3D Production From Hawaii Wins Over Golf Fans

Golf Channel’s 3D coverage of the Sony Open in Honolulu over the weekend was deemed a success by all involved in the production as well as by viewers, who sent in more than 100 e-mails lauding it.

A total of eight hours were broadcast live, four each on Saturday and Sunday, with six cameras used to cover holes 2, 3, 4 and then, after short break, 16, 17, and 18. Production crews, with the help of course marshals, moved the six cameras from the front nine to the back nine and had them set up and ready for air within an hour.

“It came off as a very professional product with high production values,” says Rob Willox, director of 3D business development for Sony

For Sony’s team involved with the project, the event was the first time it was part of a 3D golf telecast since The Masters last April. And advances in 3D workflows, from the ability to more easily set up cameras to the quality of replays from the EVS servers, were easily visible.

“We had a wonderful tournament,” says Glenn Levine, VP of mobile unit engineering and operations for NEP Supershooters. “And the entire 3D production team came through in a big way.”

One of the biggest changes since the Masters is the availability of lower-cost production tools. A Panasonic AG-3ad1 3D camera was used to gather some scenic shots of Hawaii for interstitials, and a Sony consumer HD camcorder, which will be priced at $1,500 when it is available in April, gave viewers at home a look inside the 3D announce booth. HDMI output was delivered to a Doremi Dimension 3D system that turned the signal into left- and right-eye signals, which were then passed through coaxial cable to a Sony MPE-200 3D-image-processing unit to sync the two images.

The smaller 3D cameras played a secondary role in the production. At the core were two types of Element Technica 3D rigs, the Quasar and the smaller Pulsar. Both used Sony P1 cameras, with the Pulsar rigs used for the Steadicam and smaller jibs and the Quasar deployed for the hard-camera positions and the larger Spider rig.

“The Pulsar is an easier design for this sort of application,” says Michael Rintoul, senior integration specialist for Element Technica. The Quasar rigs used 42x Fujinon lenses; the Pulsar rigs, 22x Canon lenses.

Rintoul says the beauty of the Element Technica rig is that it is designed to be set up and maintained quickly and simply. The system has a minimal amount of software, and much of the testing and adjustments are handled by the MPE-200 image processor.

“We have developed a close relationship with Sony, and we have the only mechanical rig that works with their system and have rig control through that system,” says Rintoul. “When we worked together on the World Cup, we worked hand in hand, and out of that grows projects like this.”

The MPE-200 can handle a number of functions (including newly added 2D-to-3D conversion), but, when used with the Element Technica rigs, its key function is to center the zoom lenses. “A zoom lens never travels straight, so this re-centers both lenses and makes them straight relative to one another,” says Rintoul. “The MPE can also manipulate the images up or down or scale them.”

Rintoul and a staff of Element Technica convergence operators spent their days at the tournament ensuring that the emphasis was on delivering a photo-realistic experience to viewers at home. And comments like the one from a viewer in Canada who said he was ready to break out the suntan lotion leave no doubt that the effort was effective.

“The bulk of the effort is managing depth,” says Rintoul. “Because golf is played on a long course, you need to manage the position of everything in the frame and the divergence in the background.”

The only consistent issue during the coverage was the Golf Channel logo in the lower-right-hand corner of the screen. Shots from around the green at a golf tournament often have players walk into the frame from the bottom of the screen as they walk onto the green. Often, those players or caddies “collide” with and pass through the 3D graphic, causing an uncomfortable viewing experience.

The 3D coverage teed off for viewers on Saturday and Sunday, but a rehearsal on Friday allowed the team of about 40 staffers to work out any kinks and deal with such issues as fiber connection, convergence, proper rig alignment, and one of the biggest challenges: the logistics of moving the cameras from one side of the course and setting them up for the broadcast within an hour.

“We added some course marshals to help us get across the court and also a utility for each jib and rig,” says Levine. “Having them helped, as it only took us 50 minutes to move across the course.”

The golfers also embraced the technology, having fun with the camera by throwing gloves at it or waving a club in front of the camera.

“3D is new for everybody, and they still play to the clichés of 3D,” says Rintoul. “But everyone is having fun with it, and it was a successful day.”

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