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Sony Preps for World Cup 3D

After striking a deal last December with FIFA that will see 25 of the 2010 World Cup matches in South Africa produced and broadcast in stereoscopic 3D, electronics giant Sony is working to ensure that its cameras, switchers and other mobile production equipment are up to the task.

Sony, which was already an official sponsor of the World Cup and other FIFA events, will be supplying its flagship HDC-1500 cameras as well as its new HDC-P1 unit, a compact, point-of-view (POV)-type camera with a 2/3-inch lens. The 3D games will be produced for FIFA by Host Broadcast Services (HBS). HBS is using 3D-capable mobile trucks from European vendors such as Telegenic, which has worked on early 3D broadcasts for U.K. pay-TV operator Sky.

The World Cup broadcasts will be carried in the U.S. on ESPN’s new 3D network, and Sony will also be making a 3D film of the event that will be distributed on Blu-ray disc. Sony has already supplied cameras for U.S.-based 3D broadcasts of college and professional football as well as professional basketball. It has also experimented with 3D golf coverage, and will sponsor the 3D broadcast of The Masters tournament from Augusta National Golf Club next month.

The difference with soccer, says Rob Willox, director of Sony Broadcast’s content creation division, is that there is a “lot more real estate to capture at one point,” which places a premium on camera positioning and the functionality of zoom lenses.

“Given the limitations of zoom [lens] technology, there’s some overcoming to do there to still make it look like a 3D event,” Willox says. “There will be a lot of experimentation with some new equipment.”

One piece of new gear is the P1, which uses the same operating software as the HDC-1500 but costs far less, with a list price of $30,000 compared to around $100,000 for the HDC- 1500. That allows a 3D camera rig to be outfitted with two P1s for less than the price of a single HDC-1500, and also allows for smaller 3D rigs.

Sony has also developed a specialized 3D image processing device, the MPE-200, which will be used in South Africa. The MPE-200 is designed to perform downstream correction of the left- and-right eye images coming from two-camera 3D rigs. The device costs about $60,000, including the physical processor and an associated software license, and will be shipping by NAB.

The MPE-200 addresses the slight differences between zoom lenses, even ones that are the same model, which occur in the construction of lens and lens barrels. “The diffi culty is that no two of them are the same, but you need them to be the same on these rigs,” Willox says. “The reason for the digital processor is to correct for the lens differences.”