Ikegami 3-D Camera-Control

Ikegami will exhibit its new CSU-3D camera-switching unit, which supports up to four pairs of HD cameras for use in shooting stereoscopic 3-D television productions. The CSU-3D is a vital component for shooting major events in 3-D HD, such as football and baseball games or rock concerts.

The CSU-3D, working together with an MCP (maintenance control panel) and four OCPs (operation control panels), provides extensive set-up control for optimization of each camera and subsequent parallel operational control for the four pairs of HD cameras. The CSU-3D ensures that any subsequent camera adjustments are shared precisely by each camera pair, thus maintaining matched camera settings for optimum 3-D HD image capture.

Source: Ikegami

1 Beyond Makes Production to Post-production 3D Workflow a Reality

1 Beyond announced that it will unveil a new portfolio of systems that eliminates the typical workflow and communications gaps between pre-production, on-set, and post-production, creating a powerful non-linear 3D workflow solution that covers every step of the content creation process, from the initial concept to final delivery.

This new ground-breaking 3D workflow features new systems from 1 Beyond optimized to work seamlessly with some of the industry’s most innovative 3D technologies. Visitors to the 1 Beyond booth will be able to see an example of how a major film studio is currently using this workflow on set to record footage from Silicon Imaging SI-3D camera systems directly into 1 Beyond Wrangler DDR Direct-to-Disk Recording systems. The footage is then connected to 1 Beyond Wrangler duplicator stations for automatic backup and to S3DR review stations with IRIDAS FrameCycler DI for instant review of RAW footage in full high resolution stereoscopic 3D. This workflow is also appropriate for virtually all 2D and 3D camera workflows in compressed, uncompressed and RAW formats.

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Visitors will also see how during the post production stage, output from the 3D production workflow can be used immediately without conversion, by using compatible formats that feed, for example, a 3D Avid editing environment, which then outputs EDLs to conform for various finish systems.

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All Wrangler systems include the 1 Beyond Wrangler software that provides automatic ingest and verification of footage from a range of high-end cameras (Panasonic, RED, SI, Sony, Phantom and more). With the addition of other unique software from 1 Beyond, Silicon Imaging, IRIDAS and ASSIMILATE, these configurations can also support Direct-to-Disk Recording and/or review for 2D/3D, RAW and HD-SDI cameras.

The 1 Beyond Wrangler systems are currently available in four hardware configurations:

- Wrangler Dude, a small form factor with 4 or 8 processors, with custom designed brushed aluminum case, DC-power, built in 7” touch screen, available for $6,995.

- Wrangler Pro with 17” LCD screen (up to 1920 x 1200) and fold-down keyboard, 8-processor power, featuring a heavy-duty all metal, shock-resistant body, with a roll-about case for easy travel, available for $8,495.

- Wrangler Rack, with 8-processor power, 8.4” touch screen, mounted in a 19” rack for use in trucks and mobile racks, starting at $7,995. Also available are 3U and compact 1U rack versions.

- Super Wrangler based on the 16-processor power of the 1 Beyond HexDFlex, with 17” 1920x1200 LCD screen and fold-down keyboard, available for $12,995.

All Wrangler systems feature solid state system/application drives for ultimate reliability. They are available with various combinations of RAID protected video 1 Beyond GoHDCart drive cartridges and the new 1 Beyond GoHDMag solid state magazines. Key to the 3D workflow concept is the 1 Beyond Wrangler Data Shuttle, 4 and 8-bay storage towers with mini-SAS connections supporting SAS and SATA drives up to 8TB, supporting 2D/3D RAW, uncompressed and high quality compressed video recording and review.

Source: 1 Beyond

Fujinon to Introduce New 3D Lenses with Synchronous Control System

Fujinon will introduce six new lenses in conjunction with its 3D Synchronous Control System for 3D production at the 2010 NAB Show in Las Vegas. The new lenses feature very high optical and mechanical specifications, along with precise zoom and focus servos.

Lenses that are to be used in tandem for 3D productions must share the same focal length – and during shooting, they must also match zoom and focus position. The Fujinon 3D Synchronous Control System includes the ERD-10A-D01 Zoom controller and HJ-303A-06A Synchronizer/Focus controller, plus two SA-206H cables that provide the interface between the 3D controllers and lenses. The system synchronizes the left and right lenses so zoom and focus accurately move in unison.

Fujinon's 3D Lenses with Synchronous Control System

Four new B4 mount lenses are designed for 3D HD productions. The HA23X7.6BEZD-T5DD offers a 23X zoom with a focal length of 7.6-175mm (15.2-350mm with 2X extender). The HA16X6.3BEZD-T5DD offers a 16X zoom with a focal length of 6.3-101mm (12.6-202mm with 2X extender). The HA18x7.6BEZD-T5DD offers a 18X zoom with a focal length of 7.6-137mm (15.2-274mm with 2X extender). A fourth HD lens, the HAs18X7.6 3BZD-T5DD, is an 18X zoom with a focal length of 7.6-137mm with no 2X extender. All four lenses include Fujinon’s Inner Focus, Zoom Limit, and Quick Zoom features, with an optional 16-bit encoder.

Fujinon is also offering two extended definition 3D lenses. The A4X7.5BMD-DNL features a 4X zoom with a focal length of 7.5-30mm, while the A8X12BMD-DNL features a 8X zoom with a focal length of 12-96mm. Both broadcast quality lenses include a B4 mount.

For optimal usability, these lenses may be used with Fujinon’s 3D Synchronous Control System or third-party controllers for simultaneous zoom and focus control. All 3D products are available for delivery.

Source: Fujinon

Cox to Offer 3D Masters Golf Coverage

Cox Communications has announced that beginning on April 7, Masters 3D programming will be available at no additional cost to Cox Advanced TV customers with an HD or HD/DVR receiver.

Cox customers will need a 3D TV and a Cox HD or HD/DVR receiver to access the 3D programming. The TV manufacturer's specified 3D glasses will also be required to view the content in 3D.

The receiver must be connected to the 3D TV via HDMI. Those customers will then be required to tune to a specific channel and change the setting on their 3D TV to 3D format or 3D mode.

Comcast has announced similar news.

Source: Cable360

Poland Set for 3D

Canal+ is preparing for what will be the first 3D transmission in Poland. Satkurier reports that the company will hold a joint press conference with Eutelsat and LG Electronics tomorrow (March 31) at its headquarters in Warsaw to reveal full details of the transmission.

It is expected to feature a football match in 3D. Canal+ plans to eventually show matches from the Polish premier football league Ekstraklasa, for which it holds the rights, in 3D.

By Chris Dziadul, Broadband TV News

DirecTV Puts on ESPN's 3D Glasses

DirecTV is pushing the 3DTV ball down the field, announcing it will carry ESPN 3D -- which is promising to deliver at least 85 live sporting events in the first year -- alongside the June launch of its three dedicated 3D channels, which include a linear 3D channel dubbed "N3D." The satellite operator's N3D channel will include programming from partners AEG/AEG Digital Media, CBS, Fox Sports/FSN, Golden Boy Promotions, HDNet, MTV, NBC Universal and Turner Broadcasting System. The channel will be exclusively sponsored by Panasonic for the first year.

DirecTV's two other dedicated 3D channels will be a 24/7 pay-per-view channel and an on-demand movie channel. DirecTV HD customers who subscribe to ESPN will receive ESPN 3D at no additional cost. At least initially, when ESPN 3D is not carrying any live events, it will go dark, according to the programmer's executives.

The announcement comes amid a flurry of 3D activity in the sports space, including last week's 3D hockey matchup between the New York Rangers and Islanders, produced by MSG and carried exclusively by Cablevision Systems, touted as the first live 3D telecast to home viewers. MSG offered DirecTV the option to carry the Rangers-Islanders game but the satellite TV operator said it passed on the chance because it did not want to focus on "one-off events."

DirecTV HD customers will have access to ESPN's entire 3D programming lineup, set to include up to 25 2010 FIFA World Cup matches, beginning June 11 with the first match featuring South Africa versus Mexico. Other events to be produced in 3D by ESPN include X Games 16, 2010 college football ACC Championship, 2011 BCS National Championship game, college basketball and NBA games in 2011.

"We are excited to be the first and only distributor to announce the launch of ESPN 3D and we look forward to announcing additional 3D partners throughout the year," Eric Shanks, DirecTV Entertainment executive vice president, said in a statement.

"ESPN and DirecTV recognize the groundswell effect 3D has already had on the television industry in the last few months," commented David Preschlack, executive vice president, affiliate sales and marketing, Disney & ESPN Networks Group. "This agreement is the first step in providing sports fans access to exciting, dynamic content, as well as providing our affiliates new opportunities to provide cutting-edge product offerings to their subscribers."

By June, DirecTV said, its HD customers will receive a free software upgrade enabling them to have access to the 3D channels. Customers will need a 3D television set and 3D glasses to view the 3D programming.

By Todd Spangler, Multichannel

Sky Moderates 2D/3D Stance

In the light of TVBEurope's story last week, BSkyB has moved to clarify its position on 2D-3D conversions. A Sky spokesperson admitted that the wording of Sky 3D specifications on its website was a little "stern" and that Sky is likely to revise its phrasing as a result of it being highlighted by TVBEurope.

"In order to maintain the highest quality on-screen product for customers, we're asking for native 3D wherever possible, as this delivers the richest visual experience," explained Chris Johns, chief engineer, BSkyB. "We are, however, continuing to monitor the techniques involved with 2D to 3D conversion, and as the technology continues to improve, we will consider conversions on a case-by-case basis, as a supplement to native programming."

While Sky's primary aim is to generate true stereoscopic content it is not ruling 2D-3D conversions out. Indeed there are areas where it may be impractical to include anything other than up-converted material. This might include archived content, select shots in a live OB environment or even Hollywood movies like Alice in Wonderland which include 3D conversions of 2D live action footage.

"It is not an absolute black and white scenario," said John Kelly, JVC Professional Europe general manager. "The use of converted material in the right context is perfectly acceptable as long as it is clearly understood."

