BSkyB deploys new stereo-3D technology for Champions League Final

BSkyB used the occasion of Saturday’s Champions League Final between Manchester United and Barcelona to debut three Sony developments in stereoscopic-3D production technology, writes UK Correspondent, Will Strauss. As 3D host broadcaster of the Wembley event, the British pay-TV company used all three applications as part of its Telegenic-facilitated outside broadcast armoury.

The first was a Super Motion Camera position that augmented its specially extended match-coverage setup of 12 stereo-3D rigs.

The second was new stereo-3D-compliance software on the Sony MPE200 processor box.

The third was the use of solid-state SR Memory for recording.

Sky’s 3D development manager, Robin Broomfield, told SVG that the Tri-Motion slo-mo cameras — which were mounted on a side-by-side rig and provided shots at 75 fps — provided a significant leap forward for its stereo-3D coverage.

“That was one of the most exciting additions because the images we were getting from it were crisp and clear,” he said. “We haven’t seen images like that before on a slow-motion replay.”

At the same time, the broadcaster was also running compliance software on the MPE200.

“I’m hoping to get the log back soon to see where any errors were,” continued Broomfield. “It will log anything that comes outside of our technical specification or guidelines, including depth budget, edge violations, and vertical disparity.”

The MPE200 has been designed to reduce the number of 3D-camera-rig adjustments required during live shoots, potentially making live 3D capture quicker and more reliable.

The compliance software provides frame-by-frame checks on the 3D output. Rather than automatically correct any anomalies, it keeps a log that can be output as a PDF report including timecode or as an XML correction file.

In addition to the slo-mo and compliance applications, Sky and Telegenic also used solid-state SR memory to record ISO cameras in what was a world first for a live event. Two HDCam SR Master R1000 VTRs were used in the trial, recording 24 hours of footage and filling 6 TB of memory.

In total, 20 broadcasters took Sky’s feed of the Wembley final. Some took it as a technical exercise while others were pushing it out to cinemas.

The match coverage itself consisted of 12 stereo-3D rigs: six 3ality rigs owned by Sky and a further one hired from Arri, two Element Technica rigs, two handhelds from Presteigne Charter (including a Steadicam), and one Polecam hired from Pedestal TV.

For Premier League games, Sky has six full rigs plus a single handheld stereo-3D-camera position.

Broomfield went on to explain that, although 3D was an important part of Sky’s Champions League final output, it still had to give way to the 2D coverage.

“We had to make sure we were not compromising the 2D coverage and be sympathetic to their requirements,” he said. “We’re a smaller distribution currently. It can be hard for production to deal with because it means they can’t get the positions they want.”

Despite that, Broomfield revealed that the size of the occasion and the venue provided several plusses. “The benefits of somewhere like Wembley is that seats could be killed, which meant that we ended up with some really good camera positions.

“As it was Wembley and it was the Champions League final,” he continued, “[we] were also able to put in more facilities. But that required two trucks. One was a production truck with audio and replay while the other had 3D convergence and engineering. This mirrored how coverage of the Ryder Cup was produced.”

The Champions League final took place at Wembley Stadium on Saturday 28 May 2011. Barcelona won the game 3-1, becoming European Cup winners for the fourth time. The 3D coverage was broadcast live on Sky 3D in the UK.

Broomfield, who was previously acting on a consultancy basis for Sky, starts as staff at the broadcaster at the end of this month.

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