Sky Sports readies 3D coverage for World Darts final

The TV sports New Year kicks off tomorrow (1 January) with the final of the Ladbrokes PDC World Darts Championship, as 15-time champion Phil Taylor takes on young Dutch contender Michael van Gerwen. This is the first time the two have competed against each other in a televised final, which will be broadcast in both 3D and 2D on Sky Sports.

The semi-finals and now the final of the 2013 World Darts Championship, held at Alexandra Palace in north London, have been covered in 3D, with the preceding rounds in 2D HD. Facilities for the 2D host broadcast have been provided by Arena Television, while the stereoscopic coverage has been produced using Sky’s own rigs and trucks, which are managed and crewed by the broadcaster’s 3D OB partner, Telegenic.

Action has been covered in 3D using a range of 3Ality rigs, comprising four mirror (beam splitter) rigs, one side by side system and one TS5 small beam splitter mounted on a Jimmy Jib. Further special cameras have been supplied by Neil Sheppard of Versatile Broadcast, with three 3D mini-cam pairs for above the board shots and a 3D Steadicam.

Robin Broomfield, operations and development manager for Sky 3D, explains that the mini-cam pairs comprise two Toshiba 3-chip mini-cameras mounted on a plate to give the correct depth for shots of the darts hitting the board.

Some 2D sources, including Super Slo-Motion cameras and angles where it is not possible to locate a 3D rig, are taken from the host broadcast feed produced by the Arena vehicles. The situation is reversed in other cases, with a left eye signal from 3D cameras used for the 2D coverage. Broomfield says this is when conventional 2D camera have been replaced by a 3D equivalent – notably with the mini-cams and Steadicam – which he says “makes savings on space and cost”.

The graphics, based on a system provided by Alston Elliot, have been designed to fit the style of the 2D graphic display, only with what Broomfield describes as “volume” to enhance the shots they are keyed over.

Broomfield adds that the production team, headed by director Andy Finn and production manager Joff White, have developed the coverage “to give a good 3D experience whilst not detracting from the production”. This includes “some clever use of split screen, the mini-cams and positioning of graphics,” making for “some exciting 3D”.

Taylor and van Gerwen will be the first players to compete for the Sid Waddell Trophy, named in memory of the Sky Sports commentator who died in August 2012. Waddell was known as the Voice of Darts and also worked for commercial terrestrial broadcasters and the BBC.

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