Sky has been trailing JVC's black box 2D-to-3D converter during its live 3D sports tests and Kelly says it is pleased with the results.

"The subject is analogous to mixing HD with SD," said Kelly. "Clearly on an HD programme one aspires to have pristine HD material but in reality there may be a necessity to use archived content where up-converted material is acceptable."

The specifications for Sky 3D state that 'Conversions of 2D, HD content to 3D is not acceptable and may only be proposed by prior agreement with understanding of the editorial techniques and conversion process involved.'

"My interpretation [of their announcement] is that they are avoiding automated realtime systems," said Martin Hobbs, executive producer, View-D which is a proprietary 2D-3D post production software developed by Prime Focus. "There are a number of different processes on the market and Sky is taking its time to make sure that what it is accepting is top of the game."

View-D has been used to convert 2D action sequences into 3D for the Warner Bros. remake of Clash of the Titans.

"A lot of tent pole movies contain 2D-3D content because of the cost of setting up 3D rigs for live action and the lack of experienced stereographers and cinematographers," said Hobbs. "There are a lot of hybrid 3D projects out there."

According to Jim Spinella, founder and chief executive officer of HDlogix; "You have an industry in infancy and I think it's shortsighted to discount the technology and say there is only one way of doing things.

"Innovation comes from small companies like ourselves and being able to keep an open mind to what's out there," Spinella added. "Sky has made a decision today but I am sure that when their customers ask for it, it [2D to 3D conversions] will be back."

There may be no other way to achieve certain tricky outside broadcast shots than using up-converted processes.

"There is a demand to broadcast NASCAR racing in 3D but a core part of such a broadcast is the driver's eye view of the racetrack," said Spinella. "Putting 3D cameras on racing cars and ensuring that they don't vibrate or shift the lenses out of line is a pretty impossible feat right now. But being able to take action from a 2D HD feed to create a 3D image from it will only lonely enhance the broadcast."

HDlogix's technology is about to move from R&D into commercial launch with the first set of contracts with content partners announced at NAB. Sky has not, to Spinella's knowledge, seen it in action.

"It's about winning over converts," said Spinella. "We talk to a lot of 'native 3D' zealots and as they see the conversion technology and become more familiar with our technology they see that there is a role for it alongside native 3D at some live events. We'd love to be able to show it to Sky."

Spinella also blamed the perceived poor quality of real time 2D-3D conversions which are a feature of 3DTV displays (from JVC, Toshiba and Samsung among others). "That technology is advancing but it is limited."

By Adrian Pennington, TVB Europe

Texas Instruments on Track with 4K

Both at ShoWest and in the weeks leading up to the conference, I was able to speak with some of the folks over at Texas Instruments working on the company’s digital cinema offerings. They were happy to report that development of their 4K chip was right on schedule and some of the first 4K DLP projectors should be available for purchase in the first part of 2011, if not a little sooner.

For those who are just tuning into our industry, TI is the group that has been making DLP chips for cinemas since 1999. Each DLP chip is an array of 2.2 million microscopic mirrors that move and rotate at high speeds to reflect the appropriate light and provide 2K image. Projectors based on the company’s DLP digital micromirror device (DMD) have been installed on over 19,000 movie theatre screens worldwide, giving them at least 90% of the digital cinema install base.

However, last year for the first time TI’s dominance in the market was threatened when two of the world’s largest cinema chains, AMC Theatres and Regal Cinemas, announced they would be installing Sony’s 4K digital cinema projectors. While the DCI spec may only call for 2K, the marketing advantage of 4K was hard to overcome with exhibitors who were looking for a future-proof solution. So in June of last year TI announced they would be developing a 4K DLP chip for their OEM manufacturers, which include Barco, Christie and NEC. No development timeline or release date for the new chip was given.

TI execs are still as leery of giving out specific dates as they are about being quoted on the record when it comes to 4K, but more recently they have begun talking more openly about their development schedule. The good news is that TI is meeting their internal deadlines for 4K development. The company is looking to the early summer time frame for having the first DMDs completed for testing with OEMs. There may even be a unit or two ready for demoing at IBC, though TI is realistically aiming to go into production on the new chips in the late part of this year. Of course, that is if there are no issues with raw materials, manufacturing and testing goes according to plan.

The 4K DLP chip will be 1.38″ with 4096 x 2160 pixels and will have an equivalent life-expectancy the same as the 2K chip, which is well over 10 years. I confirmed that the entire surface area of the chip, every single pixel, will be used for both 2K and 4K imaging, meaning the talk about TI only using a portion of the pixel area was incorrect. Theatre owners who have already installed 2K Series 2 DLP projectors may be able to upgrade to 4K on-site by replacing the light engine. Initial thinking is that the same lenses used for 2K can be used when projecting 4K content.

When TI hasn’t been working on their 4K chip they’ve been developing boards for Series 2 projectors. Production on Series 1 chips ended in December of 2009 and, as anyone who has tried to buy a digital cinema projector recently knows, OEMs are quickly running out of inventory on those units. Presently one OEM is up and running with Series 2 projectors and the other two should be online in the next few months. This is also about the time that all the manufacturers will be finishing their DCI compliance testing.

In addition, TI has a split development team working on subtitles for DLP projectors; one team works on SMPTE subtitles for Series 1 projectors and the other is completing CineCanvas subtitles for Series 2. CineCanvas subtitles should be ready for Series 2 projectors in the middle of this year and SMPTE subtitles will follow before the year is out.

By J. Sperling Reich, Celluloid Junkie

What's in Store for 3D Tools at NAB

Just as 2009 marked the final phase of the DTV transition in America, 2010 will be known as the year that the 3D revolution began in earnest, partly thanks to Avatar's spectacular box office performance. By the same token, it looks like 3D will be touted as the "next big thing" at the NAB Show. Despite a sluggish economy, the launch of 3DTV by ESPN, Discovery, DirecTV and Europe's BSkyB is pushing the 3DTV train down the track and possibly creating a temporary seller's market for 3D content much as existed for HD programming in the early years of the HD revolution. Hence, it behooves pioneering producers to scour the NAB Show for 3D production tools.

Much as in the early days of the HD revolution, the initial toolset is limited and rather pricey, but with one key difference: many existing hi-def cameras, lenses and recorders can be used to capture 3D HD imagery as the core component of 3D camera rigs. To date, most 3D rigs have been custom-made and quite expensive especially when the cost of a matched pair of high-end cameras and lenses is included. With the daily rate on a fully outfitted rig well into five figures, the big question is whether Avatar emulators realize their 3D dreams today without Avatar-sized budgets to match.

Camera Rigs
Fortunately, NAB attendees will find plenty of new 3D tools on the show floor—many geared to making 3D production accessible and affordable to a broader pool of producers. At the leading edge is Element Technica which began by making accessories for Red One and has capitalized on that success to dive headlong into 3D production. At NAB they will feature not one, but three different 3D camera rigs, for large, medium and small cameras. Moreover, each of the three models can be reconfigured for all 3 primary methods of 3D acquisition.

Their largest rig, the Quasar, is designed to accommodate large cine-style digital cameras like Red One, Genesis II, Sony's F23/35, 1500 and Arri D21, and can be configured for all three principal 3D capture modes: beamsplitter under and thru (setup), beamsplitter over and thru (setup), and side-by-side. All three models can be reconfigured from one shooting style to another by changing the alignment of two key components, the motion module and the alignment module, in less than 30 minutes (with cameras off). Quasar is compatible with small zoom and all prime lenses, from 15-250 mm focal lengths. If it performs as well as advertised, it and its smaller cousins could be gamechangers by making high-end 3D production much more affordable.

Although it lists for $67,000, Quasar costs less than a typical two-day lease of a 3D HD rig and crew in Hollywood, according to Element Technica marketing director Joey Romero, who said that 61-plus Quasars have already been sold and ordered worldwide.

A slightly smaller, mid-sized model, the Pulsar, is geared for mid-sized cameras like Phantoms, Silicon Imaging's 2K, Scarlet, and Epic. It retails for $57,000, and should be shipping shortly after NAB. Their smallest model, the Neutron, is geared for smaller cameras like Sony's HDC-P1, EX3 and various HDSLRs. It lists for $47,000 and should be shipping by summer.

ZGC, distributor of P+S Technik products in the United States, will display P+S gear at NAB. Perhaps the most interesting is their 3D Freestyle Rig, designed for use with a Steadicam. Different plates adapt it for cameras from Red One and SI 2K to various Sony, Panasonic and even film cameras. All key functions are motorized and list price is $53,900.

There are also two versions of the P+S Technik "mirror rigs." The 3D Medium Mirror Box is designed for use with wide angle lenses, but with the full range of cine-style cameras from Red One to Sony F35s. Their 3D Standard Mirror Box is for use with lenses 24 mm and up. Priced at $35,000-$40,000, it can accommodate the same range of cameras (as 3D Medium Mirror Box) with custom camera-specific plates.

Also new is their attractively priced 3D Side by Side Maxi Pro, which will accommodate the same broad range of cameras from Red Ones to Canon Mark 5Ds. A non-motorized version may start as low as $13,500. All P+S Technik 3D rigs employ carbon fiber materials for maximum strength and minimum weight.

For smaller cameras, Polecam will introduce the 3D Narrow Pan and Tilt Head, as a standard feature with all new systems. Polecam will also offer a new 3D-Wide head for more pronounced stereo effects, even with long shots. Whereas normal interaxial distance flattens out images beyond 30 feet, and thus negating the 3D effect, the wider head extends the minimum operating distance. Normally used with a pair of mini-HD cameras, side by side, camera height and forward angle can be adjusted and synched with finely calibrated verniers.

Cameras & Lenses
Last month, Sky Germany beamed Europe’s first live 3D soccer match to a beer hall in Munich. The P+S Technik 3D Freestyle rig was outfitted with a Sony PMW-EX3 camera.

