By: Ken Kerschbaumer, SVG Editorial Director
Monday, September 24, 2012 - 10:47 am
The 2010 Ryder Cup provided a perfect (although wet) launching point for BSkyB’s 3D service and later this week the Ryder Cup will once again get the 3D treatment by BSkyB as the channel enlists the support of Cameron Pace Group (CPG) and Dome Productions to deliver more than 30 hours of 3D coverage.
The production is a landmark for a couple of reasons, not the least of which is the opportunity for BSkyB and CPG to work together. CPG and BSkyB are each arguably the leaders in 3D production techniques in the US and the UK, so the opportunity to have them work together and learn from each other has the potential to be a watershed moment in 3D sport production.
“It could result in hybrid vigor or a culture clash or maybe even both,” says James Cameron, co-chairman of CPG.
For now, we’ll place the bet on hybrid vigor, as both companies are committed to delivering a quality 3D experience without compromise. A total of 26 3D cameras will be used on the course, delivering signals back to CPG’s Shadow 25 unit and an OB unit from Dome Productions that will be at the center of the 3D production.
One compromise that has been made on the production is that it will not utilise the “5D” model that is at the core of CPG’s philosophy of having a single production team produce the 2D and 3D broadcasts without using additional camera positions, on-air talent, and crew. The decision to do a separate production was as much a result of accelerated timelines as it was any difference in production philosophy.
“We’ve been saying for years that you need one production and that the industry can’t afford to do two productions,” says Cameron. “But more importantly you give the premium camera positions to the 2D broadcast and then the orphan positions to the 3D production but tell the audience that 3D is the better way to watch and that just sends a mixed message. We don’t want the guys who do 3D but the best guys.”
Vince Pace, CPG’s other co-chairman, says that in recent months the work on 5D has continued to thin the amount of people needed on a 3D production with the help of advanced automation systems, lighter rigs, and more.
“We now ping the camera every six frames to look at the configuration profile, sampling the frame and making adjustments,” he says. “The big thing is automating that process to get rid of techs and the need for more people in the field. We want to get to the model of having a cameraman plug in his camera and ask [the truck] if they have a signal.”
Making 3D Mainstream
The interest in stepping up the amount of 3D sport production seems to have plateaued, despite the fact that nearly every HDTV set sold into consumer homes today is 3D capable. But technology demonstrations at IBC and anticipated introductions at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in January hint at a glasses-free 3D experience that could overcome a major gating factor for 3D acceptance: the need to wear “active” 3D glasses that can be uncomfortable to wear.
“[Glasses-free] 3D is going to be the next big knee in the curve as the growth right now is not as fast as we would like,” says Cameron. “Everyone is holding their breath until someone cracks glasses-free 3D.”
Creating a glasses-free experience for large 46-inch monitors is a technical challenge that may still be a few years from being solved but smaller sets are expected be introduced at CES and then there is another market just waiting to be exploited: the tablet.
“I am surprised that we still don’t have a 3D iPad as that would be highly disruptive in a very positive way for 3D because so many people are mobile with their entertainment right now,” adds Cameron. “I think if you get down to the phone size you lose a lot of the value of 3D although it still has some value as you can float graphics and get more out of the real estate.”
The China Connection
Another factor that cannot be underestimated in the 3D transition is the leadership role China is staking out with the help of CPG. The Chinese partners are Tianjin North Film Group, a state-owned film and television production company, and Tianjing Binhai Hi-Tech Development Group, which operates a technology park in Tianjin, a port city east of Beijing where the venture will be based.
“It’s a huge market opportunity as they have a centralized broadcast system and have made the decision to embrace 3D,” says Cameron. “There is a mandate from the central and state governments and they are putting money into it as their audience is hardwired to like 3D. They see it as a premium brand and the Chinese are very brand conscious.”
And they will be 3D conscious as well as the current commitment calls for 6,000 hours of 3D content to be created.
“Maybe China will set the pace for what 3D will look like and how it will be done,” adds Cameron.
Whether or not that happens, the importance of China’s commitment is that it will ensure that 3D production companies, like CPG, have an outlet for their services as the rest of the world waits for next-generation 3D displays.
“When we get rid of the glasses all bets are off,” adds Cameron. “And now is the opportunity to train to play. People who have the foresight to get in now will have a chance to learn to play the game.”
This weekend that opportunity will be at the Medinah Country Club outside of Chicago. SVG Europe will be there to provide behind-the-scenes coverage.