CBS Sports To Produce ESPN’s Nine Holes of 3D Golf at the Masters

In 2010, golf fans were invited to enjoy the beauty of golf in three dimensions as the Masters tournament became the first 3D golf event to be produced and distributed throughout North America. A number of 3D golf experiments have since taken place in the U.S., but, so far, no stateside network has completed a 3D production of a full 18 holes. This week, however, that number will be whittled down as ESPN presents a full 3D production of the second nine holes at the Masters in Augusta, GA. CBS Sports will produce the coverage for ESPN 3D.

Side-by-Side Shadow Rigs
To produce coverage of the second nine, CBS will have 17 3D systems at its disposal, including six shadow rigs, three jibs, three handheld cameras, three unilateral cameras, and aerial views of the course. CBS has worked with shadow rigs in the past, using them for its 3D coverage of the US Open tennis tournament, but these shadow rigs will be different.

“Initially, the rigs were built so the 3D cameras were sitting on top of the lenses, but the weight distribution didn’t work for our camera guys,” says Ken Aagaard, EVP of engineering, operations, and production services for CBS Sports. “We tested them in San Diego, and we couldn’t follow the ball and get back. After those tests, we ended up mounting the cameras to the side. Lo and behold, it was no problem, and the rigs now work fine.”

The shadow rigs are designed to track what the 2D camera operator is doing, although the 3D cameras can be calibrated to track the shot differently, with a wider setting, for example. Much of this element of the production, Aagaard explains, is still a work in progress.

Sharing More Cameras
Besides the unilateral 3D jib that will move around the course, the 3D production will benefit from two additional jibs that will be outfitted with 3D cameras but directed by the 2D director.

“The 2D director will direct those and take the left-eye camera,” Aagaard says. “The 3D is an oh-by-the-way, but it’s one heck of a great oh-by-the-way. You’re going to get some great shots out of two of the jibs that are really being controlled by the 2D director.”

CBS reshot its aerial views of Augusta National this year in 3D, and the 2D team will use the left eye from those shoots during the production.

Three hard unilateral 3D cameras will be placed throughout the course, with one always stationed at hole 18, and the handhelds are all cabled and must hook up to fiber.

“There will be a whole puzzle to figure out if the 3D guy can hook into this fiber or if it’s for the 2D guy,” Aagaard smiles. “The directors know what they have and what’s available. You can only get one guy into that particular cable at a time.”

2D-3D Coordination
In order to make the joint 2D-3D production work, a great deal of coordination is required between the two production teams. The 3D director must pay constant attention to what the 2D director is doing and how all of the cameras are moving. All the camera operators, especially those on the shadow rigs, have been told to assume that they are always on, so that their shots can be taken at any time, without the directors’ having to worry about quick cuts and fast pans that might hurt the eyes of the 3D viewer.

The shadow rigs and shared jibs on the course also help CBS minimize the number of extra people on the course.

To fill out the 3D production, the CBS team will use some 2D shots but only where it makes sense to do so. Following a ball in the air, for example, will not provide much of a 3D depth effect, so a 2D shot would work best in that scenario.

With support from ESPN 3D’s regular 3D production truck, NEP SS32, the 3D crew consists of about 75 people, many of whom have been producing 3D on a regular basis for ESPN.

“We’re still at a point where we have a convergence operator for every camera,” Aagaard notes. “Every shot looks a little bit different, and it takes a little experimentation to find out where the best 3D is. Based on the stereographer telling them what to do, those operators will come up with how the 3D is really going to look.”

Multi-Party Partnership
The production will use Sony cameras and the Panasonic AG-3DA1 camcorder for ENG coverage. CBS has been working in partnership with PACE CEO Vince Pace and ESPN Coordinating Producer Phil Orlins to incorporate their expertise into the 3D production, and, with the best in the business on hand in Augusta, Aagaard is confident that this production will wow viewers.

In addition to domestic distribution on ESPN, the 3D broadcast of the Masters will be shown internationally in the UK and Japan.

“When God lights Augusta, there is nothing prettier,” Aagaard says. “In HD, it’s gorgeous. In 3D, it’s stupendous. It will look really fabulous.”