English Rugby’s 6 Nations Tournament Gets HD, 2D, 3D Coverage

The England rugby union team begins its 6 Nations campaign on Feb. 6, with coverage in HD and SD on the BBC and in 3D in 40 Odeon and Cineworld cinemas around the UK. The game against Wales is hailed as the biggest British sporting event to be screened live using stereoscopic technology so far and comes barely a week after Sky previewed its 3D service with the Premier League football match between Arsenal and Manchester United.

England’s sponsor, telecom company O2, has organised the 3D broadcast of the team’s home games at Twickenham Stadium during this year’s tournament, with the clash against Ireland on Feb. 27 also to be transmitted in the format.

The production is coordinated by Inition, which has considerable experience in stereoscopy over the past few years and was involved in the 3D-test screening of the England-Scotland game during 2008.

That event was for a private, invited audience. This time around, the paying public will have the chance to see what all the fuss over 3D is about. Outside-broadcast facilities at Twickenham are provided by SIS LIVE, the BBC’s regular contractor for the 6 Nations.

The coverage will use eight 3D camera systems: six Element Technica Quasar rigs (three mirrors, three side-by-sides), a 2D camera running through a JVC 3D converter for player close-ups’, and an integrated two-lens stereoscopic radio camera on a Steadicam.

A SIS LIVE OB unit on-site to provide production services will have three EVS XT[2] production servers configured in 3D for instant replays and a full 5.1 surround-sound mix.

The broadcast will be distributed in the Sensio 3D transmission format to cinemas, which will screen it using Real D technology to audiences wearing polarised glasses. Event producer and Inition Director Andy Millns notes that the production could be shown in any digital cinema with 3D capability.

Among the lessons learned from the 3D England-Scotland match two years ago were that directors had to rethink zooms and camera angles, while stereoscopic graphics were seen as necessary to give viewers what they would expect from an SD production.

Wurmsers, a specialist in sports outside broadcast and a regular contractor on the 6 Nations, is providing the 3D graphics. These are based on Chyron’s HyperX3 system, running with Lyric PRO, which features stereoscopic tools as standard. The Chyron Creative Services department has worked with Wurmsers to develop the graphics, which are intended to enhance the 3D look of the coverage.

Wurmsers Managing Director Jeremy Tidy says that, because the 6 Nations is a “very branded sport,” his team had to stay within “certain creative guidelines” but, while the look will be familiar, it is in a “very different environment.” He adds, “The genuine anticipated excitement created throughout the country for this groundbreaking event bodes well for the future of 3D productions of sport and many other live events.”

Millns believes that the 3D graphics and match statistics are among the major differences between this year’s 3D 6 Nations coverage and what was done in 2008. Other changes are “3D replays, more camera angles, more mirror rigs for close-ups, and a Steadicam,” along with the commercial edge of having paying customers in 40 cinemas. In general, he says, this will be “everything you would expect from a quality 2D sports production but in 3D.”

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