HBS Ready For 3D Battle

Host Broadcast Services (HBS), the host broadcaster for the 2010 World Cup, will produce 3D coverage of 25 matches using Element Technica 3D rigs equipped with Sony cameras, Canon lenses and Sony 3D processors. It will use a minimum of seven 3D cameras for each match, supported by production trucks from U.K. firm Telegenic and French vendor AMP VisualTV that were airlifted to South Africa last week.

HBS began experimenting with 3D in the summer of 2008, says Peter Angell, director of HBS' production and programming division, and put together a formal plan for the World Cup late last year when Sony stepped forward to sponsor 3D broadcasts worldwide. In the lead-up to South Africa, HBS has conducted eight test productions of international soccer matches, with the strategy of retaining as much of a 2D workflow as possible and adding a 3D layer to it.

Some 3D insiders say they are surprised at HBS' choice of Element Technica rigs over systems from PACE or 3ality Digital, whose rigs have already been used on many high-profile 3D sports productions. Angell says that HBS wanted to lease 3D cameras and train its own team on them without requiring third-party production support, and he feels he has a high-quality system with the combination of the Element Technica rigs and Sony's 3D processing technology.

There are several big challenges to producing 3D World Cup soccer, according to Angell. One is that with 32 cameras per game used for the 2D production, "there's not a great deal of space left for 3D cameras." HBS will generally locate its 3D cameras lower and closer to the field than 2D cameras; it also plans to use 2D-to-3D conversion technology to incorporate some 2D camera feeds where necessary. Angell adds that Canon's 22-to-1 zoom lenses provide "very acceptable framing to all areas of the field" when used with 3D cameras.

That's an important consideration considering the unpredictable nature of soccer compared to other major sports that have been produced in 3D, such as professional and college football and National Basketball Association games.

"There's no clear direction to the game," Angell notes. "American football is pretty linear; you generally know where the ball is going. With soccer, it dynamically goes in any direction, spontaneously."