Sky prepares for Champions League Final

Wembley: Sky Sports’ two biggest host broadcasts of the year, rugby’s Heineken Cup Final at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff last Saturday and this weekend’s massive Champion’s League Final between Manchester United and Barcelona at Wembley, have given the broadcaster ample opportunities to trial new 3D kit, including Sony-based super slo-mo and a new railcam from ACS. The broadcaster is also actively looking at expanding its range of 3D coverage.

In Cardiff, Irish side Leinster stunned Northampton Saints by overturning a 22-6 half-time deficit to win what is already widely regarded as one of the best Heineken finals of all time. Above and beyond the extensive 2D production, the precision mayhem on the pitch was captured by six 3Ality rigs mounting Sony 1500s and Fujinon 22x lenses: two TS-4 side by side models on the lower gantry at the Millennium Stadium, and four TS-2 mirror rigs – two pitch side and two raised slightly.

The Wembley 3D deployment promises to be even more extensive, covering Cameras 1 & 2, a 3D Camera 3 for pitch-side that Sky’s 3D Development Manager, Robin Broomfield, explains is not normally used in the Premier League due to space considerations; four cameras at near and far left and right positions; two looking at the team benches; a Sony HDC3300R-based super slomo; and a Polecam.

“We’ll also use some 2D cameras and we do two things with them – sometimes we put them through a Sony box, and sometimes we’ll just give them some negative parallax to put them in the same plane our convergence works in so that they cut nicely with the 3D shots we’re using,” Broomfield explains. “We don’t use them for preference, but there are just some times when the 3D doesn’t work so well, we can’t get the cameras in the position, or we don’t have the resource.”

Developing new kit

A couple of new bits of kit were trialled during the broadcast from the Millennium Stadium: the Sony super slomo (which rapidly got promoted to an extra position at Wembley) and a new railcam from Aerial Camera Systems. The railcam uses an Element Technica Pulsar mirror rig in the underthru configuration, mounting 2 x Sony P1s with HJ22 lenses. 3D software and a Sony MPE200 box rounds it out, while control and power is via a single SMPTE cable.

“We can’t use the railcam at a lot of venues because of space, but the previous one we’ve used was a side by side rig and the disadvantage with that is that objects need to be a few metres away otherwise you can’t control the convergence point properly. The new ACS railcam uses a mirror rig, which is much better if a linesman or something gets into the shot.

“We’re also working with EVS on the possibility of being able to handle more 3D rigs into their servers,” he continues. “Currently we can only put two rigs in at a time, which limits us. It’s more space and more cost, but their new servers have much more storage capacity so we’re hoping to put in three rigs in the future.”

Developing new sports

With the end of the winter sports schedule – football in the UK takes, oh, a massive two months off from now – Sky is actively looking at developing 3D coverage of other sports. It’s done some speedway tests and is looking at developing camera angles, not to mention trying to find a way to stop material thrown up from the cinder track getting everywhere and damaging the kit. It’s also conducting 3D tests with another one of its key rights properties, cricket – a sport handicapped by the main action taking place a long way from any possible camera position (typically around 80m at Test match venues).

“We did some cricket last year and we’re having ongoing discussions to try and look at better angles,” says Broomfield. “The problem is that it needs such long lenses, but we’re working with Canon and hoping to test some new lenses for it over the next few weeks. It just doesn’t lend itself that well to the technology we currently have available to us. I’ve even joked about having a 3D stump cam where you have cameras in each stump and you can change the interaxial depending on what goes on…”


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