Live From Phoenix: ESPN Gears Up for 3D Derby, the Sequel

Today’s Home Run Derby marks a birthday of sorts for one broadcast effort: the one-year anniversary of ESPN’s first unilateral 3D production and the one-year birthday for NEP’s SS32 unit, which made its debut at last year’s Derby in Anaheim.

ESPN's 3D production crew puts finishing touches on one of the Pace 3D rigs.

“Philosophically, it is very close, but a lot of the technologies have grown since then,” says Phil Orlins, ESPN 3D coordinating producer.

So what can 3D viewers expect tonight? Some improvements include graphics that were built specifically for the 3D broadcast.

“We started having true 3D stereoscopic graphics for football where we control the convergence and depth,” says Orlins. “It allows for some nice details although we don’t do anything overwhelming. To be able to customize some of the animations and graphics for a single event like this is satisfying.”

Similar to last year will be the use of Fletcher robotic rigs outfitted with Sony P1 cameras around the batter and pitcher. One is located on each side of the pitcher, another mounted on the backstop behind the hitter for a view of the pitch coming into the batter, and another behind the pitcher.

Also on hand will be a Pace Shadow D rig in the right field corner. The Shadow D mounts a 3D rig on top of the 2D camera systems, allowing one camera operator to operate both the 3D and 2D systems. All other 3D cameras will be operated side-by-side with the 2D cameras.

NEP SS32 and 33 are on hand for ESPN's 3D efforts.

The system that will benefit the most from a year of development and improvements will be an iMovix super-slo-mo rig. Last year, the system was on the bleeding edge; however, it has made great strides and is expected to get some great shots of players launching baseballs into one of the multiple decks at Chase Field.

“That will be the biggest difference from last year,” says Orlins of the stadium itself. “Stadiums that have multiple decks and structures that can get hit are more visually interesting.”

Capturing the flight of the ball from the stands will be Pace 3D rigs outfitted with Sony HDC-1500 cameras and 42x Fujinon lenses.

“The flight of the ball isn’t as dramatic in 3D,” adds Orlins of shots from high first and third.

A 3D camera mounted behind home plate gives viewers a great vantage point of the balls crossing the plate.

While the HDC-1500s are up high, three handheld rigs will be on the field grabbing up-close shots with the players. Two Toshiba IK-HD1 camera systems will also be joined together to create a 3D camera suitable for the booth as Gary Thorne, Aaron Boone, and Luis Gonzalez handle broadcaster duties for the 3D side of things.

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