3D Stereo for World Cup?

A successful technical trial of the IIHF hockey World Championship could lead to a stereoscopic broadcast of the 2010 Soccer World Cup, writes Adrian Pennington.

HBS, the Swiss-based production unit of sports marketing group Infront Sports and Media, covered the IIHF finals from Canada in HD and simultaneously conducted its first trial into 3D HD. Crucially, HBS is also host broadcaster for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.

"3D is on our radar and we'd like it to be on FIFA's radar," said Peter Angell, director of the Production and Programming Division, HBS. "In our position as host broadcaster of the World Cup we are required to keep FIFA abreast of all new technologies and make it an option for them."

The IIHF trial was delivered in conjunction with The3DFirm, a triumvirate of British companies behind the production of the world's first satellite delivered multi-camera 3D sports event during the Scotland vs. England Six Nations Rugby International in March.

"One of the critical things about the way we tackled ice hockey was to start from the point of view of adopting a regular broadcast workflow and trying to make that work in 3D rather than taking a 3D approach and trying to make that work in a broadcast environment," said Angell. "If 3D outside broadcasts are to take off, production needs to be straightforward and cost effective using standard EVS machines and vision mixers which are available anywhere rather than bespoke camera rigs. What attracted us to The3DFirm was that their approach enabled us to use the same workflow as for 2D HDTV."

Specifically the trial deployed three static pairs of Thomson LDK 6000's around the rink - one central and high and two focussed on either goal - with a pair of Iconix HD-RH1's for low-level point of view at one of the goals.

The3DFirm transported its own rigs for control of ocular conversion. "We chose a point of convergence at the nearest bit of action - at the rink edge - and matched the lenses and camera height. It took just half an hour to align each rig which is very attractive to us to just slot into a regular broadcast environment," explained Angell.

The camera's were triax-cabled, gen-locked to a vision mixing truck and the feeds recorded to EVS XT[2] servers and then to HD recorders synced with time code. Feeds were previewed on a small monitor using polarized glasses in the truck. A small projection unit is a possible future addition.

"The doubling of everything is the main cost," reported Angell. "For every one camera position you need two cameras and two sync paths throughout the truck. Slow motion requires dual EVS channels. Half the amount of inputs are available on the vision mixer and router. Aside from that the resource requirements and workflow are the same.

"We are looking to design one or two broadcast conversion rigs capable of handling zooms that are built from standards like triax," reported Angell. "We're also exploring the possibility of using the mixing truck to manipulate the convergence electronically rather than at the camera head.

"From a TV production point of view this is an exciting an innovation as there has ever been," he said. "Any stakeholder in any major sports event will be looking at 3D over the next twelve months to see if there's a market and a business model which works."

The IIHF 3D trial was not transmitted but will serve as a showreel for HBS's 3D capabilities.

"We strongly believe that groundbreaking production technologies like 3D HDTV are a key differentiator in the fast changing media and marketing environment," said Infront President and CEO, Philippe Blatter, who confirmed the group's investment in 3D.

Bruno Marty, Infront's executive director winter sport, added: "3D rights will become increasingly valuable to sports rights-holders and the 3D experience also creates entirely new communication and promotion platforms for sponsors. The potential for sport is huge."

Source: TVB Europe