Sensio To Serve Up 3D NBA to Global Audience

Sensio Technologies will help the NBA distribute its 3D efforts at the NBA All-Star Game weekend to theaters around the world, allowing international fans in more than 100 cinemas in Belgium, Germany, Italy, and Mexico to feel closer than ever to NBA action. And Sensio CEO Nicholas Routhier is adamant that theaters are a key component for the success of 3D sports content.

“There won’t be millions of eyeballs ready to watch 3D in the home for a while, so what is the incentive to broadcast an event in 3D?” he asks. “In the theater, the business model is more obvious for the spectacular, once-in-a-while event.”

Getting the 3D signals from the Staples Center and out to the world involves a mix of formats, conversion, and technologies. A 720p/59.94Hz signal will be encoded using Sensio’s Hi-Fi 3D technology and then transported from Los Angeles via satellite (AMC3) to TV2GO in Toronto. There, the signal will be encoded in MPEG-4 (a 4:2:2 version of H.264) at a rate of 71.3 Mbps.

“We want to keep the maximum signal quality in Toronto,” says Routhier. “In Toronto, we will convert the signal to 1080i and 720p because theaters use both formats.”

The last step will be the delivery of 720p and 1080i signals in 40.188 Mbps MPEG-2 to theaters around the world.

The European market continues to outpace the U.S. when it comes to fans’ embracing live 3D sports (and even pre-taped events) in a theater environment.

“Europe is far more advanced than North America because distribution is not as controlled as it is in the States,” he says. “So theaters are waiting for these events, and things like the World Cup were a big success.”

The biggest challenge in terms of making 3D theater events even more successful, in fact, simply has to do with the timing of the deals.

“There is a lack of time to do proper marketing; even the World Cup only gave us a two-month head start,” says Routhier. “With more time, fans can plan ahead, make reservations, and even buy pre-assigned seats.”

Those larger audiences will then bring the next 3D-related revenue stream: 3D advertising.

“Global ad packages will be offered, as all eyeballs will be watching,” says Routhier. “Once that settles, we have a really viable business model.”

To Matthew Brabants, SVP of international media distribution and business operations for the NBA, working with Sensio is perfect for the NBA’s 3D efforts: “For the first time, international basketball fans are going to have the opportunity to see NBA All-Star like never before, on the big screen in cinemas with a special courtside seat to all the action — in 3D.”

Digital-3D leader PACE, which has worked with the league on all its 3D initiatives, will produce the NBA All-Star 3D events. Coverage will include the use of eight 3D cameras throughout Staples Center, including three special 3D Shadow cameras. The 3D Shadow cameras will be placed directly on top of the main broadcast cameras, providing an efficient and non-intrusive way to capture all the action in 3D. Exclusive commentary, tailored for 3D, will be provided for international fans watching the 3D events.

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