SVGE Football Production Summit: looking to the future

One of the most interesting debates in any conference on any subject is where the future lies, and in the broadcast industry few subjects are more compelling than football broadcasting as, to a great extent, this is where so much innovation is pioneered. So, what does it hold?

One of the things that the panel concluded, was that, in Western Europe at least, it seems the demand for live stereo 3D productions has stabilised. “We’ve noticed a drop in the lives and the requests for them, and a big run into factual over past six months,” said Duncan Humphreys, from CAN Communicate. “Part of that is down to cost; we’ve just done a 10x factual for Discovery and it was only between 10 and 15% more than a HD production.”

The message is that the 3D business in Europe shows sign of maturing, with Malcolm Robinson, Head of Live Production Solutions at Sony Professional, stating that it was ticking over. More than 400 people came to a recent 3D course the company laid on, and “What we’re seeing now is more solid 3D proposals coming in; they cover a broader spectrum and they’re more serious about it.

Geographically, however, the picture is lumpy when you widen out to a global view, Michael Davis, VP Field Operations, Fox, painting a bleaker picture of the US market. “Any uptake there might have been for 3D in the States has vapourised,” he said. “And as a rights holder, as a sports network, we’re still trying to see a way of making money out of it.”

Steve Schklair, CEO, 3ality Technica, agreed in the main: “I still don’t see a lot of business in the US. We are seeing it in China, we’re seeing it in Russia, and South America and India as well. The market in the US is static and we’re seeing the growth elsewhere. We’re also starting to see an uptick in episodic television. We’ve done four shows now and next week we’re doing another network episode.”

Schklair has some new technology that he says means it takes just 5 minutes to align a 3D rig and, and this is crucial for the bottom line of 3D production, pretty much takes the convergence operator out of the equation. Robin Broomfield, 3D Development Manager for Sky Sports, is one that’s impressed. “In the last six months we’ve seems lot of change in the technology,” he said. “Each upgrade sees us being able to do things faster and more accurately. Steve’s new kit is really good on alignment and convergence, and we’re also pushing the single camcorders. The last two months in particular have seen a spike in the technology and given us more tools that we can give or production crews.”

Compared to talk about 3D, 4k discussion was muted, certainly more muted than it is in the US at the moment where it seems to crop up everywhere. No surprise then that it was Davis that highlighted the advantages. “From our perspective we see 4k as becoming a very useful production tool before you have the capability to transmit it anywhere,” he said. “What we want to do is use an extraction of the frame to achieve a zoom not unlike what Sony is doing with the stitching. We’ve called it Super Zoom and we’ve already made it to air with it a couple of times in the States.”

The last word though should go to Francis Tellier, the CEO of HBS, who gave the closing address. He said that innovations come with responsibilities: they have to benefit the customers (rights holders and broadcasters in this case); have to work on time; and the status of them has to be understood too – if it’s an experiment it should be labelled as such. As to 3D, the current innovation on most people’s minds: “What is for sure is that we’ve to be a bit patient – I know it’s not that easy in today’s world – and make sure we don’t kill everything with cheap and/or incompetent production,” he said. “ And 5D is the way, we just don’t know exactly which form of 5D, but we are working on it.”

He then showed some footage of the 1998 World Cup – held in the very Stadium the Summit occupied – put together by graphic artist Marc Tatou. “It just stresses that – whatever the technology – the most important thing is, and will remain, talent.”



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