Panasonic Makes 3D Push with Bexel

Electronic giant Panasonic, which is sponsoring the 3D broadcast of the 2010 U.S. Open tennis tournament that is being produced by CBS and carried exclusively by DirecTV, has teamed with rental firm Bexel to increase the available pool of 3D equipment.

Under the multi-year partnership, which was announced at a press event at the U.S. Tennis Center in Flushing, N.Y. where Panasonic, DirecTV and CBS executives discussed the upcoming U.S. Open 3D broadcasts, Bexel will now have six 3D camera rigs equipped with Panasonic cameras for rent.

Four of the systems will be 3Ality Digital models, while the other two will be Parallax3 Renegade models. All are equipped with Panasonic AK-HC1500G 1080i/720p box-type HD cameras; at the U.S. Open event Panasonic and Bexel execs unveiled a 3Ality beamsplitter rig outfitted with the Panasonic cameras.  The rigs will be available for individual rentals as well as being offered as part of Bexel's flypack or truck systems for multi-camera productions.

Bexel also announced that it has designed a new 53-foot mobile production trailer, BBSOne, with an interior and infrastructure optimized for small to mid-sized 3D productions or mobile 3D viewing and editing.

Bexel will also be supplying Panasonic's new AG-3DA1 integrated 3D camcorder, either on a stand-alone basis or to complement the multi-camera systems. Panasonic began shipping the $21,000 camcorder last week and so far has delivered 50 units to a variety of customers including networks, rental firms and independent producers, said Panasonic VP of marketing Bob Harris.

CBS, which will be using six 3D rigs from PACE to capture the live action on Center Court at Arthur Ashe Stadium, plans to use the Panasonic camcorder to shoot footage of crowds on the Concourse at the Tennis Center and capture player interviews and commentators to round out its 3D coverage, said Ken Aagaard, EVP of engineering, operations
and production for CBS Sports.

Panasonic was demonstrating footage from the AG-3DA1 camcorder, as well as 3D video captured by its new $1399 consumer 3D camcorder, the HDC-SDT750, at the "Panasonic 3D Full HD Experience" on the ground floor of Louis Armstrong Stadium, which is equipped with a bevy of 3D plasma displays. The company, which has been steadily touting its expertise in both professional and consumer 3D technology since the CES show last January, also announced that it will create a "3D Innovation Center" this fall at its U.S. headquarters in Secaucus, N.J., where it will work with networks and other outside partners to promote the technology.

Eisuke Tsuyuzaki, chief technology officer of Panasonic Corporation of North America, noted that Panasonic's 3D technology is now being used on a weekly basis to shoot new productions for DirecTV's n3D channel, a point that was echoed by DirecTV SVP Steven Roberts.

"This is not just one event here, and one event there," said Tsuyuzaki. "This is the start of many things to come."