Making Content In 3D

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NEW ORLEANS - The good news about producing TV content in 3D: Adding depth to nature programming, live sports and computerized games works especially well.

The bad news: No matter the genre, it’s way more expensive than shooting in 2D. That was the word from last week’s CTAM Summit, where production-side executives from ESPN, 3DNet and Flight 33 Productions talked candidly about how 3D advances storytelling.

Session highlights on shooting sports in 3D: Golf, the X-Games, and other sports played on topographically diverse surfaces shows off 3D better than flat-field sports, like basketball, football and hockey.

A second set of commentators is required to call games produced in 3D. Because the universe of 3DTV owners is still pretty small, the announcers often add in commentary about how the game is being produced.

Hard: Dealing with glitches on live events that wouldn’t matter at all in 2D. Like when a shot is set for 50 feet, and a cheerleader suddenly jumps into the frame from 10 feet away. Likewise for quick swipes from one side of the field to another - slower is better, to give the brain and eyes time to interpolate the depth on the screen.

Non-sports 3D highlights: Creating content about abandoned places - a small town inside Chernobyl, as part of Flight 33’s work on Life After People, was cited as one example - works especially well in 3D. Long shots, common in nature and history programming, don’t show well in 3D.

In all cases, producing in 3D is still way more expensive than shooting in 2D, because of the additional set-up, cameras, and gear required.

What about converting existing 2D content into 3D? Doing it right can cost as much as $125,000 per minute; doing it wrong can permanently damage the perception of a film.

The holiday season arrives in about 60 days. That will almost certainly shed light on how consumers view the 3DTV equation.