The Reality of 3D Sports: Delivering a High-Quality Experience for Less Cost

Report by Mel Lambert:  “The ultimate efficiency results from a fully unified production,” stated Phil Orlins from ESPN. “By using a single crew, our incremental costs increase by maybe 25% compared to conventional 2D coverage. Running side-by-side 2D and 3D costs 2x and up.” Orlins was speaking during yesterday’s panel discussion on 3D sports production at the NAB Show, a session organized by the Sports Video Group and moderated by its editorial director, Ken Kerschbaumer.

“During an eight-day period in late February,” Orlins continued, “we covered our Friday Night Fights boxing telecast in 3D [from Wicomico Civic Center, Salisbury, MD], followed by college basketball and then an NBA game from Orlando — the boxing was a unified production with a single director and a single announcer.”

Steve Schklair, CEO of 3ality Digital, outlined recently developed 3D software tools that are designed to offer “better picture and better economy — which are both critical for any new technology to succeed. Our new IntelleCam automatically controls the convergence and the interaxial spacing of the two cameras without the need for a separate convergence puller at each rig.” Parallax settings for each camera position are programmed into the unit and convergence parameters automatically generated during zoom, pan and tilt operations, with a stereographer handling final adjustments.

“It reduces alignment and calibration from 20-30 minutes per camera to just five minutes at the push of a button,” Schklair added. “In addition, we have a new graphics controller that lets the operator place bugs and score bars anywhere in the field of play,” rather than forward of the on-screen action. “Now people moving in front of [bugs and bars] will simply occlude the graphic. You can also place ads in the back of the field, if required.”

“For recent 3D game coverage” reported Steve Hellmuth, EVP of operations and technology with the National Basketball Association, “we used eight cameras, only two of which were under the 3D director’s control. We look for camera positions that work equally well in 2D and 3D. Their lenses have the same interest, after all.”

“During the PGA Masters [from Augusta National Golf Club], we used 3D to tell the story of the back nine holes,” states Ken Aagaard, EVP of operations and production service at CBS Sports. “We had limited opportunities for extra camera positions because the course [organizers] wanted to keep it as clean as possible. We decided to use Pace Shadow D rigs on six of the handheld cameras” — essentially two 3D cameras mounted on top of the 2D camera or on a shelf — “plus a pair of jibs and a robotic camera.”

“For our X Games coverage,’ added EPSN’s Orlins, “we shared eight cameras with the 2D crew. We look for efficiencies when they make sense.”

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