Sony NAB Booth Spotlights 3D Sports

Sports production is front and center at the Sony Broadcast booth at NAB. All Mobile Video’s new 53-ft.-long 3D mobile-production unit has a presence there; clients HBS (working on the World Cup in 3D), the Masters golf tournament (which finished up a 3D production on April 11), BSkyB, and ESPN are on hand to discuss their use of Sony gear for 3D productions; and venue projects, notably the American Airlines Arena, home to the Miami Heat, are top of mind.

“Sports projects have been the biggest areas of growth for our solutions business,” says Alec Shapiro, SVP, sales and marketing, Sony Broadcast and Production Systems. “A great example is our recent work with the Miami Heat arena’s HD upgrade. It has 150 Bravia LCD TVs, professional monitors, and the U.S. unveiling of Sony’s new Ziris Web-based suite of hardware and software that help create high-impact visual displays from a centrally controlled system. Our sports agenda continues this month with New York Jets/Giants in Meadowlands sports complex, the latest in a long list of ongoing Sony sports solutions.”

Control Images Anywhere in the Arena
The Ziris software system allows the Heat to create, control, and feed high-quality digital images anywhere throughout the arena, according to The Heat Group EVP/CMO Michael McCullough. “Digital menu boards, corporate partner displays, and more can all be controlled, allowing us to change signage from English to Spanish, create dominant messaging for all clients, and even feed the images for the exterior LED marquee. We can change the guest experience at any time.”

As for 3D projects, Brian Lenz, director of product development for Sky, is at the center of BSkyB’s 3D efforts. Two years ago, the company began investigating how to use Sony 2D tools in a 3D environment. “We needed to figure out how to produce reliable 3D content week in and week out because that is the only viable way it will get into consumers’ homes,” he says. “Once we committed ourselves to this crazy venture, the channel has been up and running since the first weekend of April; we needed a purpose-built truck.”

Sony and Telegenic worked together (alongside 3ality Digital) to build the truck that today is delivering Premiership League Football to pubs throughout the UK.

25 FIFA World Cup Matches
The BSkyB effort isn’t the only football-related 3D project Sony is working on. Peter Angell, director, Production Division, for HBS says that Sony will play a key role in providing equipment that the company will use to deliver 25 matches of the FIFA World Cup to the world in 3D.

“One of the first questions I get is, why only 25 matches?,” says Angell. “When we made the decision last September, we had to make a few key assumptions, and one of them was about the reliability of the technology and human resources. At the time, we felt we could get two OB units’ worth of 3D equipment and people.”

At least seven cameras will be used for each match, with cameras positioned lower and closer to the field than for a 2D production. “Production technique is the key to high-quality 3D feeds,” says Angell. “And we want to tell the story of each match with high-quality, immersive images.”

Image Processor Is Key
A key part of the production will be the Sony MPE200 image processor, which provides a variety of digital adjustments to the stereo-imaging HD cameras, allowing a similar control experience to mechanical servos. It digitally simulates several of the adjustments currently performed mechanically on higher-end rigs and provides stereographic engineers a means of managing camera and rig parameters in order to deliver high-quality 3D images. MPE-controlled systems could augment higher-end rigs in complicated 3D live productions.

“It’s a game changer in our industry,” says Angell, “because it allows standard Sony 1500 HD cameras and Canon lenses to be fully controlled.”

HBS is five matches into an eight-match test period, and the 3D productions are ahead of expectations in terms of quality, Angell says, noting that the two production units will be airlifted to South Africa on June 1. “We’re in good shape for the opening match on June 11.”

Angell and HBS aren’t the only ones focusing closely on June 11. That’s the day ESPN will launch its 3D network, and, like HBS, Sony is a major provider of production technology.

“Sports and 3D is a great match,” says ESPN CTO Chuck Pagano. “It provides fans a new way to experience the game and enhances the value of the ESPN brand to our partners.”

Up to 85 sporting events will be delivered to fans in 3D during the next year, he says. “Sony cameras, switchers, and monitors will be used to get amazing shots in outstanding 3D quality. We look forward to using Sony gear over and over.”

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