, plus many 3D music concerts.

“The key [to successful 3D production] is camera positions,” said Fox Sports director Derek Manning, who handled the 2009 BCS Championship, in addition to the 2010 MLB All-Star game. “Because most stadiums are set up for 2D positions, you can encounter edge violations from people walking into the frame. We like to add separate 3D positions that are higher to prevent that problem.”

Said Vince Pace, stereographer and CEO of PACE, which pioneered development of the stereoscopic Fusion 3D system, “For this season’s 3D productions for ESPN, we are shooting on the reverse side. For the US Open, we developed five 3D camera positions, three without operators that we access via remote control.

“Camera location is critical for a successful 3D sports broadcast,” he continued. “To see a ball come at you at 120 mph — who wouldn’t want to offer that in 3D?”

Reacting to Dern’s query whether there were any sports that do not work in 3D, Pace was unequivocal: “If it’s a revenue-generating game in 2D, then it is perfect for 3D. 3D offers a window into the sport that is hard to ignore: it is immersive. And we have broken so many rules in 3D, like using 500-mm lenses.”

He said he advises clients: “If you liked it in 2D, let’s try it in 3D.”

Said Dern, “Ultra slow motion in 3D is to die for. Where will 3D sports be five years from now?” he asked.

“Up to 90% of big sporting events will be on TV in 3D,” Manning opined.

“We will be using flat-panel 3D TVs that do not need glasses,” Sony’s Shapiro said. “But we will need more facilities. There are around 300 remote trucks in use — some SD-capable — but currently only maybe four 3D trucks.”

Lambert can be reached at mel.lambert@content-creators.com or 818.558-3924.

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