Inside the game: 3D rigs at Wimbledon

Wimbledon:In a small car park nestled between the All England Tennis Club and a block of flats, CAN Communicate technicians are busy assembling the 3D rigs that will be installed during the rest day in preparation for next week’s 3D capture. Creative Director, Duncan Humphreys, talks rigs, zooms and the importance of not blocking the Queen’s view.

The technicians are working under a makeshift awning to protect against the inevitable Wimbledon showers as they bolt the Sony 1500s onto the Element Technica Pulsar rigs in the under/thru configuration. All in all, CAN is using five ET rigs on Centre Court: three of the larger Quasar rigs and two of the smaller form-factor Pulsar rigs.

“We’re using the smaller Pulsar rigs at either end of the court,” says Humphreys. “One, because the Queen might get her view obstructed,” he jokes, “but mainly because the BBC main camera [which is mounted just above the 3D position] might get its view obstructed, so we needed to make them as small as possible.

“The zooms have been slightly upgraded,” Humphreys continues. “They’ve got 3D motors on them so you can tweak the zoom positions and tweak the focus positions so that everything matches. You can use the full length of the zoom, but we tend to restrict it, not for any technical reasons. but so that the cameramen don’t zoom all the way in. I personally don’t like the 3D shots on long lenses, they’re difficult for the eye to look at because they’re not what you naturally see. But they’re not really needed on a sport like tennis where the action is close to the cameras with lots of 3D depth cues in the background.”

The technicians are doing the main mechanical rig, getting the cameras lined up and calibrated to the best tolerances that can be achieved by hand and eye, before the Sony MPE box takes over the pixel by pixel calibration later. Apart from the odd shower, and the usual problems you get on OBs, such as cable connectors getting crushed in doors by accident, things go smoothly.

“We established the process of using the Sony MPE boxes up during our work with HBS at the World Cup in sometimes quite difficult conditions and I’m very happy with the system,” says Humpreys. “There are things the 3ality system will do that this won’t, and vice versa. But I’m a great believer in the fact that as long as you use the right people and the right equipment, and put the right people in the right chairs, then you’ll get a good 3D production. It’s no longer a technical issue.”

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