Inside the game: NEP Visions prepares for Wimbledon 3D broadcast

Wimbledon: “This is the most advanced truck I’ve ever been in,” says CAN Communicate’s Duncan Humphreys, gesturing happily round the inside of one of NEP Visions’ highly impressive Gemini trucks. “It’s fantastic, it really is, and the two of them together work brilliantly. It’s like night and day compared to what we’ve shot out of before.”

Gemini 1 and 2 are parked just outside the Broadcast Centre – one of the few buildings you will ever find with grass on its roof – at the All England Club, and are preparing for this week’s 3D tennis shoot. The trucks, which debuted last year, are both large double expanding scanners that, in the marketing parlance, work together to offer a complete programme making experience where previously three trucks would have been needed. Two large production and sound areas accommodate up to 30 people in Gemini 1, which is the production and presentation truck of the two, and another 30 people can be seated in Gemini 2, the VTR/Edit truck.

“We were asked to look at this project in terms of a three year deal, and though we’re not taxing the whole infrastructure of Gemini at all this year, as we start to grow over forthcoming years, that’s when the second production area will kick in,” explains Humphreys.

The 3D tests at the All England Club last month were done out of a smaller Visions truck as the Geminis were working on their day job for Sky. According to David O’Carroll, Technical Projects Manager at Visions, this is the first time the trucks have been used on 3D work. “They were designed with 3D workflows in mind, so the infrastructure for it was all put in during the build,” he says.

“This is one of the easiest integrations I’ve ever done with a truck,” adds Humphreys. “It’s gone incredibly smoothly. When you think that we thought we’d be using 12 MPEs and we’ve now got 22 active ones all doing different things…”

A guided tour takes you out of one of the twins and into the one next door, where through a door there’s a Quantel Pablo system set up for producing edited programmes for Sony. “Name me another OB truck that has got space for a Quantel system,” says Humphreys. Answers on a postcard please…

“We’ve laid things out quite uniquely,” he continues. “Quite often you find that EVS and Convergence are two completely separate areas, whereas here we’ve set it out so that it goes camera/EVS/camera and the EVS operator in the middle looks after the two cameras either side of him. That way if there’s a shot that the convergence puller thinks he didn’t get right or just shouldn’t go forward for replay, rather than shout across the truck, use the intercom or whatever, it’s just a kick in the shins and a ‘Don’t use that’. It’s going to be a much better workflow.

“The stereographer is looking at two Sony MPEs set in QC mode. One is QCing the TX out, the other is switchable to all cameras. Then there’s a 3D engineer who’s monitoring all of the boxes and can grab control of any box at any time, so if anything slips out of alignment he can control that remotely.”

Humphreys says that the biggest different between working now in 2011 and working at last year’s World Cup, where CAN produced all the 3D matches, is if last year was a case of managing individual chains, this year everything has come together as a system. “Unless you’re a rocket scientist you won’t know the difference between working on this and working on a 3ality system,” he maintains.


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