If you prefer a fully integrated approach to shooting 3D you'll want to check out Panasonic's new one piece 3D HD camcorder. The AG-3DA1 features twin lenses side by side, and two full 1920x1080 3-MOS imagers with dual HD-SDI out and XLR audio, plus HDMI. It records 1080/60i, 50i, 30p, 25p and 24p (native) and 720/60p and 50p in AVCHD. Up to 180 minutes worth of 24p can be captured on dual 32GB SD cards. While they won't be ready to ship until fall, Panasonic will be taking orders at their booth. For a deposit of $1,000, you can be among the first to take delivery on the world's first 3D camcorders for $22,000.

Astro Systems (at Band Pro's booth) may also display some of its stereoscopic box cameras including: the SVC 01, SVC 02CG, SVC 03 SG, plus a similar looking series of 3D cameras paired with (Panasonic) pan/tilt heads.

3D-one, based in the Netherlands, is also offering an integrated 3D camera solution. It actually has two 3D HD camcorders: the CP20 and the CP30. Both have dual camera heads that are identical except for their capture resolution. The CP20 captures 720p, while the CP30 captures 1080p. Both feature adjustable convergence control and 16-bit audio at 48 kHz. The captured MJPEG video is stored to an internal hard disk. The big drawback is that they currently only capture at 25 fps, the European version of 24p.

Canon Broadcast will also show what may be the world's longest portable telephoto HD lens for use with compact 3D camera rigs. Although designed with sports in mind, weighing in at 5.5 pounds, the 18x, 28 mm-500 mm EFP-style lens is surprisingly portable despite a maximum focal length of 1000 mm (with 2x engaged).

For those sitting on the fence, who would like to test the waters of 3D production but without all of the challenges of 3D acquisition, JVC may have an answer. Its IF-2D3D1 Stereoscopic Image Processor is a real-time 2D to 3D converter which can also be used as a 3D L/R video mixer. Its output can be adjusted for parallax (image displacement) and 3D intensity with natural, anaglyph and sequential viewing modes.

Also, the 3D Unit of Japan's NHK network will display a wide range of film samples and gear including: 3D rigs, follow focus units, monitors and other production gear developed by and for them by various collaborators over the past two decades of 3D experimentation and production by the NHK 3D unit. Many of their prototypes have become products since or have inspired variations on display throughout the NAB Show.

By Carl Mrozek, TV Technology

Avatar Director Reveals Plans for 3D on Smartphones

James Cameron says making a movie that grossed more than any other in history is better than winning an Oscar. At least that’s what he told me on the stellar panel I had the honor of moderating in Las Vegas at the annual Wireless Convention. When asked if grossing more than $2 Billion offset not getting the Academy Award, Cameron said in the end, he’d take the money.

By Michelle Caruso-Cabrera, CNBC

Belgacom TV Experiments with 3D Football

IPTV provider Belgacom TV is experimenting with 3D recording of the Belgian national football league, the Jupiler Pro League. In cooperation with partners Samsung and Outside Broadcast, the operator has shot the first match in 3D. This morning, Kris Vervaet, VP Marketing & Channel Management, and Jean-Charles De Keyser, VP Integrated Media Unit, are showing the results to a selected audience in the Belgacom Tower in Brussels.

If the result is satisfactory, Belgacom has said it could decide to offer 3D coverage during the next season. Furthermore, Belgacom TV has confirmed that new set-top boxes are already compatible with 3D. Belgacom TV is the sole rights holder of the Belgian Jupiler Pro League, which it exclusively markets to its IPTV subscribers.

By Robert Briel, Broadband TV News

3D: Eye-Popping Economics

Surely there can never be too much of a good thing in Hollywood. Right? For years, a hot-button topic was the conversion of movie screens to digital projection, an innovation heralded to bring about the revival of 3D on a grander, more immersive and more lucrative scale. Now that the revival is in full blush -- with three consecutive years of record box office bolstered by 3D, especially in 2009 -- the economics of such eye-popping filmmaking are playing an increasingly major factor in Hollywood planning.

They're also raising questions as to how long the boom will reverberate and how deep auds' appetites for 3D are, especially as the ticket upcharge rises dramatically. Some studios are worried that exhibs might price people right out of the theater. As evidenced by Alice in Wonderland and Avatar, 3D can increase a movie's gross by as much as one-third. In just 17 days, Alice grossed $265 million domestically and $300 million internationally for a total of $565.8 million. Avatar is the highest-grossing pic, at $736.9 million domestically and $1.94 billion overseas through March 21.

It's found money. Nobody ever dared increase the tickets by as much as 50%," one studio exec says. "Now, they have something to do it with: 3D. And guess what -- the public is buying it. Let's say Alice cumes $300 million domestically. At least $70 million comes from 3D." 3D revenues also help to offset the dramatic downturn in the DVD market. "It's a new revenue stream for content creators," one veteran exec says.

Generally speaking, the box office split between studios and exhibs is 50-50 domestically and 45-55 overseas. And while the same splits hold true for 3D titles, those revenues are offset by the costs associated with creating the 3D experience. For the studios, shooting a film in 3D from inception begins at a base cost of $20 million above a film's core budget. Opting to convert a 2D film to 3D after shooting comes with a lower pricetag, averaging about $10 million, but the figure also can be higher. Warner Bros.' late decision to convert Clash of the Titans to 3D raised eyebrows across Hollywood. Some say the conversion cost $5 million; others put it much higher. Warners won't say, but points out that it successfully converted Polar Express. If Clash works in 3D, other studios are sure to follow suit and begin converting some of their event titles with the after-production conversion process, too.

As part of their deals with exhibs, studios also have to pay for 3D glasses, whether disposable or reusable. That bill can average $5 million to $7 million per picture domestically. And, of course, theater owners are still paying to convert more screens to digital 3D. The cost of converting a screen to digital -- a prerequisite for showing 3D -- can be more than $100,000. Studios are helping to defray some of these costs by paying a "virtual" print fee, at least for the time being. The amount of virtual print fees are something of a secret, but insiders say they are usually capped at around $1,000 per print.

For theater owners, the lure of 3D -- much as it was in the 1950s and '60s -- is in providing a unique experience that can't be replicated at home. Getting auds into theaters is primarily a gateway to selling them pricey treats at the snack bar. As a result, theater owners have been loath to raise ticket prices much. Increases typically ranged from 20¢ to 30¢ a year; a 40¢ rise would have been frowned upon.

However, exhibs are savoring the added gravy of the 3D ticket upcharge. The profits for exhibs come from concessions," says one studio exec. "If a person comes in with a $20 bill, he pays $7 for the ticket and $13 on food. They're making 75¢ on the dollar off concessions, but only 50¢ on the dollar at the box office, if they're lucky." Now, all of a sudden, they are getting a bigger percentage of (their revenues from) the box office," says another exec.

The Motion Picture Assn. of America and the National Assn. of Theater Owners have long touted moviegoing as the least expensive form of entertainment, since sports, live theater and theme parks cost much more. But on a percentage basis, the escalation of ticket prices driven by 3D represents an enormous jump in a short span of time. The exhibition biz is unique in being able to get away with such increases in tough economic times.

In the year since pics like DreamWorks Animation's Monsters vs. Aliens, Disney's Up and 20th Century Fox's Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs helped pioneer higher prices for digital 3D -- with a typical $2 to $3 extra premium on every ticket -- the cost of getting a 3D eyeful is growing downright eye-popping in some markets. Last week, ahead of the high-profile releases of How to Train Your Dragon and Clash of the Titans, Wall Street media analyst Richard Greenfield released a survey of 3D ticket prices at 10 theaters. It revealed that the average upcharge on a 3D admission had risen 8.3%. One theater instituted a 26% jump.

But Greenfield's report was just a general barometer of the dramatic boost in 3D premium charges. An informal survey by Variety finds that circuits, including AMC Entertainment, Cinemark and Regal Entertainment, are starting to charge at least $3.50 to $4 more for 3D titles, with a handful of theaters in marquee markets such as New York and Los Angeles pushing added fees even higher. The previous upcharge average was $2 to $3. At AMC Century City 15 in Southern California, for example, the upcharge for a 3D ticket is $5 -- meaning adults could pay $18.50 on the weekend to see a 3D title; children, $14.50. Prices are going up even in smaller markets. The Regal Edwards Bakersfield 14 in Bakersfield, Calif., charges $3.50 more for a 3D ticket. Usual prices are $10 for adult ($10.50 on the weekend) and $7 for a child. A 3D ticket for a kid is $10.50, a 50% increase over a regular ticket price; an adult would pay $14, a 33% jump.

The questions now are how much audiences are willing to pay for the 3D experience, and how long will the experience be enticing enough to warrant those extra fees?

A year ago, there was much discussion over whether the marketplace would even have enough 3D screens to cover Avatar. The gap in screen count has narrowed since then, and distribs and exhibs now predict there will be enough 3D locations by December to support two 3D pics releasing on the same date. But there's still a crunch, with the March 26 debut of How to Train Your Dragon sharing the landscape with Alice and a fading-but-still-around Avatar as Warner Bros.' Titans looms on April 9.

But once it's routinely possible to have multiple 3D titles on screens and competing for attention at the same time, some in the biz wonder if auds will grow weary of the experience and the higher ticket cost. We run the risk of losing the value movies once were and becoming a luxury item," says a Fox exec. "This industry has touted itself as the most cost-effective form of entertainment. But we are rapidly moving out of that arena."

History suggests that Hollywood ought to tread carefully in its aggressive push of 3D. The novelty of all sorts of film innovations -- talkies, all-color films and, more recently, CGI animated features -- eventually diminished for auds. After Hollywood saw some major hits in the CGI toon biz, expectations were brought back down following a handful of pricey CGI toons that disappointed, including The Ant Bully and Surf's Up. In other words, once the novelty factor plays out, the movie itself better be good. Technology can only keep the audience occupied for so long. "The floodgates have opened," one studio topper says. "But there's no way of knowing what will happen when 3D becomes commonplace. When the first CGI animated movies were made, they were a big deal, they were events. And then there were a bunch that didn't work."

Imax, after years of struggle, is a big beneficiary of 3D. Imax has always charged a premium, since it offered a "bigger" experience even before 3D. Imax 3D has built an avid fanbase, sending the company into the black. Its domestic gross on Avatar was north of $200 million, the best in the company's history. Imax, however, is insulated to a degree that regular exhib chains are not: With a relatively small number of screens, it can play only so many movies, and its deals with the studios have grown from only a few titles a year to eight in 2010. So the experience retains a uniqueness-factor for auds.

