HBS 3D Efforts Continue to Evolve During World Cup Tourney

The 3D buzz at the World Cup continues to build and, more importantly, find new believers both among the broadcasters who have seen the productions and the production team themselves as Host Broadcast Services (HBS) continues to refine its 3D production technique every game.

For Peter Angell, HBS director of the 3D project, and the rest of the production crew, that means that by the time they finish producing the World Cup Final in 3D on July 11 they will all be among the world’s most experienced 3D production professionals. A total of 25 games will be shot and distributed around the world in 3D and the production process has already seen significant improvements, according to all involved.

The early matches were focused on broad, basic refinements like getting comfortable of the front bench and beyond with cutting from cameras, balancing game coverage vs. maximizing the 3D effect, and more.

“Now it’s about making the production slicker, working on the quality of cutting and the timing,” says Angell. “Now we have more affinity with the 3D world…less convergence errors, less short cut.”

Approximately 10 broadcast networks and 400 theaters are distributing the World Cup 3D feed, including ESPN, Al Jazeera, SBS Korea, SBS Australia, SogeCable in Spain, TF1 and Canal+ in France.

There are two 3D production units in use for the broadcasts: a vehicle from Telegenic and another from AMP. The AMP trucks handles 3D productions in two stadiums, Ellis Park and Soccer City in Johannesburg while the Telegenic truck is handling matches in Durban, Cape Town, and Port Elizabeth.

“The positions in each venue are pretty identical so we were lucky,” says Angell. Similar positions make it easier for the production crews to work in different venues without having to massively adjust production philosophies.

The eight-camera shoot includes four cameras positioned on the main stand, lower than the main 2D camera positions, along with four on the field level. Two are behind the right hand goal, on the near and far sidelines while cameras on the left side of the field are near the player bench and behind the left hand goal.

One of the interesting discoveries is that shooting in 3D allows the production to “cross the line” of the middle of the pitch. In 2D productions if the action is moving from left to right all the camera cuts need to be from the same side of the field to prevent the viewer from getting disoriented.

“With 3D it is easier for viewers to orient themselves and there is an increased perception of where the camera is on the field,” says Angell. “So we are cutting a lot to the cameras on the reverse side of the field from the main [game] cameras.”

Lessons learned from game one include the need to frame a bit tighter into the action by shooting less wide from the main game cameras in the stands. But the challenge is making sure that the camera isn’t too tight which, in turns, requires more panning to follow the action and introduces more motion blur and compression artifacts.

“Gradually we are pushing in a little more,” says Angell.

Ironically, while the cameras in the stand are going a little tighter the cameras on the field are going a little wider. Wider shots from the field level introduce more elements that can add depth to a scene.

“We are doing safe, calm, and easily viewable 3D,” adds Angell. “We are trading some 3D value but we don’t want to overdue the 3D to the point where viewers don’t have a good time. People are biologically linked to the experience.”

Production gear used includes Canon HJ22ex7.6B portable HD ENG lenses with Sony HDC-1500 cameras brought together in Elements Technica 3D rigs which the HBS team was first exposed to at last year’s IBC in Amsterdam.

“It’s been working out really well,” says Angell. “It is flexible enough to adapt to our needs and now we can set the rigs up in two hours.”

That ability to quickly break down and set up the 3D production gear has been almost as important as the new skills related to the production. The team quickly realized that by color coding all of the equipment for a given rig it was much more easy to ship and assemble.

“Mechanically the Element Technica rigs hold their alignment very well,” says Angell. About an hour of optical adjustment is all that is required to get the cameras ready for the match.

Also helping with the quality of the production is the decision to match up a cameraman with a convergence puller. HBS even made the teamed up cameraman and convergence operators swap roles to understand how the other half live and allowing them to learn how things they do in their regular position can lead to problems for their partner. “They need to develop a close relationship,” says Angell.

The directors for the broadcasts are Bruno Hullin and Jean Charles Van Kerkoven, great 2D football directors who also are relearning their craft. Duncan Humphries, a 3D consultant, has also played an integral role in shaping the coverage.

“For the directors it is really about leaving aside their instincts and having much calmer coverage where they get down to the field-level cameras as early as possible,” says Angell. “That’s where the interesting 3D shots are.”

By Ken Kerschbaumer, Sports Video Group