Wimbledon Championships prepare for 3D

This year’s 3D broadcasts from the finals of the 125th Wimbledon Tennis Championships are the latest instalment in a strong heritage of broadcast innovation that saw the Championships stage the UK’s first colour television broadcast, not to mention taking recent roles at the forefront of HD, super slo-mo and even rail-cam deployment. And with the initial round of production meetings now over, according to Mervyn Hall, broadcast manager at the AELTC, “We are now at the stage where the interesting stuff starts to happen.”

The genesis of the AELTC/Sony/BBC production, which will see 3D specialist Can Communicate produce coverage from the men’s semis and final and the women’s final in the format, came following Sony presentations of its World Cup coverage last year. “From there the Club and Sony just happened to be at the right places at the right time,” says Hall.

With rights in place for cinema distribution and, presumably, some form of broadcast negotiations currently underway behind the scenes, the planning stage is well advanced. Sony has yet to make a decision on OB provider – a decision that might well be complicated by the Tetris-like challenge of getting all the vehicles into the venue’s limited space and the implications that the trucks will have to sit there for the duration of the tournament – but that is due at the end of this month. Likewise the number of camera positions has yet to be totally locked down, though speculation that this is liable to be five seems on the mark so far.

So far, there’s been no seat kill either, which Hall says was a prime consideration. Elsewhere, in other sports, this has been achieved by using robotics, but Hall states all the positions at Wimbledon are manned positions, with perhaps one 3D beauty shot somewhere on a hot head. “I can’t see us rowing back past the number of manned cameras we’ll use this year,” he says. “Any hot heads we might use in the future will be adjuncts.”

Positions decided to date are all very close to the 2D positions and include side-ons at ground level in the same area as the host broadcaster and NBC positions, the master shot position from the North End (again in the same area as the HB and NBC), and two positions at the South End in boxes usually used by ENG crews and sited fractionally higher than the master.

Though the trucks and cabling have to be in place at the start of the tournament, the cameras will be placed during the break on the middle Sunday. Hall emphasises that the core coverage will all be in native 3D, though inevitably peripheral shots might be uprezzed from 2D units (and, of course, left-eye feeds of the 3D shots will be made available to the 2D production.

“It’s been a very educative curve,” he says of the production. “Up to now, touch wood and bang on my desk, the relations between us, Can and Sony have all been very constructive and positive too.”

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