The challenge for all sides is to keep up pic quality and not fall into gimmickry. Early 3D adopters James Cameron and Jeffrey Katzenberg are urging Hollywood to slow down when it comes to converting pics to 3D after production. Michael Bay has been outspoken about his reluctance to shoot the next Transformers film in 3D, questioning whether the heavy cameras and production demands are flexible enough for his helming style.

In an industry often keen to follow a hit with more of same, it's telling that these high-profile creatives are urging caution. Maybe there can be too much of a good thing.

By Pamela McClintock, Variety

MultiDyne LiGHTBox 3D

MultiDyne, a premier provider of fiber optic-based video and audio transport and routing solutions for broadcast and pro A/V applications, will introduce a new LiGHTBoX 3D field fiber transport system at this year’s NAB. With the explosion of 3D in the broadcast industry, MultiDyne has re-configured its popular LiGHTBoX solution to serve this growing market.

MultiDyne’s new LiGHTBoX 3D addresses the unique transport needs of 3D production while maintaining the unparalleled ruggedness and configurability of the standard LiGHTBoX. This original solution has been a mainstay in the equipment kits of sports and ENG broadcasters for years, most recently debuting on the field at Yankee Stadium during the World Series. Now, with major networks announcing entire programs dedicated to 3D sports and news coverage, the LiGHTBoX 3D provides a natural evolution path for crews looking to stay ahead of the game when purchasing new 3D-ready equipment.

MultiDyne LiGHTBoX 3D

With more signal paths for HD video, audio and data, the LiGHTBoX 3D can be configured for even the most complicated 3D shoots. Fully customizable and offering virtually any signal configuration, the LiGHTBoX 3D can also be linked via tactical fiber cable to the MultiDyne DVM-2500, HD-1500, HD-3000 and HEMC-4000.

Providing a high-quality signal throughput and the opportunity to integrate almost any solution from the MultiDyne product line, including the new DVI-6000 and COMMS-2000 products, the LiGHTBoX 3D system offers users endless possibilities and flexibility. Further, the LiGHTBoX 3D solution is equipped with an extremely rugged case, making it highly weatherproof for outdoor and remote location broadcasting.

Source: Live Production

Cablevision Gains Bragging Rights for First Next-Gen 3D Telecast

Comcast wanted to be the first to broadcast the newest generation of 3D (non-anaglyph) content to paying subscribers with a 3DTV in their home, so it chose to do so with the Masters Golf Tournament on April 7th. But then BSkyB decided to up the ante. It announced it would launch its 3D satellite TV offering with the match between Manchester United and Chelsea on Easter Saturday, April 3rd. Not to be outdone, Cablevision, one of the US’s smaller cable operators, hastily arranged to broadcast a game between New York’s two Hockey teams: the Rangers and the Islanders. On March 24th, Cablevision, in cooperation with Madison Square Garden, became the first cable operator to broadcast next-generation 3D content to ordinary paying subscribers. Of course, these subscribers had to have a 3DTV, which limited the audience significantly.

The game was broadcast live on channel 1300 and was visible on any 2DTV as a side-by-side image. The game was also shown in Madison Square Garden’s theater to an audience of 1500-2000 invited guests using a digital cinema projector.

I was able to travel into New York to see the 3D set up at the Garden, but unfortunately, had to leave before seeing the game. The live 3D was provided by a crew from 3Ality, who was kind enough to host my visit and show me around.

At the skating rink, 3Ality’s CTO, Howard Postley, showed us the 3D cameras that were arrayed on two sides of the rink. There were six 3D rigs: 3 beamsplitter types; 2 side-by-side and one robotic side-by-side. The robotic rig was developed by a group from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, but was off-line prior to the show. The other rigs were 3Ality’s with the side-by-side rigs located in the higher stadium positions to allow for a larger interocular distance between the cameras. Two beamsplitter rigs were perhaps 20 rows up from the ice, with the other on a movable dolly.

All the output from these rigs runs to a dedicated truck where 3Ality manages the 3D image. A "convergence puller" is assigned to each camera and is responsible for adjusting the interocular distance between the cameras and the "toe-in," or convergence, of the cameras. Additional electronics are used to automatically adjust the two images to compensate for small differences in the lens and alignment. Additional electronics make sure the chroma and luminance are balanced between the cameras to acceptable values.

In general, the interocular distance is reduced as the focus on the shot changes from far away to close up. Convergence is adjusted to toe-in as zoom is employed. These are not hard and fast rules, however, so a lot of skill and experience is necessary to do this properly in real time. You can’t "fix in post" when doing a live telecast, noted Ray Hannisian, the company’s chief stereographer, who was acting as the "conductor," supervising the six convergence pullers.

We next went over to the director’s truck. Here, additional 3D footage was being assembled as filler content, as there were no commercials planned for the telecast. The director was experienced in 3D live events and understood that the shots had to be composed, shot and cut differently to create a compelling 3D experience. He is responsible for selecting the shots for the telecast and inserting graphics, but 3Ality is on the hook for the quality of the 3D images.

Postley told us that the final cuts are multiplexed and encoded using the RealD scheme. This features a version of checkerboard or quincunx filtering (sampling) of the two video streams, which are then packed in a side-by-side configuration for transmission. This encoded signal is now a 20 Mbps 1920 x 1080/60i feed that goes directly to the Cablevision plant for distribution to subscribers. This high quality feed is passed right through to subscribers into the set top box and over HDMI to the 3DTV.

According to Postley, there was some discussion about decoding the RealD signal at the Cablevision plant and re-encoding in a non-proprietary filtering and packing format (the simple decimated side-by-side format which is a mandatory broadcast format according the HDMI 1.4a). But ultimately, the signal was passed right thru to consumers. The upside of this approach should be a higher quality image. The downside is that the signal should only be viewable on 3D displays that have RealD decoding embedded in them, such as the 3DTV sets from Panasonic and Samsung (who was a sponsor of the event).

This event was a historic milestone, not unlike the first HD broadcasts to handfuls of consumers in 1999. As a result, I recorded the event on my Cablevision DVR, but until I have a 3D display with a RealD decoder (or external box to decode it), I won’t be able to see the game in 3D. Kind of a pity. Oh, I heard the Rangers won, by the way.

By Chris Chinnock, DisplayDaily

Convergent Design nano3D

Convergent Design's nano3D consists of two standard nanoFlashes, plus a nano3D kit, which provides for synchronized 3D recording from two cameras with high quality “Pixel Synced” Playback and much more.

Synchronized “Pixel Synced” playback enables easy, on-set playback of 3D with the proper monitoring equipment. nano3D may also be used with a single camera for “Redundant Recording”, or simultaneous High Quality and Proxy Mode recordings.

Two standard nanoFlashes plus the nano3D kit are used to create nano3D. Any existing nanoFlashes may be used for nano3D, thus your investment in the nanoFlash has not been diminished. In addition, a nano3D may be quickly separated into two independent nanoFlashes.

Analysts Intrigued by Nintendo's 3-D Handheld

U.S. analysts were intrigued and curious Wednesday (March 24), following the overnight release of a brief statement by Nintendo saying the company plans to launch within the next year a handheld video gaming system that offers 3-D effects without requiring the use of special glasses. Nintendo provided few details, leaving analysts to speculate on the technology that the company plans to employ.

"There are only a few technologies for autostereoscopic displays, which don't require special glasses. We suspect they are using one of those," said Chris Chinnock, principal of Insight Media. According to Chinnock, there are currently no more than a dozen commercial products which use autostereoscopic 3-D displays, including a mobile handset from Hitachi which is available in Japan.

Pamela Tufegdzic, a consumer electronics analyst at market research iSuppli Corp., said she didn't know how Nintendo would implement autostereoscopic 3-D, but said it could have something to do with face-tracking technology, which can shift the perspective of the game's view with using a front facing video camera to capture where the player is looking portraying that 3-D effect. "It could be something similar to motion sensing game play tracking your movements with sensors," Tufegdzic said.

Chinnock said all of the known autostereoscopic display technologies suffer from poor image quality for the most part, requiring tradeoffs in viewing angles and viewing zones. "That's okay in a handheld device because it's easy to move your head around the screen," Chinnock said. But Chinnock acknowledged that using an autostereoscopic display for a gaming system could be problematic. "If it's a detail-oriented game, yes, it's going to be a problem. If it's more like icons and graphics that have larger scale, it may not be a problem."

Nintendo said the successor to its popular DS line of handheld gaming systems, which is temporarily being called 3DS, will include backward compatability so that DS games could be played on the system. The company promised to provide more details on the system at a video gaming conference in Los Angeles in June.

The Wall Street Journal reported on Wednesday that Nintendo President Satoru Iwata told analysts in January that the company has been working on 3-D gaming technology for years and experimented with a 3-D feature for its GameCube console, the processor to Nintendo's Wii system.

According to Tufegdzic, Sony Corp. plans to release a 3-D version of its PlayStation 3 gaming system following the launch of the company's 3-D Bravia televisions, currently expected this summer. Microsoft announced that the Xbox 360 is fully equipped to handle 3-D games, but the company plans to sit on the sidelines to see how the consumers embrace 3-D technology in the living room, Tufegdzic said.

Several companies, including Sony, demonstrated stereoscopic 3-D technology at the Consumer Electronics Show in January, widely claiming that many 3-D products would ship during the 2010 holiday season. Others say there is much work to be done hammering out standards and silicon before stereoscopic 3-D TV is ready for the home.

ISuppli anticipates that all the next-generation gaming consoles will support 3-D due to the technology's expected growth, Tufegdzic added. Since 3-D TVs are needed to view the 3-D content from gaming consoles, iSuppli believes that 3-D gaming in consoles will follow similar trends of the 3-D TV market, she said.

"TV manufactures are working on bringing 3-D TVs to market that do not require 3-D glasses to be worn, Tufegdzic said. When these types of TVs become mainstream, that's when the console gaming market will see 3D gaming fully take off."

