With demand for 3D content for television increasing exponentially, broadcast engineers are navigating a steep learning curve during each new production.
With 3D "everything is a new experience," said Chuck Pagano, executive vice president of technology, engineering and operations for ESPN. "I call 3D ‘the ultimate science experiment.'"
Pagano made his comments during a panel that was part of NewBay Media's 3DTV 2010 conference in New York on May 25.
ESPN is at the forefront of 3DTV, with the anticipated launch of ESPN 3D on June 11. The network will mark the debut of the nation's first dedicated 3DTV channel with the broadcast of the Mexico-South Africa opening match of the FIFA World Cup. ESPN will broadcast 25 of the 64 matches in 3D during the month-long event.
As with HD a decade ago, much of the early content for 3DTV emphasizes live sports coverage, so panel discussion focused mainly on the difficulties in developing new 3D production elements while maintaining the 2D experience for what is expected to be the majority of viewers for some time. One thing all panelists agreed on, though; there is no sport that doesn't look better in 3D.
Nevertheless, "I think you're going to find some sports lend themselves better to 3D than others," said Ken Aagaard, executive vice president of engineering, operations and production for CBS Sports, which produced the 2010 NCAA Final Four in 3D.
Panelists also shared their experiences and tips for producing effective 3D content that entertains viewers without overwhelming them and at the same time, keeping the focus on the game intact.
"There's a great deal of attention to detail in a 3D production that starts with securing the proper camera positions and then extends to the director, the camerapeople, and the convergence operator that's actually choosing the point of focus in the shot," said Steve Hellmuth, executive vice president, operations and technology for the NBA, which was among the first organizations to dip its toes into the format as its 3D library extends to 2007.