FIFA waits on 3D World Cup plans

With three months to kick-off, production plans for the World Cup in Brazil are in their final stages yet there is no sign of any 3D coverage. In a statement to SVG Europe, FIFA said it had “yet to make a decision” on 3D for 2014, a position that contrasts to the fanfare surrounding the live production of 25 matches in 3D from the 2010 World Cup in South Africa (pictured).

That groundbreaking production, of Sony and FIFA, was green-lit on December 01 2009, just six months ahead of the tournament. While stereo production workflows have been refined since then to make a last minute arrangement possible, FIFA’s delay in announcing 3D plans for the summer can be read as a decision to quietly sideline the format.

Since FIFA’s lead on production matters is driven by demand from its broadcast rights-holders this would not be a surprise. Last time around the live 3D feed was transmitted to up to 600 cinemas worldwide and taken by broadcasters including Spain’s Sogecable, Eurosport, Al Jazeera, TF1 and ESPN – which launched its 3D channel on the back of the tournament. The latter’s decision to abandon its channel at the end of 2013 appears to have made up FIFA’s mind regarding 3D in 2014.

“We know that the technology has had a few setbacks in recent days, if you refer to some of the statements by (ESPN),” said Niclas Ericson, FIFA’s director of television in June last year. “It’s clear when a big sports broadcaster like ESPN makes an announcement like that it creates a lot of extra tension [for the technology].”

Despite apparent continuing interest in a 3D broadcast of select matches from China’s CCTV and Al Jazeera, the loss of the major US carrier renders 3D production in Brazil financially unviable and probably not worth the hassle of conducting a second production experiment alongside that of Ultra HD. One problem still not solved from 2010 is the positioning of 3D cameras in World Cup stadia. With approximately double the footprint of 2D kit, the cameras take up valuable stadium seating, an issue that can only be offset if selling sufficient 3D rights to make commercial sense.

Meanwhile Sony, FIFA official sponsor, 2014 technical production partner and financial backer to the 2010 3D World Cup production, is placing the majority of its R&D and marketing behind 4K live. Sony hopes the World Cup 2014 will not only prove 4K live workflows using its technology to the industry, but provide a high-profile impetus to global sales of Ultra HD displays.

To date FIFA has announced that just the World Cup Final will be captured (not broadcast) in 4K, though this may change if rights holders feel enough value can be gained by transmitting a 4K picture to the currently limited number of households with 4K TVs.

Telegenic, which provided one of two dedicated 3D production facilities for World Cup 2010, will be fielding its T25 truck in Brazil for the 4K work. This is the same vehicle from which Sony successfully conducted 4K live tests at the FIFA Confederations Cup from the country last July.

Limiting FIFA’s options further, the cancellation of ESPN 3D led to the closure of the 3D OB wing of its chief supplier, Cameron Pace Group. CPG sold its four 3D sports trucks to Canada’s Dome Productions – which promptly reverted them to 2D assets. FIFA added that it “remains open to the possibility of using the 3D format at future tournaments.”

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