Philips Electronics had been working on an autostereoscopic display designed to eliminate the need for special 3-D glasses, but folded the unit last April, saying the point in time where mass adoption of autostereoscopic 3-D TV will occur has shifted significantly.

Tufegdzic said adding 3-D technology to gaming will add additional revenue streams and create more opportunities for software game developers and publishers. "3-D gaming will give gamers a more real and immersed experience, which will likely become a required standard technology in the future of video games," Tufegdzic said.

By Dylan McGrath, EE Ttimes

How 'Avatar' Changed the Rules of Deliverables

During the final months before Avatar was released, director James Cameron holed up in a hotel near the Fox lot. He already had led innovation with his stereo 3D and performance-capture techniques. This time, he was pushing the boundaries in presentation quality and postproduction-distribution processes, helping to shine a light on the unsung heroes of postproduction and an often overlooked but nonetheless critical challenge in theatrical exhibition.

When film projectors were standard, deliverables meant the creation of a large number of film release prints. But since the industry began its shift into the digital and stereoscopic 3D realm, a theatrical release now amounts to a large number of film prints as well as multiple versions of digital media with various technical specifications.

When the digital-cinema push began a decade ago, one consideration was that digital would result in the elimination of film prints and therefore cost savings on deliverables. But with the global movement in its current state, movies require traditional film release prints as well as all emerging 2D and 3D digital-cinema formats, meaning the task of creating deliverables is -- for the time being -- more daunting than before.

The version requirements were uniquely daunting for Avatar, as the technically savvy Cameron entered uncharted territory to create the highest presentation quality possible.

"No studio has ever faced what we faced on this," says Ted Gagliano, president of postproduction at Fox. "Jim wanted the best, most immersive experience possible. So he pushed us to have a multiple-version inventory that would give each theater the best experience it could possibly deliver for that given theater."

Under a seemingly impossible deadline, more than 100 different delivery versions of Avatar -- an unprecedented number -- were created for the Dec. 18 day-and-date release in 102 countries. It was a herculean effort on the part of Fox, Lightstorm and key suppliers, notably Modern VideoFilm and Deluxe.

Further complicating the 3D portion of the mix, deliverables for the RealD 3D projection system involved a "ghostbusting" post process, and Dolby, Xpand and Master Image systems required nonghostbusted media. Additionally, DLP digital cinema and non-DLP digital cinema required separate versions.

In total, there were 18 different versions of Avatar created for the domestic market, plus an additional 92 for international markets, which were released in 47 languages. The international versions included more than 52 subtitled and 18 dubbed versions on film, 58 subtitled and 36 dubbed versions in digital 3D, nine subtitled and eight dubbed versions in digital 2D, and 23 subtitled and 15 dubbed versions for Imax.

To optimize the experience for different screens sizes, Cameron made the decision to complete the movie in three aspect ratios: Scope (2:39:1), flat (1:85:1) and Imax (1:43:1). "You are not going to see many directors releasing in different aspect ratios, as most pick their canvas and that is their format," Fox vp postproduction Steve Barnett says.

Adds Gagliano: "Jim wanted the biggest image possible. If you had a theater (where the biggest image possible meant using) movable masking that went up for flat, he preferred the theater run flat. If there was a theater that increased the size of the image by opening it side-to-side to accommodate scope, he wanted to run scope."

In some cases, a single multiplex required different versions for different auditorium configurations.

Creative decisions involving light levels also led to additional versions. 3D projection and glasses cut down the light the viewer sees, so Avatar also had separate color grades at different light levels, which are measured in foot lamberts.

"If we had just sent out one version of the movie, it would have been very dark (in the larger theaters)," Barnett says. "We had a very big flow chart with all of the different steps, so we could send the right media to the right theater."

As fall 2009 arrived, Avatar still was in post and the Dec. 18 release date was approaching at an uncomfortably fast pace. The postproduction-distribution processes began in September, and after growing the required technical operations at Fox, Deluxe and Modern, the final months of the project were 24/7. "We had to take over ever dub stage and every screening room on the Fox lot to both finish the movie and do the quality control for the different versions," Gagliano said.

Says Barnett: "Jim never went home; he stayed in a hotel room right by the studio. We turned all of our Fox facilities over the Jim. We built a digital intermediate suite for visual effects reviews and color grading. We turned the Little Theater and the Zanuck Theater into 3D theaters, which we had never done before."

The Fox execs sang the praises of their partners in the process. Modern VideoFilm and Deluxe beefed up their technical infrastructure for the project. Fotokem also contributed to the effort.

"We had to invest several million dollars," Deluxe CEO Cyril Drabinsky says. That investment included new digital-cinema software, mastering equipment, additional screening capabilities and hard drives to handle the digital-cinema releases.

Refinements to Alchemy, the Deluxe-developed digital-cinema delivery-management tool, was part of the software investment. Also, Deluxe's Efilm unit built a special process island with software, processors and storage to handle Avatar footage. Deluxe -- including its Digital Studios, Digital Cinema, Deluxe Digital London and Efilm digital intermediate businesses -- essentially created the versions, handling tasks including digital-cinema mastering, foreign-language mixing, 3D subtitling, film recording and related services. Deluxe's labs in Barcelona, Hollywood, London, Rome, Sydney and Toronto all were involved in making the 35mm film prints. The 3D subtitling for international versions was handled with Deluxe's new patent-pending subtitling system for stereo movies.

"We had a lot of people working seven days a week and long days to get this accomplished," Drabinsky says. "The key really was the ability to communicate across the world and with customers, both domestically and internationally."

Meanwhile, Modern VideoFilm moved existing projects from its Glendale to Burbank facility, clearing the deck for Glendale to serve exclusively as its Avatar hub during the final months. Led by lead colorist Skip Kimball, Modern completed 22 full color grades for the different aspect ratios and light levels, as well as handled tasks including editorial, ingest and file management. The Glendale facility was connected via dark fiber to Fox, where Modern installed additional capabilities.

"It was nothing like anything you've ever done; it was crazy, but it was exhilarating," says Marcie Jastrow, Modern senior vp sales.

During this final push, Barnett recalls: "The visual effects were coming in. We were still doing the digital intermediate and the mix. As soon a Jim finished a reel, we started making the versions of that reel."

In the end, Avatar was finished in 10 parts, reel by reel, for more than 100 versions. Additionally, the Imax film version was made up of 82 different reels.

"Each part was finished for color and sound, then print mastered and dubbed and subtitled in every language," Gagliano says. "It became an assembly line. The challenge was to keep the assembly line going on this reel-to-reel basis. You couldn't let the labs finish and then have nothing to do; we would have blown the release date. There were days where I had to go to Jim and say, 'We are about to run out; we need one more reel,' and he would finish one more reel just in the nick of time."

Although in the long run the elimination of film prints should lead to cost savings, during this transition period, the task of sending out a film worldwide is even more complex.

"The challenge for post facilities is just having duplicating power and the number-crunching power as more and more 3D movies come down the pike," Barnett says.

He suggests that 3D might get easier as the RealD projection technology moves in the direction of accepting nonghostbusted deliverables, as do other stereo systems like the one from Dolby. This means that the need for ghostbusted versions might be eliminated.

While digital cinema and 3D will continue to change movie exhibition, Avatar will remain a unique case study. "Jim, like George Lucas, realized how important presentation in the field was," Gagliano says.

By Carolyn Giardina, The Hollywood Reporter

Cablevision Licenses RealD Format for 3D Content in the Home

RealD, a leading 3D technology provider for cinema, home and professional applications, and Cablevision Systems Corp., one of the nation's leading media and entertainment companies, announced that Cablevision has licensed the stereoscopic RealD Format for the delivery of high definition 3D content to the home. Through this licensing agreement, Cablevision's content providers will be able use RealD tools to format their 3D content and deliver it to millions of homes in crisp, clear high definition 3D. The delivery of RealD Format content is compatible with Cablevision's current HD broadcast and on-demand systems and works with existing HD set-top boxes.

The RealD Format will first be utilized for the March 24th MSG telecast of the Rangers vs. Islanders hockey game from Madison Square Garden, the first network hockey telecast ever produced in 3D and the first time a live 3D sports telecast will be available to homes in the U.S. In addition to the game's 3D telecast available to Cablevision subscribers in the Tri-state area with 3D-enabled TVs, a special viewing party will be held at the Theater at Madison Square Garden utilizing the RealD Format for content delivery and RealD's XL Cinema System for projection on the big screen.

The RealD Format builds on the company's patented side-by-side 3D formatting technology and is capable of delivering crisp, clear, high definition 3D to the home utilizing all channels of the existing HD broadcast infrastructure. Cablevision has chosen to use the side-by-side method as its primary method of delivering 3D content due to its ability to deliver high-quality progressive and interlaced video over existing infrastructure including existing HD set-top boxes and DVRs.

Source: RealD

SkyLife to Begin 3D Broadcast

SkyLife, a Korean satellite television provider, plans to start 3D broadcasts of some live sports events in May, the company's chief executive said Tuesday. With an investment of some 5 billion won, the local provider will work to ensure that its cameras, switchers and other production equipment are up to the task by then, SkyLife CEO Lee Mong-ryong said at a press conference in Seoul.

"Most of the budget will be used to buy the necessary equipment for the broadcasts. From May, we will have some live sports coverage and will expand the time span of 3D content to seven hours a day," Lee said.

3D content will be available this year from ESPN, DirecTV, BSkyB, SkyLife and other broadcasters and providers. ESPN, for example, is expected to broadcast 85 games in 3D this year. In addition, a California-based market research firm, iSuppli Corp. expects 40-50 video game titles in 3D to be released this year.

Citing challenges involved with converting 2D content into 3D, the top executive said it will inject more resources to secure more content. SkyLife plans to strike content partnerships with major Hollywood companies including Disney and DreamWorks.

Content protection system provider Nagravision will supply its Nagra Media Access system to SkyLife. SkyLife will use the system to secure its new high-definition (HD) platform. Alongside the introduction of HD, the cooperation with Nagravision also aims to cover services including hybrid satellite/Internet-based television and 3D services.

