Inside the game: the Rugby World Cup in 3D

New Zealand: The news earlier this week that the final stages of this year’s Rugby World Cup in New Zealand will be captured in 3D means a lot of work for a lot of people, particularly NZ-based 3DLive who will be orchestrating the action. Andy Stout talked to 3DLive Director, Ronel Schodt, about how her and her team are planning to pull it off.

Running from early September through to the end of October, the seventh Rugby World Cup is being staged in the rugby-mad nation of New Zealand which, despite it’s relatively small population, has consistently produced the best rugby side in the world with the famous All Blacks. That they have underachieved and not won the tournament since it was first staged in 1987 is a matter of some vexation down under, and something that the host nation will be very eager to address. So, if things go to plan, as well as the 60,000 fans packed into Auckland’s Eden Park stadium, another 60,000 in cinemas and stadia across Australia and New Zealand (as well as a worldwide audience too, with negotiations for broadcast and cinema 3D viewing well underway) will be watching them lift the trophy in 3D on October 23rd.

That’s the plan, anyway. But whether the All Blacks make it to the final or not, 3DLive is contracted to provide three 3D feeds from the last four matches of the tournament – one for cinemas and arenas in NZ and Australia, a clean international theatrical feed, and an international feed with graphic elements for broadcast.

“It’s going to be a totally separate production,” says Schodt. “We’ll have nine cameras – three high up – which we’re placing on the opposite side of the stadium from the SKY NZ host broadcaster 2D set-up. The 2D plan already has 32 cameras and we’re adding another nine positions, which is making it all a bit cluttered, especially down by the pitch.”

The four matches – semi-finals, Bronze Final and Final – are all taking place at Eden Park and Schodt says that seat kill is not that bad, being held down to about 10 or 12 units. Decision on rigs and cameras has yet to be finalised, but has to take into account the logistics of getting the kit to the other side of the world. This will be the first sporting 3D event shot in NZ, and it has to be admitted that the format has yet to really catch on in the country, Schodt stating that she would be surprised if the number of 3DTV sets there was above 1200.

It’s an ambitious staging though that she, and others, hope will give it the kick-start it needs. “We’re taking it to the next step – not just taking it to cinemas but also into indoor arenas and seven venues across the country,” she says. “We’re putting 18m by 11.5m screens in three of the venues, and even the smallest screen will be a 10m one for an audience of 1000. We’re hoping to reach an audience of 40,000 in NZ and 20,000 in Australia, where it’s just going to be in cinema. And we’re going to do something special for Christchurch [which was due to co-host matches before being struck by a 6.3 magnitude earthquake in February] and make sure at least 7,000 people can watch the games there.”

Schodt says that planning is coming along well. There are still some issues – a decision on whether to go 50i or 60i for cinemas, for example – but the venue recce has just been completed, the promo’s being edited, and they are even currently in the process of building their own RailCam.

“Is there enough kit to do this in NZ tomorrow? No,” she says. “If I was Peter Jackson there might be, but he’s got a couple more noughts on his budget than we have.”

Jackson is, of course, currently filming The Hobbit around New Zealand, and while the RWC 3D production might not have his budget, it does have the same international flavour as a film production. Production expertise is being provided by the UK’s Inition, the OB truck is coming from Australia’s Cutting Edge, cameras are coming in from Australia, Sony MPE-200 boxes from the UK…the list goes on. “ It’s a case of just trying to get everything in the same place,” says Schodt.

Graham Henry, the redoubtable All Blacks coach, is probably saying roughly the same thing…

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