Sports Entertainment Summit II: New Tools and Techniques for 3D Sports Production Offer Easier, Cheaper Options

By Mel Lambert

“We are bullish and strongly believe in 3D,” declared John Ward, SVP of production and traffic operations with DirecTV Entertainment, which offers several 3D channels and, starting in July, will provide full-time ESPN 3D coverage.

“But content is key – we need good, well-produced programming because audiences will watch compelling content. Big sporting events are a driving interest, including surfing, X-Games, and motor sports – [car] drifting shows are really compelling in 3D,” he advised. “DirecTV’s Guitar Center Sessions of musical concerts in 3D are also very popular.”

Ward was speaking at last week’s SVG Sports Entertainment Summit, which drew more than 300 industry executives to the Sofitel Hotel in Los Angeles to discuss the future from a technical and business perspective, in a well-attended session moderated by SVG executive director Ken Kerschbaumer.

In terms of reducing production costs, Ted Kenney, director of production with 3ality Digital, offered that networks now have access to cheaper and lighter stereoscopic cameras, and which require smaller support crews. “While we might have needed 20-25 people back in 2006 while working with two cameras, for a recent eight-camera shoot we required just 35 people. Our new convergence software eliminated the need for a separate puller at each rig, and is more consistent than a human operator. What might have taken eight hours to set up a year ago, now takes just three to five minutes per lens; it’s a major time and money saving for sports operators.”

“We have come a long way in three years,” conceded Jonathan Dern, president/co-founder of Cinedigm Entertainment Group. “There are a number of 24/7 networks broadcasting 3D content, in addition to a number of events being shown in movie theaters. And movie audiences are responding strongly to 3D offerings – some $32 million of advance tickets were sold for the recent Harry Potter release, most of which were for 3D screenings.”

Addressing compatibility concerns for the 3D audience, Ward revealed that “the left-eye output is used for DirectTV’s 2D broadcasts, which saves costs.”

“But we do need to re-educate the 2D audience,” Kenney advised. “For 3D we need wide shots and can field fewer cameras – maybe eight and not 28 – which means that [the productions] will also look different. We may not always get the shots we are after. The challenge is how to mix 2D and 3D and save money.”

“We always shoot sports in the same way,” for 2D and 3D, stressed Jerry Steinberg, SVP of field operations with Fox Sports. “Getting lower and closer to the playing field in 3D makes the 2D coverage look better. But we have to remember,” he cautioned, “that we are still broadcasting SD-3D to the home audience, and not HD-3D.”

Click here for SVG’s comprehensive coverage of the Sports Entertainment Summit II.

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