The executive has opened discussions with Samsung Electronics, LG Electronics and Fuji Film for joint investment in increased 3D programming. Lee said it will provide 3D movies to subscribers based on video-on-demand (VOD) with content from upcoming partnerships. SkyLife officials say the company will provide 10 recent movies per week to set-top boxes. The service will be available in the latter half of this year.

The multi-channel digital satellite broadcaster is developing new technology, helping subscribers who have over 60Hz regular LCD or LED-backlit LCD TVs watch 3D programs without buying 3D-only TV sets.

"If we continue on this path, SkyLife is positive about launching two more 3D-only channels by 2012," according to the CEO.

SkyLife is aiming for 3 million subscribers by the end of this year and 5 million by 2012, the year when South Korea completes the transition to digital television. When asked about any expected drawbacks, Lee said the provider will charge more for 3D programs. Currently, it charges between 12,000 and 14,000 won to its customers for HD bundled packages.

By Kim Yoo-chul, The Korea Times

Nintendo Unveils 3D Game Without Glasses

Nintendo is embracing 3D -- but without the glasses. The videogame maker announced Tuesday it was working on the Nintendo 3DS, an updated version of its handheld DSi gaming system that will incorporate 3D technology, but won't require special glasses to view.

It is the first gaming company to announce portable plans for 3D. The 3DS, which will play existing DS games, will go on sale sometime in its next fiscal year, which begins in April. The company referred to the system as the successor to the Nintendo DS series.

Nintendo does not plan to reveal additional details about the 3DS until mid-June at E3, the video game industry's annual trade show in Los Angeles. But by confirming in advance that glasses will not be necessary to experience the visual effects, the company is playing to its mass-market strengths.

Consoles such as the PlayStation 3 face an uphill battle in converting players to the technology, since the heavy (and expensive) glasses that accompany 3D-enabled sets will likely be a distraction for gamers rather than an enhancement. If Nintendo is able to create a realistic 3D experience without glasses, the 3DS could significantly build upon the DS's life to date sales of 125 million units. It could also score with consumers -- especially the youngest ones who already demand that their parents buy them a DS -- because the 3DS will negate the need to wear 3D glasses that don't fit or slide off small faces.

Although the first to adapt 3D to a portable device, Nintendo is not the first to embrace 3D technology. Sony had already announced it will distribute a firmware upgrade later this year to make select upcoming games on the PS3 playable in stereoscopic 3D. The company has shown several titles using the technology at trade shows like CES and the Game Developer's Conference. (Microsoft has no existing plans to enter the space, but has said that the Xbox 360 could support 3D with a downloadable system update.)

Nintendo's focus with the 3DS is to gain an upper hand in its escalating battle with the iPhone rather than to compete with emerging console technologies. Apple has been making steady inroads into portable gaming, offering quality games for less than $10. Titles for the Nintendo DSi typically cost between $20 and $40.

With a 3D display incorporated into the 3DS, however, Nintendo will be able to further differentiate its offerings from Apple's. The company's handhelds already have exclusivity on some of the industry's top game franchises, including Mario and Zelda. The company has traditionally focused on the family market, whereas Sony and Microsoft have targeted their consoles at more adult gamers.

Additionally, the 3DS could prove to be a test balloon for the company's future plans. When Nintendo introduced the DS in 2004, it offered a play style that was entirely different from anything the portable gaming world had experienced. Similarly, the games Nintendo made for it -- including Brain Age and Nintendogs -- were hardly standard fare.

What the company was doing, though, was prodding the market to see if something radically different could simultaneously keep the existing audience happy and create a new one. Encouraged by the success of the DS, Nintendo introduced the Wii -- which has gone on to sell more than 67 million units, handily beating both the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. It's certainly possible the 3DS is an indication that Nintendo is exploring full 3D for its next generation product.

The timing of the 3DS announcement did cause some confusion, as Nintendo will begin selling a new handheld system in North America on Sunday. The Nintendo DSi XL features a pair of screens that are virtually double the size of existing DS units. By trumpeting a next-generation handheld system now, Nintendo sends a mixed message to consumers who are considering purchasing an XL -- implying that what they're about to buy will be outdated soon.

By Chris Morris and Marc Graser, Variety

Film Has Stock Answer for 3D Shortage

Interest in stereoscopic 3D has become so intense that industry pros are wondering aloud if this is 1927 all over again, with 3D pics set to sweep 2D away just as talkies supplanted silents. Certainly the rush to cash in has amazed even longtime advocates of the format. One producer with 3D experience reports barely being able to keep up with meeting requests. Projects are scrambling to find 3D camera rigs, which are still scarce, and experienced 3D technicians, who are scarcer.

Also still scarce: 3D screens. Everyone agrees that releases including 2009's Coraline and Avatar left tens of millions in box office (and maybe more) on the table because they had to vacate their 3D screens. Now Disney's Alice in Wonderland will be forced out for DreamWorks Animation's How to Train Your Dragon, which in turn will be have its 3D run curtailed by Warner's Clash of the Titans.

That screen shortage is the driving force behind the drive to revive 3D on 35mm film, which seemed to be obsolete. A new 3D-on-film company has made its bow: SoliDDD, using a variation on the "over-under" 3D method also favored by Technicolor. ("Over-under" 3D uses the top half of 35mm frame for one 3D "eye" and the bottom half for the other.) That makes three we know of: Technicolor 3D, Oculus3D and now SoliDDD. Neal Weinstock, SoliDDD CEO, told Daily Variety he made some sales at ShoWest but wasn't ready to release figures.

3D has long been the carrot to entice balky exhibitors to adopt d-cinema; some have even said it's the only enticement for them to go digital, arguing that distributors, especially the majors, stand to benefit most from the mothballing of release prints, while exhibitors are asked to absorb the costs.

"There's no question that film is going to be an interim (3D) solution for most North American theaters," Weinstock said. "But film will continue to exist for the rest of the world. We have a lot of interest from Bollywood. They don't trust digital because the projectors work under high heat and humidity."

But the 3D-on-film companies are betting plenty of North American theater owners don't much trust digital, either. Last week, a demo of Oculus3D's system in Burbank was followed by a heated discussion among a cross-section of movie pros. On one side, a longtime film editor insisted, "It's 1927 and this is sound. This is the future of movies." Oculus co-founder Lenny Lipton concurred. "Once a new technical modality takes hold, there's no going back. It's the end of the old and the beginning of the new," he said. In other words, say goodbye to 2D moviemaking. But on the other side, an independent producer lamented "I want to go 3D, but it adds 20% (to the budget). My backers aren't sold. I'm looking three years down the road. If I go 3D, will there be enough screens?" And in the back, an independent theater owner asked, "This system is going to cost me $20,000. How will I make that back?" His theater is in a mountain resort town and he reports no one refusing to buy a ticket because he didn't offer 3D.

There, in one room, was the industry's 3D conundrum. Is this 1927? Is 3D going to make 2D obsolete? Is it really attracting larger audiences? Does the money work? Notably, no one in the room thought 3D was a passing fad. Everyone was excited about the format. But there wasn't the same enthusiasm for expensive d-cinema projectors and the promised benefits of alternative content. Just a year ago, 3D was the tail wagging the d-cinema dog. Now it's become a very big dog in its own right.

Exhibitors have been known to cut corners on, well, almost anything they can, including cleaning 3D glasses. So 3D proponents knew how to react to the Italian government's move to ban reusable glasses over hygiene concerns. More surprising was the Italo health ministry's recommendation that children under 6 not be exposed to 3D at all. The ministry, reports Daily Variety's Nick Vivarelli, based its decision on a finding by the country's high council for health, which said "the use of these glasses can cause in some cases some functional disorders such as nausea, vertigo and migraines."

"These are temporary disturbances due to the fact that in small children binocular vision is not yet present, or not entirely consolidated," said the council, "or because they may have problems with their eyesight that they are not aware of."

But Italy's Ophthalmology Society weighed in with a contrary view, saying binocular vision is developed at four months old. "Taking children to see a 3D film is not dangerous," they said, adding it might even reveal if the child needs an eye doctor.

It's not the first time questions have arisen about 3D and tykes' vision, though. One Oscar-winning technologist has opined that 3D will remain a niche format due to similar concerns. He argued that it is unnatural to ask the viewer's eyes to focus on the screen while converging in front of or behind it (decoupling convergence and focus, in technical terms), especially for the long hours kids spend watching TV. Adverse affects on kids, he argued, will lead to 3D TV being banned in homes, and without 3D homevideo revenues, 3D movies will never become ubiquitous. But vision experts Daily Variety contacted scoffed at the idea, saying you could as easily argue that it's unnatural for children to learn to watch a flat 2D screen instead of objects in space.

Meanwhile, DreamWorks Animation topper Jeffrey Katzenberg has insisted 3D is more than paying for itself on the theatrical grosses alone. Expect more controversy, and more confusion, about the safety of 3D, especially for children, until more conclusive studies can be done, especially of 3D TV.

By David Cohen, Variety

BSkyB Launching Europe's First 3D Channel

BSkyB will launch Europe's first 3D TV channel on April 3, the satcaster said Friday. The broadcaster will open with live 3D coverage of the Premier League soccer match between Manchester United and Chelsea, and will show at least five more Premier League matches on the 3D channel before the end of the current soccer season.

The channel will intitially be offered at no extra cost to Sky's million or so HD homes, which will be able to view the 3D images using special glasses. More than 1,000 pubs and clubs -- where fans congregate for sports events -- have also signed up for the service available in the U.K. and Ireland, giving thousands of fans the opportunity to view sports in 3D, while more are expected to sign up in the weeks ahead.

BSkyB has been building up to its 3D launch during the past year with a series of live concerts, gigs and sports events broadcast as part of 3D trials. Later in the year it plans to roll out a range of movies, entertainment and documentaries in 3D.

"It's fitting that one of the biggest games of the season will be the launch pad for our pioneering Sky 3D service," said Brian Lenz, Sky's director of product design and TV product development."

