Unifying 2D/3D Makes for Better 2D, Too

SVG’s 3D & Beyond Summit in New York last week ended with a bang. Five visionaries of 3D sports production took the stage to discuss the unification of 2D and 3D productions. Mike Rokosa, VP of engineering for NBA Entertainment, kicked off the discussion with footage from the NBA All-Star Game and pronounced himself impressed yet again with how 3D has helped his production teams rethink 2D.

“3D is teaching us that we have options in 2D that maybe we didn’t explore before because we were caught in our ways,” he said. “There exists opportunity for us to change the way we do our productions for the better.”

“The biggest thing about 3D is, it makes you produce again,” agreed Ted Kenney, director of production for 3ality Digital. “It makes you think a lot about every little detail you’re going to have to put into it.”

Phil Orlins, coordinating producer for ESPN 3D, also concurred, noting that 3D allows production teams to take chances that they would not otherwise normally take. Sometimes, he added, the 2D team even takes a cue from the new 3D production to rethink the traditional 2D setup.

“In the 2D world, the rope is pretty short, as far as how much we can change and how aggressively we can take chances,” he said. “3D has given us an unbelievable opportunity not only to do some things differently but to have an audience that has embraced it. We’ve been able to stay with these different approaches and let the audience become comfortable as viewers.

“For us, football is a great experiment,” he continued. “Switching to a low game camera to get proximity, moving up and down the sideline on a cart — we struggled with that early on, but we had the leeway to keep at it. There’s no other way to run through the experiment than to do it.”

Orlins showed a 2D and 3D production of a college basketball game side by side at the Summit, letting the SVG audience members decide for themselves which was the better fit. He explained that, in a conversation he had with the 2D producer after the game, the 2D team said the coverage felt distant from the action in comparison to the 3D coverage.

“When we actually saw them side by side,” Orlins said, “there was a pretty open acceptance that we could do things that were good for 3D without jeopardizing what we were doing in 2D.”

One Truck, Two Productions
Indeed, ESPN has done several 2D productions from the 3D broadcast, taking the left-eye feed as the 2D broadcast. No special equipment is involved to create that feed, according to Joe Signorino, senior project engineer for NEP Supershooters, and it does not cause any technical issues.

“It’s all production value at that point,” he explained. “Most of the show tallies have remained separate to keep confusion at a minimum for operators.”

Producing 2D and 3D productions out of a single truck is relatively easy to do, Kenney noted, but there is going to be a tradeoff.

“Creatively, one will suffer, or the other, or both,” he said. “I don’t think we’ll see a single-truck solution unless we change viewers’ way of seeing things. We’ve trained them the last 15 years how to see sports; now we have to go back and enjoy what we’re seeing a little bit more. We’re slowly training the younger generation in how to see things in a much more impactful way.”

2D/3D Compromises
The biggest difficulty in using the left eye of a 3D production for a 2D feed comes when pure 3D cameras are involved and large lenses are not.

“If you look at sports like football, it’s a little more complicated to find common ground with a single production that meets what has become the expectation for a 2D show,” Orlins explained. “Something like boxing is barely different in how you would conceive of it from a 2D/3D standpoint. In boxing, the pace at which you need to cut in boxing is determined by your directing style, not the action in the ring. Many sports, like basketball, fall somewhere in the middle, between boxers in a confined space and football players running down a 100-yard field deliberately trying to deceive you.”

Tennis is the perfect example of a sport squarely in the middle, and Mark Grant, director of CBS’s production of the US Open in 3D, discussed his experience working with shadow cameras to create a 3D production underneath the 2D production.

“We had the standard 2D operators running the 2D and 3D cameras, which creates a lot of problems for the director that doesn’t have control of those cameras,” Grant said. “There are a lot of obstacles to doing 3D the way that we did it, but we had a lot of success. Sometimes you have to cut off a great shot because the 2D director calls for something else. When you’re sharing cameras, sometimes you have to be a lot faster than you want to be.”


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