Eurosport, Panasonic and FFT combine for 3D French Open broadcast

France: Eurosport, Panasonic, and the Fédération Française de Tennis have combined forces for this year’s 3D coverage of the French Open tennis, featuring a mammoth 15 days’ worth of matches from the main court Philippe Châtrier at Roland Garros.

Carried by Orange in France, Virgin Media in the UK, Swisscom in Switzerland, the Tennis Channel in the US, and a range of other broadcasters across the continent, the 3D world feed from Roland Garros is again this year one of the most extensive 3D productions you’ll find anywhere outside of a film set. Facilities this time round are being provided by Alfacam – last year’s partner, Can Communicate, already being heavily involved in the preparations for Wimbledon’s 3D.

According to the FFT’s Michel Grach, four stereo rigs carrying Grass Valley LDK 8000 cameras will capture the tournament. “One side by side with two Canon standard lenses on a remote as main camera; one side by side with two Canon 40x lenses; and two mirror rigs with Canon standard lenses,” he explains. “Extra to the four stereo rigs are two Panasonic combo cameras (the AG-3DP1 and AG-3DA1_ and a 2D to 3D converter, the the JVC IF-2D3D1, will be used to create additional value only, such as for cablecam shots. However match coverage will be created in real 3D.”

With Sony having tied up Wimbledon in a three year technology deal, Roland Garros is Panasonic’s turn to highlight the capabilities of its kit in the heat of live broadcast.

“In the past year, a wide range of 3D technology has become available, an increasing amount of content has been created, and new broadcast 3D channels have been launched,” says Laurent Abadie, chairman/chief executive, Panasonic Europe. “It is clear that 2011 is the year this revolutionary technology will become mainstream.”

Eurosport Chairman/Chief Executive Laurent-Eric Le Lay considers running a live 3D broadcast from Roland Garros “the best way to demonstrate how the combination of compelling content and new technology greatly enhances sports viewing.”

He adds that the partnership with Panasonic and FFT will help “make 3D sports viewing across Europe a mainstream reality.”

Certainly tennis looks like a sport almost created with 3D in mind. “Tennis brings a lot to 3D, and it is the perfect 3D sport,” says Larry Meyers, executive producer/SVP of production for Tennis Channe. “It has two things: one is, the cameras can get close and low, and the other is, the playing field has [objects] located near, middle, and far [away from the camera].”

The Tennis Channel is certainly putting the resources into proving the format’s viability, with its own 3D control room sited in its three-storey broadcast cabin, where it will augment the Eurosport-generated world feed with graphics and its own commentary. This is, of course, above and beyond the 75 hours of 2D coverage it has scheduled.

Abadie, meanwhile, reiterates his belief that 2011 will be the year the “revolutionary” 3D technology goes mass market.

“To make sure there is sufficient content available to meet consumers’ demands for high-quality 3D programming, Panasonic is working in close partnership with Eurosport and broadcasters across the world,” he adds in a statement. “The French Tennis Open is a perfect example of how these partnerships can work to deliver exceptional content. We are the official suppliers for the tournament, and our end-to-end 3D-product suite will be showcased, from our 3D broadcast products to our state-of-the-art 3D Viera screens, which will be on display across the site so visitors to the tournament can try out the 3D tennis experience.”

Grach says that, apart from long days for the crew, the main issue with the 3D is dust and clay on the mirrors on court (something Wimbledon will happily be able to avoid next month). But he also points out that the innovation doesn’t stop with adding the third dimension. “This year we also have a new horizontal cablecam on the Suzanne Lenglen court, plus HbbTV Connected TV in collaboration with France Télévisions, Panasonic and IBM.”


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