By Mimi Turner, The Hollywood Reporter

3G's Pathway to 3DTV

Prior to NAB last year, the buzz was all about 3Gbps equipment for HD. Even in a weakened economy, consumers were continuing to snap up HDTV sets. Over-the-air broadcasters had paid for much of the early cost of developing 720p and 1080i HD equipment. Now they were beginning to see the need for the higher bandwidth of 1080p as a way to future proof their facilities' production needs. They joined the rank and file of the production and distribution outlets that already understood the value of 3Gbps infrastructure.

Content acquisition and production companies with their own trucks have been on board with the idea the longest. With entertainment and sporting events being the early adopters for broadcasting HD on satellite and cable, the OB truck market was aggressively updating its fleets to be 3Gbps-capable for HD productions.

Just as 3Gbps was coming into acceptance late last year, a new challenge presented itself to the broadcast community. "As early as fall last year most broadcasters were still thinking only along the line of HD and 3G, not really 3DTV," said Mo Goyal, master control and branding product manager for Canadian-based equipment manufacturer Evertz.

Then along came the big 3DTV distribution announcement from satellite broadcaster BskyB and a little movie called Avatar. "With the advent of Avatar and the announcement of several big players at the CES show, the interest and momentum in 3DTV really picked up," Goyal said.

At this year's NAB Show, equipment manufacturers will be going all out to showcase and explain how their equipment is not only 3Gbps compliant, but also capable of making the 3Dtv production process possible.

Making it Possible
Montreal-based broadcast equipment manufacturer Miranda has been producing HD and 3Gbps capable equipment for many years and believes that this year 3G will be all about 3D, as the interest in 3DTV (stereoscopic television) is moving even faster than the adoption of HD.

Michel Proulx, Miranda's chief technology officer has been with the company for more than a decade and has worked through the slow adoption of HD by the traditional broadcaster. "The business model just wasn't there," he said. When ESPN began to pursue HD, he felt that the move made sense.

"This time around the right people are going first," he said. Specifically, Proulx is seeing the sports and entertainment industries as the ideal early adopters as they have a business model already in place. "There are three potential reasons for needing 3Gps infrastructure: 1080p 50/60 HD, 4:4:4 sampling for production, and dual HD streams on a single wire for 3D."

For production trucks, the ability to use the 1080p signal is a must, so they are opting to stay with the dual-link model that allows them to move the 3D signal on two separate wires, keeping the right eye and left eye signal discrete. They move these signals from cameras already dual-link-capable through 3G routers and then switch them through 3G switchers capable of buss-linking. This workflow also allows them to use existing graphics packages via their switcher, which is not yet an option with single-wire 3DTV.

For those looking to do 3DTV and are already operating at 720p or 1080i, 3Gbps makes 3DTV an easy transition.

"3DTV validates the importance of a 3Gps infrastructure," said Grass Valley's Chief Technical Officer Ray Baldock. "You can run the left eye/right eye signals at full bandwidth without any horizontal compression over a single coax link." This will allow broadcasters who have already built a 3Gbps capable plant to move a 3DTV signal through it.

Implementing 3Gbps for 3DTV
"The term 3DTV can be confusing," said Stan Moote, vice president of corporate development for Harris Broadcast. He explains that many graphics systems, including Harris Broadcast's have been producing three dimensional graphics for years, and that stereoscopic technology itself has been around and in use for more than 50.

Not only are the terms 3D and 3DTV different, but the way in which the signal can be carried through a plant is different as well. The one constant though is that 3Gbps infrastructure will allow for optimal management of HD and 3DTV within a plant, and allow for the most options. "The more savvy customers understand all [of] the salient features of 3Gbps signal management, and they are making sure that they are being picked up when designing their plants both for HD and 3DTV," said Moote.

Systems integrators (SI) are frequently relied upon to provide expert direction when building a 3Gbps facility. AZCAR, the Ontario-based SI has been working with customers interested in 3Gbps plants for several years. "While some of our clients put 3 Gig into a proposal or specification by saying '3 Gig ready' or '3 Gig compliant' the definition of what that means is still nebulous," explains Karl Paulsen, AZCAR CTO and TV Technology columnist.

This is why the expertise of both a systems integrator and a knowledgeable equipment vendor is critical. For those wanting a better understanding of the benefits of the technology as well as the limitations, Paulsen and three other SMPTE members (Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers) collaborated on a technical paper. "Considerations in Physical Infrastructures for 3 Gbit/sec Systems Design" is a must-read for any organization looking to move into 3 Gbps or 3DTV.

Within the SMPTE 3 Gbps spec itself, there are several different forms a signal can take. Each of these must be thoroughly understood in order for an engineer to make the correct choice of which to implement. "The SMPTE 3 Gbps spec for level B makes transmitting a 3DTV signal a lot easier," explains Evertz' Goyal. Where level A accommodates a single HD signal up to 3Gbps, the level B has two separate HD signals that can accommodate two uncompressed HD signals. The limitation here is the fact that the data rate of these two signals can only add up to 3Gbps, so only facilities using 720p, 1080i and 1080p/24 as their 3DTV acquisition signals can put them onto a single cable.

Who is Seeing Stereoscopic?
Certain types of content lend themselves to 3DTV better than others, according to Moote. "It takes time for the eye to lock onto and enjoy the 3D experience, so fast paced news broadcasts with lots of changing shots won't benefit from 3DTV," he said, adding that movies and sporting events where depth of field can be controlled and 3D enhancements added appropriately make the most sense.

"A 3DTV broadcast of a sporting event requires a separate truck that is just shooting for 3D," he continued. This is not because the equipment is necessarily different, since the same cameras, routers and switchers can be used for both, but because the choice of shots will vary. Wide stadium shots have no value in HD and can throw off the eye, where close-ups that allow the depth of field to be showcased make the experience worthwhile. Moote said that due to the limited benefits of 3D technology in TV news, local TV is not excited about the 3DTV right now.

Equipment manufacturers though are very excited. "I have gone from a stereoscopic skeptic to a stereoscopic evangelist," says Miranda's Proulx. He says that manufacturers are trying to position themselves with the right products for the marketplace. "Today most of the interest in stereoscopic is coming from production trucks," he said. Miranda is supplying many of them with their 3D capable multiviewer shown at last year's NAB Show.

Carl Dempsey, CEO of Wohler Technologies in San Francisco is guiding his company to take advantage of the needs of in-depth monitoring of 3DTV signals, both in trucks and facilities. "We're a monitoring company and pride ourselves on being able to monitor everything a broadcaster needs," said Dempsey. He recently hired expertise away from Dolby's 3D lab to help Wohler focus on several new products, showing just how competitive the market for 3DTV technology may become. At the NAB Show, Wohler will show a proof-of-concept 3DTV monitoring display that will not only let users view the images in 3D, but also analyze their composition. This ability to look at the individual left and right eye images, as well as monitor a 3DTV signal in whatever format is in use, will be a valuable tool to those beginning to adopt a 3DTV workflow.

Evertz, which helped ESPN build one of the first fully operational 3Gbps facilities in the United States, is another example of how vendors are working more closely than ever with their clients to develop products that solve specific technology issues. For example, rather than having to find a complement of different vendors' equipment to solve a problem, many manufacturers are now working in tandem with their clients to develop problem-specific solutions. "We worked with ESPN to come up with a number of products for them to complete their 3G facility in Los Angekes," said Goyal. "We look at this facility as our showcase for 3G technology." Evertz is once again working with ESPN on a 3G build at their Bristol Conn. facility that will have an added 3DTV component.

Caution Ahead
Whether looking ahead to 3DTV or just trying to make sure your facility is 3 Gbps-capable, those with 3Gbps experience tell buyers to educate themselves and perform their due diligence. "Care must be given to examining products which claim to be 3 Gig-ready," warns AZCAR's Paulsen. "Some of these products are not what they claim to be."

The concern is that one vendor's meaning of 3 Gig may be very different than another's. Some vendors have equipment with internal processors working in a 3 GHz clock environment, but the signal receivers and drivers may not be up to the 3Gbps spec, leaving a weak link in a 3 Gbps signal chain.

Monitors also can be a problem in a 3Gbps plant, specifically with what segment of the SMPTE 424 and 425 spec that they will actually process. This will become even more of an issue if the 3Gbps plant is also looking at doing 3DTV.

The good news is that many vendors are taking a proactive role in educating clients on the new technologies as well as their own product lines. It is also a good sign that more and more vendors are not only willing, but wanting to work with their clients on developing products that fit their specific needs. As 3DTV blazes ahead this year, those organizations that are already looking at or implementing 3 Gbps technology are likely to be one step ahead of the rest.

By Ian MacSpadden, TV Technology

A New Dimension

Just what are the prospects for 3D TV services in Central and Eastern Europe? The industry focus at present is very much on the format, not only in CEE but Europe as a whole. Indeed, demonstrations have taken place in a number of countries and Sky 3D, the first channel offering 3D content, is due to launch next month in the UK and Ireland.

For 3D is to take off, there will have to be sufficient content available to broadcasters and – just as importantly – affordable receivers in the shops. There is certainly already growing enthusiasm for 3D in CEE: just this week UPC and Telefónica O2 in the Czech Republic (and by implication the companies’ other operations in Europe) have indicated that they are ready to start broadcasting in 3D.

What is more, 3D sets are due to start appearing in Czech shops this week. As recently as January, such a development was expected to be 2-3 years away.

Meanwhile in Poland, the alternative carrier Dialog is undertaking a 3D trial and Cyfra+ has said it will have a 3D strategy in place by the end of the year. Given how quickly things are currently moving, this date could well be brought forward.

Poland, interestingly enough, is also about to become the leading producer of 3D TV sets in Europe. Earlier this year it was announced that LG would begin production in a factory near Wroclaw next month. Its output is expected to account for 80% of 3D TV sets sold on the continent this year.

Meanwhile in Russia, the DTH platform Platforma HD is understood to be involved in a 3D project with Samsung and General Satellite.

By Chris Dziadul, Broadband TV News

3D Demo Channel for Astra

SES Astra will launch a 3D demo channel during the ANGA Cable 2010 show, which will be held from May 3 in Cologne, Germany. Wolfgang Elsaesser, MD of Astra Deutschland, told Broadband TV News that the new demo channel will be broadcast on the 23.5 East position. The Luxembourg based satellite operator has a long history of demoing and promoting new technologies and actively engage in setting standards.

