Pace and Company On Hand for MLB 3D Efforts

Vince Pace, CEO of 3D-technology and -production provider PACE, is at the center of the MLB 3D efforts undertaken this week by ESPN and Fox Sports at the MLB All-Star Game in Anaheim, CA, and by YES Network, Fox Sports Northwest, and DirecTV for two games between the New York Yankees and Seattle Mariners. But, though at the center of the action, he and his company are by no means alone. “Everybody is working together to figure out 3D,” says Pace. “And all sides of the business are working together with a common goal that supports finding the right way to do 3D.”

Tonight, for example, the 3D production unit used by ESPN for last night’s Home Run Derby, NEP Supershooter 32, will be used by Fox Sports to produce the All-Star Game in 3D. And many of the production personnel worked on the Yankee-Mariners games over the weekend, gaining some real-world experience producing 3D baseball. Those efforts have reshaped industry perceptions about whether it is possible to effectively produce a baseball game in 3D, and all involved called the effort a success (and newspaper reports by critics agreed).

“The use of 3D enhances the viewer’s experience, period. It makes for a better experience,” says Pace, adding, “but it doesn’t come without its challenges.”

Producing baseball in 3D, for example, required confronting the issue of whether there is enough dimensionality in baseball. But camera angles from positions like low home and centerfield demonstrated that the dimensionality not only exists but is effective. And last night’s broadcast of the Home Run Derby showed the impact that can be offered by super-slow-motion systems, POV cameras, and graphics designed specifically for 3D.

“The graphics [last night] showed that graphics can be used effectively without having a collision of images,” says Pace. “It was a great step forward.”

The use of super-slow-motion systems from Fletcher Chicago also proved especially compelling to viewers. “A sliver of time in 3D has so much more information that the payoff on super-slow-motion cameras is substantial,” he adds.

Tonight’s game will continue that learning process, with 13 cameras used to cover the game. Viewers tonight can expect to see some changes in coverage from the Yankees-Mariners telecasts this past weekend. Changes even occur within the broadcasts. During last night’s Home Run Derby on ESPN, for example, the bug graphic showing who was batting and how many home runs and outs he had moved from far forward in the 3D image to a mid-level depth.

“There are things we learned from the other games that will be different ,” says Pace, “and, two years from now, we will have a better manual for how to produce 3D baseball.”

Simply put, for baseball (and nearly any sport) to make the transition to 3D properly, the industry is going to have to do what any professional does: get the reps in.

“We appreciate the repetition and the ability to evaluate the things we want to change,” says Pace. “And we are in this for the long haul as we change and improve. Some of the changes will be from the financial side of things, some will be hardware, and others will be software modifications. We aren’t trying to make 3D more expensive, but we recognize the production value of it as a tool.”

One production tool Pace is working on is known as ShadowD, a camera system that allows the operator to shoot both 3D and 2D at the same time from the same camera rig.

Another tool actually being used tonight is a handheld camera rig that weighs 20% less than previous systems. “Handheld operators appreciate it,” Pace says, “and we have other intensive developments that can make the 3D process easier and quicker.”

Helping top professionals in the 2D world get exposed to 3D production continues to be a goal for Pace. “It is going take a while for directors to understand the 3D medium,” he says. “And asking them to change their instincts overnight is a wrong one. From our perspective, any concerns will eventually go away.”

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