Sony Builds 2D-3D Conversion Tool

Sony is to build realtime 2D to 3D conversion capability into its 3D Processor box, while a potentially serious power shortage involving the 3D setup nearly derailed World Cup production.

Sony is taking stock of the technical lessons it learned during the intense 3D match day production schedule during the recent World Cup tournament. Future iterations of its MPE-200 3D processor are likely to include 2D to 3D conversion, finessed colour correction, QC for 3D on ingest into edit suites or before transmission and improved configuration tools between the lenses, rigs and processor box.

JVC’s IF-2D3D1 video image processor was used to convert 2D images shot from helicopter, Spidercam and some pitchside steadicams for the production.

“One of the things we are sensitive to is that when companies buy into the hardware power of the MPE-200 processor they need to look at return on investment around 3D,” explains Mark Grinyer, Head of Sports Business, Sony Professional. “We’re looking at what we can do around the hardware platform (based on the Cell engine which drives the PS3) and 3D conversion is one of those ideas. For outside broadcasters the flexibility of a production tool is also key. We want to automate as many 3D processes as possible with this platform.”

By all accounts the system itself worked almost without hitch during the 25 match 3D run. According to Duncan Humphreys, Creative Director of CAN Communicate who was technical consultant to production team HBS for the production: “It was a very smooth operation. I always believed eventually that 3D correction would be done digitally rather than mechanically and what Sony has achieved in such a short period of time is unbelievable.

“We had virtually no problem with the 3D boxes. In fact it’s a game-changer – producing quality live 3D with standard broadcast lenses and cameras. The one thing that will kill off 3D is expensive 3D, because broadcasters are not going to pay the kind of premiums that are being required at the very top end.”

Humphreys revealed that the production team had to solve one major technical glitch during tests in the run up to South Africa. The fault, which took a month to identify and fix, turned out to be an issue with the Sony HDC-1500’s power supply.

“The cameras were working just fine until we went into live trials and the system was zooming strangely and at one point failed all together,” says Humphreys. “We eventually realised that since we were powering the Element Technica rigs including all zooming and lens matching alteration, and communications traffic that there wasn’t enough power in the cameras to be able to do everything we needed.”

The problem was resolved by attaching an external power supply to the rigs although Sony is addressing the issue. “In stadia or other venues with power sources there’s no problem but in certain locations it could be, so we’ll look into it,” says Grinyer.

The next version of the Sony 3D boxes’ software will be released shortly after IBC. At the Amsterdam event Sony will also reveal the next stage of its prototype 3D single bodied dual lens camcorder which is not thought to be radically different in design from that released earlier this year by Panasonic.

By Adrian Pennington, TVB Europe