During the presentation of the latest SES Astra Satellite Monitor in Berlin, Ferdinand Kayser, president an CEO of SES Astra, expects 3D to be one the ‘next big things.’

“But the 3D standards are not fixed yet,” he said. “3D can be received on current receivers, we are told by the pay TV operator, but you need a new flat screen. Our objective in the weeks and months to come is to reach a standard. It is not in the interest of the viewers to have confusion. In 2004 we did a similar drive for HD in a quite similar situation. Then we succeeded to incentivise and promote initiatives to agree to one technical standard.”

At the presentation, Sony was showing its 3D screen using active shutter glasses.

By Robert Briel, Broadband TV News

Technicolor Ready for 3D Playout

Technicolor’s Chiswick, West London, play-out facility can now handle 3D material, a ‘first’ claims the company. Technicolor says it has developed its Broadcast 3D service offering to ensure optimal viewing and distribution technologies are being used. The company is now ready to offer this service to its cable, television, and satellite network service provider clients.

“With the availability of 3D televisions, we are very excited to be the first to offer this new Broadcast 3D service to our customers,” commented Chuck Parker, president of Technicolor’s Digital Content Delivery business. “Broadcast 3D is a natural extension of the many services we’re already providing, including upstream in production and post production, as well as delivering the highest quality 3D images to theatres and to the home via Blu-ray Disc, broadcast, and digital delivery.”

Technicolor says it is able to manage live or pre-recorded content, from post production through encoding for satellite, cable, IPTV or terrestrial distribution. The company is also able to generate logos and other visual effects for 3D broadcasts. The Broadcast 3D transmission suite at Technicolor’s Chiswick Park offices features equipment from Sensio, Orad and Miranda.

By Chris Forrester, Rapid TV News

MSG to Produce 3D Hockey

MSG said that it will produce the Mar. 24 National Hockey League game between the New York Rangers and New York Islanders at Madison Square Garden in stereoscopic 3D, using specialized 3D camera rigs from 3ality Digital, and broadcast it to paying customers at the Theater within Madison Square Garden. Tickets will be available through The Rangers's Website for $20 apiece.

The 3D telecast will also be carried by Cablevision and offered to MSG HD subscribers who have bought 3D HD televisions that hit store shelves this month. MSG says it is in discussions with other pay-TV providers about carrying the 3D game.

While the NHL shot some test footage of January's Winter Classic game from Boston's Fenway Park that was shown at CES, the MSG production represents the first live network hockey telecast to be produced in 3D and the first live 3D sports telecast that will be offered to cable subscribers, coming a few weeks ahead of Comcast's telecast of The Master golf tournament in 3D.

The game will be shot using 3ality Digital 3D camera rigs and image processors, which have already captured college football for Fox and professional soccer for U.K. pay-TV operator Sky, with the support of a dedicated mobile truck from Game Creek Video. Harris will provide encoders and signal processing equipment to bring the 3D signal from Madison Square Garden to MSG's network operations center. RealD will provide its 3D display technology, including eyewear, screen and filtering technology, for the MSG Theater viewing party.

By Glen Dickson, Broadcasting & Cable

Sky Bans 2D to 3D Conversions

Sky has stated it will not accept any 2D to 3D conversions for any content submitted for Sky 3D. In the first release of its specifications for 3D production the broadcaster has ruled that no more than 10% of any programme can be 2D HD.

"To enable the 3D programme to retain the highest quality throughout, a minimum of 90% must be native 3D footage," Sky states. "Where non-HD footage is utilised, it should sit within the editorial context of the programme. The 2D originated footage must be HD, be of segments not exceeding one minute, converted in a suitable manner to fit the 3D content and be of shots where there is minimal benefit from a true dual camera 3D acquisition."

To avoid any doubt Sky declares that conversions of 2D HD content to 3D is "not acceptable and may only be proposed by prior agreement with understanding of the editorial techniques and conversion process involved."

It rules out the use of automated 2D to 3D conversion systems completely. The technical criteria for 3D content acquisition and storage are detailed and differ in some elements from the basic needs for HD categorisation. This is due to the additional image processing necessary to deliver the dual images within the existing 1080i25 transmission format although audio requirements remain unchanged.

In terms of depth budget, the parameters of 3D behind or in front of the TV screen plane, Sky says the majority of Positive Parallax (into the screen) shots should not exceed 2%. "Negative disparity (out of the screen) at close points should be used with care and not exceed 1%," it specifies.

These guidelines it says are intended to deliver managed and comfortable stereoscopic viewing and can be exceeded for specific editorial needs such as graphic content or short-term visual impact. "Such instances should be constrained to 4% Positive and 2.5% Negative," Sky says.

The ideal recording format for Sky 3D is on HDCAM SR 4:2:2 x 2 dual link synchronous record (440MB/s) or HDCAM SR individual Left Eye tape, Right Eye tape with synchronised identical timecode.

By Adrian Pennington, TVB Europe

The First 3D HD Production and Transmission in Germany

On 14th March 2010 Sky Germany has shown the Bundesliga top-game between Leverkusen and Hamburg to a selected audience in 3D HD. After the first successful 3D HD trials at the Champions League Game Stuttgart – Barcelona on 23rd February the production on 14tn March again was carried out by TopVision. The 3D HD signal was produced with nine 3D HD camera pairs. Only the camera pair one was positioned high, all other camera pairs were positioned at play ground level and have delivered stunning pictures of the actions between the teams of Bayer Leverkusen and Hamburger SV.

Production Director Volker Weicker at the MVS-8000

3D HD Stereo Shooting Solutions
TopVision was using 3D HD camera rigs from P+S Technik (standard ones for the tripod mounting of three HDC-1500 pairs and freestyle ones mounted on Steadicams for the two EX3 pairs) and the SwissRig from Imartis AG for tripod mounting of one HDC-1500 camera pair. The HDC-1000 camera pair (camera position one) weas mounted on a rig created by TopVision.

P+S Technik steadicam with two Sony EX3

P+S Technik steadicam with two Sony EX3

Engineered and manufactured to very high specifications, the tripod mounted rigs from P+S Technik provided proper parallel camera offsetting for screen perfect stereo images at distances from macro to faraway. The rigs were simple to use and the setup time for a rig took as little as 5 minutes. Designed for constant equilibration, the P+S freestyle rig always kept the camera weights in perfect balance. Integrated motors for stereo base and angulations adjustment optimized the weight and were compatible with available wireless remote control systems.

P+S Technik rig with two Sony HDC-1500

SwissRig with two Sony HDC-1500

The cameras on the Steadicam were EX3 cameras which carefully were matched to the HDC-1500 cameras. A pair of HDC-1000 cameras with 25x Canon lenses did the job on position one and was the only camera positioned high. Four HDC-1500 pairs were operated at play ground level and were shooting with 11x and 22x Canon lenses. Canon supported the 3D HD production by delivering specially selected lenses.

A pair of Sony HDC-1000 cameras with 25x Canon lenses

The 3D HD SloMo playback was carried out via EVS XT² servers. Finally the two 3D HD goal cameras were built with HD 1100 remote camera pairs from LuxMediaPlan. The 2/3 inch, 2,1 megapixel high end CMOS sensors guaranteed a progressive resolution of up to 1080p/60fsp and the remote control panel offered full studio control functions.

LuxMediaPlan HD 1100 cameras

In addition a 3D HD camera from Astro (SHVC-03SG) was positioned next to the commentator place to cover the opening statement of Kai Dittmann who was presenting the game by using 3D glasses sitting in front of a carefully aligned Sony LMD-2451TD 3D monitor (24“ Full HD Monitor with 1920x1200 pixels, ChromaTRU and 10bit Processing).

Astro SHVC-03SG stereoscopic camera

3D HD Stereo Image Processing, Mixing, Graphics Implementation and Monitoring
To greatly simplify the 3D HD shooting workflow, a Sony MPE-200 multi-image processor with MPES-3D01 stereo image processor software was on location. The combination of the MPE-200 with MPES-3D01 software enabled the production crew to analyze the 3D HD images and make fine adjustments, e.g. 50% mix, above/below, anaglyph, difference, and side-by-side comparison were provided.

Sony Multi Image Processor MPE-200

Sony Stereo Image Processor Software MPES-3D01

The mixing of the 3D HD camera signals was carried out on the MVS-8000G production switcher. The installation of a 3D HD software update enabled the switcher to handle 3D HD signals easily without complex link settings. Cross point assignment for the right and the left eye signals were set as a pair of signals, however the parallax value of the signals could be adjusted independently.

For the 3D HD graphics a VizRT 3D HD Engine character generator with software V3.2 was operated by TopVision. On the output of the switcher the right eye and the left eye images were streamed in full HD 1920 x 1080 to a 3D HD monitor from Hyundai which was temporally installed in front of the production mixer in TopVison’s HD OBVan Ü4. The Hyundai monitor incorporates a micro-polarizer screen attached to the LCD panel and was supplied with passive glasses. Thanks to these lightweight circular polarizer 3D system glasses, production director Volker Weicker could do the live edit of the 3D HD images with less stress.

The 3D HD signal was distributed to a suite at the stadium in Leverkusen where various people had the chance to get an impression of the 3D HD pictures first hand, again on an Hyundai 3D HD display. The responsibility for the satellite transmission was with HD Sat Communications, providing an uplink van in Leverkusen and a downlink van in Munich to show the 3D HD signal of the game to about 120 VIPs invited by Sky to the “Füllhorn Halle”.

A Statement from Achim Jendges
After the successful production and transmission Achim Jendges, Managing Director of TopVision stated: “The future of HD is 3D. We learned a lot and we have now a clear vision of how to get prepared for the next 3D productions. We will definitely go forward in investing and developing all the necessary customized LIVE Sport 3D cameras and broadcast equipment with all our 3D partners. The 3D HD show must go on! It is the best thing I ever have seen since television got colored!”

Click to watch the video (in German)

By Reinhard Penzel, Live Production