James Cameron, Vince Pace Pack the House for Opening NAB Keynote

The 2011 NAB Show kicked off Monday morning with an opening keynote featuring Oscar-winning director James Cameron and 3D pioneer Vince Pace. The session, which was organized with help from the Sports Video Group, delved into the latest developments in 3D for both the broadcast and motion-picture industries. During the standing-room-only session, both Cameron and Pace uttered a phrase that is sure to have broadcasters clamoring to produce more 3D content: “Broadcasting is the future of 3D.”

“There are a lot of myths about barriers of entry into the world of 3D,” Cameron said. “Myths like how much it costs, the need for a whole separate crew, the whole methodology is different, all the technology is different, you’re going to have to start over from scratch in territory you don’t understand. We believe exactly the opposite.”

In addition, Cameron and Pace announced a new 3D company, the Cameron-Pace Group (CPG), which will look to accelerate worldwide growth of 3D across all entertainment platforms, including sports.

The session also featured opening comments from NAB President/CEO Gordon Smith and NAB Chairman Steve Newberry and the presentation of the NAB Distinguished Service Award to former NAB chief Eddie Fritts.

Let People Do What They Do
Both Cameron and Pace preached the need — and ability — to integrate the 2D and 3D shows during the production of live events.

“To grow this market correctly and rapidly, let people do what they do,” Cameron said. “Operators at an NFL or NBA game know how the play is going to go and how the ball is going to move because they’ve been doing it for 10-15 years. Let them operate the camera. Let the same producers and directors do it the way they do and have a company like Cameron-Pace work in concert with that to create the necessary solutions.”

To let these experienced 2D crew members flourish in a 3D world, the model of side-by-side 2D-3D productions will fall by the wayside.

“As sports [broadcasters] were dipping their toe in the water — like ESPN — they would set up a 2D team here and a 3D team over there. The 2D team had 20 cameras and 15-20 years of experience,” Cameron pointed out. “And the 3D team were 3D-specialized people who didn’t necessarily know how to shoot that sport. They’ve gotten leftover camera positions. They were treated like the red-headed stepchild, and then everybody cried that it was costing way too much because there were two entire crews.

“That business model doesn’t work,” he continued. “You have to go beyond that to a single 2D-3D production. Ultimately, within the next couple years, everything will be a 3D camera, and the 2D feed will be extracted from it.”

Uniting Camera Positions With the Shadow
Live 3D sports productions have struggled to obtain the necessary camera positions at venues around the country, where traditional 2D positions have long  been established.

“A separate crew and finding separate positions is just not going to work, especially when you start targeting positions that are in higher demand, like a World Series or a Super Bowl,” Pace said. “Those camera positions have been established for the last 20 years, so it’s not like 3D shows re-create the wheel.”

PACE’s Shadow rig — a 2D-3D combo rig — has nullified this issue in several cases.

“So we developed the Shadow system, which piggybacks onto the 2D camera because, most of the time, the point of interest is the same,” said Pace. “Whatever 2D is looking at, 3D loves as well. The camera angles are very complementary to one another.”

Masters Coverage
Six of the 18 3D rigs used by CBS Sports at the Masters golf tournament last week were Shadow rigs. According to Pace, who was on hand as he is for many major 3D sports productions, the 3D coverage was extremely well-received.

“People were amazed by how [the Shadow rigs] were able to cover the ball in flight, but that’s because it was the same 2D operator who has been doing it for the last 30 years,” said Pace. “In the past, we had been given operators who had only done some golf and were suddenly tasked with capturing the perfect golf shot. We need to be on the A-list — whether it’s a director, camera position, or production gear. The way we’re going to get there is by integrating the 2D process into the 3D process.”

The Rise of the Cameron-Pace Group
The new Cameron-Pace Group will be headquartered in Burbank, CA, at the current home of PACE, which has been rebranded Cameron-Pace Group, effective immediately. CPG’s first challenge will be to significantly boost 3D-rig manufacturing in order to serve the broadcast industry.

“We’re shifting rapidly from a paradigm of creating a few rigs to service the movie industry — which was maybe 50 or 60 camera rigs — up to servicing the broadcasting industry with thousands of rigs,” said Cameron. “We have to be able to bring people up to speed in order to do that.”

Broadcasters Should Be Prepared
Cameron cautioned that broadcasters must be ready for widespread 3D adoption as passive TV sets — and even glasses — begin to flourish. According to the director, those who are not well-versed in 3D production will be left behind and miss out on a massive opportunity.

“I believe that [passive 3D sets] will become widely adopted,” Cameron opined. “The next threshold beyond that, which is two to three years or as much as four to five years out, is high-quality, full HD-resolution large screens that have multiple viewing angles that don’t have glasses at all. That is the point where the curve will go ballistic. Broadcasters need to be ready for that.

“That’s my own personal prediction,” he continued. “A lot of people would say I’ve just drunk my own Kool-Aid, but everything we’ve predicted about 3D so far has come true and, for the most part, ahead of schedule.”