Fox Sports, Sony, 3ality to Deliver 3D BCS Championship Game to 80 Theaters

College football fans will get a chance to enter the third dimension on Jan. 8 when Fox Sports, Sony Broadcast, and 3ality Digital team up to deliver the college football Bowl Championship Series National Championship Game in 3D HD live to 80 theaters across the country. The announcement was made at the Sports Video Group League Technology Summit.

The game will mark the second high-profile football game to be delivered to theaters in 3D within two months. On Dec. 4 the NFL and 3ality partnered to deliver an NFL regular season telecast to theaters in New York, Boston, and Los Angeles.

“We learned a lot during that NFL broadcast,” says Steve Schklair, 3ality Digital Systems CEO. “We learned about how to wire things up, coverage, operations, how to cut it in the truck, and depth balancing between shots.” All of that learning, adds Schklair, will make for an improved theater experience compared to the NFL game.

The game will be shot using 3ality Digital’s image-capture technology and transmitted live via Cinedigm’s CineLive satellite distribution network from Dolphin Stadium in Miami to an event sponsored by Sony in the Paris Hotel and Casino’s RealD-equipped Theatre des Arts in Las Vegas, where more than 1,200 invited guests will view the game live in 3D during the annual Consumer Electronics Show.

“The live broadcast to the Paris Hotel and to movie theaters across the nation is the latest example of how we can deliver our programming to audiences in new and exciting ways,” said Jerry Steinberg, senior vice president of field operations and engineering for FOX Sports. “3D technology holds unlimited potential for the future of both sports broadcasting and live event production.”

For the broadcast, 3ality Digital will employ Sony HD cameras specially modified for stereoscopic production and transmission of the game. According to the company, the 3ality Digital technology allows a camera operator to shoot in a style similar to traditional 2D with pan-tilt-zoom control, and provides continuously self-correcting software to deliver high-quality stereoscopic imaging.

The 3ality Digital’s image capture systems integrate with existing broadcast equipment for pixel-perfect 3D imagery, and its image processing software enables accurate 3D image transmission through existing satellite systems, the company said. The feed is then transferred to the Cinedigm satellite network, which will broadcast the signal nationally to Cinedigm-enabled theaters. In the theater, RealD’s 3D stereoscopic Cinema System will enable the audience to view the game in 3D.

While 3ality founder and CEO Steve Schklair said the 3D version of a December 4 NFL game was transmitted in 720p, he suggested that quality could be improved if the resolution were bumped up to 1080 lines of resolution. For its part, Fox has some reservations. "We're not sure if we'e going to push 1080 through the truck," noted Jerry Steinberg, Fox senior VP of field operations and engineering. "Fox is a 720p network, and with Fox's presentation we want to keep the 720p standard."

Schklair says 3ality has chosen to shoot sporting events with stereo dual rigs of Sony HDC-1500 cameras, using a Telecast Fiber Systems solution to break out the optical blocks and connect them to the bodies via fiber, cutting the cameras' size and weight by more than half. The recent NFL 3D broadcast used eight separate 3D camera systems, and for this game, Schklair said, he'd like to have more. The 3D production does not share cameras with the 2D broadcast, although Schklair said that could change if the production decided to use a 3D skycam, since only one of those can be rigged to cover a single game.

The "special sauce" for a live 3D broadcast is 3ality's control software, which Schklair said allows cutting freely between cameras without hurting viewers' eyes. The mobile truck holds a rack-mounted SIP-2900 processor that handles a number of real-time image-control functions, such as color- and lens-matching, as well as automatic depth-balancing. That means that each of the production's 3D cameras is slaved to a single master or "preview" camera so edits from camera to camera won't create a jarring effect as the depth effects shift.

Not only does that allow a more compelling presentation, but it also shaves costs since a separate "convergence puller" doesn't need to be employed on each camera system. "The more we do, the less expensive it becomes, and the less expensive it becomes, the more we can do," Steinberg said.

Sony is providing its SXRD 4K projection technology at the Paris Hotel and Casino for this special 3D presentation that will be broadcast in conventional HD by FOX Sports. RealD is a co-sponsor of this theater presentation with Sony. RealD’s 3D system in the Theatre des Arts includes eyewear, screen and filtering technology.

“This event at the Paris Hotel is a perfect showcase for 4K technology,” says Alec Shapiro, senior vice president of Sony Electronics’ Broadcast and Production Systems. “It was designed with enough flexibility to show superb-quality 2D or 3D content in the highest resolution available -- for motion picture releases, live events or other forms of alternative content, delivering benefits to everyone, from the movie-going consumer to theater owners.”

The Sony projectors’ 4K resolution is derived from a pixel matrix of more than 4,000 horizontal pixels, delivering more than four times the resolution of high-definition televisions used in home theater systems. The projectors have a strong track record of success in live 3D theater presentations, delivering similar simulcasts in 2007 for the NBA All-Star Game as well as an NBA regular season game.

A motivating factor for Sony is the timing of the game, which falls on the opening day of CES. Sony will be displaying four prototype 3D-ready flat-panel screens at the show for estimated 2010 availability, Sony Senior Vice President of Broadcast & Production Alec Shapiro told reporters.

“Sports broadcasts are ideal for 3D presentation, especially in a theater, where fans can gather and participate in the atmosphere of the event with the feeling of truly being there,” said Sandy Climan, CEO of 3ality Digital. “This game may end up being a landmark in college sports history.”

According to Michael Lewis, chairman and CEO of RealD, “This event brings together all the necessary elements to create a truly immersive 3D broadcast. The success of recent box-office hits in 3D and the strong schedule of future releases highlight the fact that this is an experience that movie-goers crave. We look forward to continuing this evolution of the entertainment experience by delivering more live sports and other events to our theater partners.”

In addition to the theater at the Paris hotel, Cinedigm will broadcast the game to its network of 80 additional digitally enabled theaters across the United States.

Said Bud Mayo, chairman and CEO at Cinedigm, “Our 3D live distribution to theaters on Cinedigm’s nationwide network is now a reality that will greatly enhance the in-theater experience for consumers, while creating more opportunities for venue owners, broadcasters and the entire sports/entertainment industry.”

Gamecreek Video will provide its high-definition mobile video production unit for the game, working with the 3ality Digital camera rigs and image processing systems on-site in Miami.

“In 38 days 3ality Digital will work with excellent partners to prove that, without a doubt, the technology is here today and that there is economic viability to delivering live 3D sports to theaters,” says David Modell, 3ality Digital chairman.

Tickets will be available as early as today and will be available online for most locations. Ticket prices are set by exhibitors but are expected to range between $18 and $22. To find the nearest participating theatre, go to

By Ken Kerschbaumer, Sports Video Group and Bryant Frazer, StudioDaily