Next gen MPEs and Hawkeye 3D make debuts

Amongst the raft of new gadgets and gizmos deployed at Wimbledon, Sony had the latest version of its increasingly multi-purpose MPE boxes at work, as well as the first deployment of Hawkeye 3D. The company’s Mark Grinyer has also started the process of assessing this year’s 3D broadcast and cautiously looking ahead to next year’s Championships.

“We’ve been pushing them quite hard to make them multi-role,” he says of the MPE boxes. “We have the new generation of the 2D/3D software which we first tested at the Ryder Cup here today, which gives you more control over the way the unit chooses to do 3D. For example, with the old software you might see some floating lines from tennis courts, but we can tune that out now. We have a number of units here that we’ve tuned for specific shots, so rather than having flat 2D/3D conversion, we’ve adjusted it now.

Also running is the new QC MPE, which has been designed specifically for live use. According to Grinyer it provides a whole raft of ways of checking content, and a useful log report so that productions can see exactly what is being rejected and why. With Picture Stitch running on the MPE boxes as well, that makes the MPE now a truly multifunction four-way unit.

Hawkeye shoots. Scores?

Completed just in time for Wimbledon and used live for the first time, Hawkeye 3D is the latest version of the now Sony-owned system. The Basingstoke R&D team has been working with the purchased Hawkeye one on various developments, and this – which was running at the Championships as a clone system – is the first out of the gate.

Of course, it’s difficult to talk Hawkeye without talking about this year’s Fifa goal line technology trials too. “A lot of it is about speed, and how you go about delivering the verdict to the referee is a big question as well,” says Grinyer. “If the ball goes over the line, like it did for England in the World Cup, then that’s a fairly easy call: you could do that with a video ref and a replay camera. But when the guy’s got it in his arm and you can only see one third of it… that’s the sort of situation they’re looking at being able to solve.”

Three year plan

The Wimbledon 3D broadcast was, of course, the first year of a three-year deal with the All England Club, which means that Sony can not only plan effectively for next year, but also use the facility as a testing ground in the interim.

“Our camera positions are good, but they’re not optimum, so we can discuss that with the Club and work on ways of getting round the camera,” says Grinyer. “We can also bring stuff up here and test it in the off season too – the Club has been really supportive.

“2D/3D? It’s a production call…However, there are quite a lot of specialist cameras between those two teams that can be shared. We’re concentrating on rig cameras, but we’re taking in 2D from specialist cameras and robots, some of the beauty cams too, so there’s no reason why next year that robot couldn’t be a 3D camera with 2D taking a left eye.”


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