After the drama of Murray's defeat, the teams behind the Wimbledon 3D coverage reflect on a second successful live 3D operation. We go behind the scenes with Sony and Can Communicate.
Sunday’s final was the last of five days of 3D coverage from Wimbledon’s centre court. Like 2011, the 3D coverage was managed by Sony Professional and Can Communicate in co-operation with the BBC, ESPN 3D and the AELTC.
The 40 strong production crew supplied the raw 3D feed to 14 different broadcasters including ESPN 3D, Canal+ (Spain), Sky Italia and Nova (Greece). The Men's Final was also fed to worldwide cinemas by Supervision. Six 3D cameras were deployed and, for the first time, a unilateral 3D camera was deployed for interviews and openings/closes, courtesy of ESPN 3D, which was a rentable resource.
Another change from last year was the switch to an entirely tapeless workflow based on Sony’s HDCAM SR Master technology which saved a lot of space in the OB truck. All footage was saved to SR memory cards at a rate of 220Mbps (30TB of data was captured across the entire tournament).
A Sony PMW – TD300 integrated 3D camera was deployed on centre court with the convergence dial disabled to prevent accidental convergence adjustments when re-focussing (the TD300 features a three-in-one dial for focus, zoom and convergence).
Sony Professional's Head of 3D Production Mark Grinyer told 3D Focus “The ability to use a TD300 as one of the main cameras in centre court, in a particularly tight location, enabled us to increase the viability of that camera site increasing the options for production. This is a critical point when working within the confines of a historic location like centre court”.
A ‘beauty camera’ was positioned at the corner of the court and several shots were converted to 3D from the BBC cameras using Sony MPE 200s including the main camera one shot, the high beauty shot looking over London and some of the high shots in the venue such as the crane camera positioned on Murray Mound.
Each camera-person monitored the game in 2D mode and all convergence settings were adjusted in one of the OB trucks assisted by Sony MPE 200’s that provided on-screen warnings and convergence indications such as black and white depth maps (pictured). The operators used a manual adjustor to keep the convergence levels correct in real-time (pictured).
Operators optimised the depth for a 40” TV screen until Sunday when the depth budget was reduced for the cinemas. A depth budget designed for 3D TV would be too extreme for a large cinema screen.
Wimbledon’s centre court is a small area so adding 3D cameras to an already restricted area was a challenge. Speaking about the space issues, Can Communicate Head of Production Duncan Humphreys told 3D Focus “The main restriction is BBC camera one and keeping cameras out of that shot. It’s just a quirk of geography that wherever you put the 3D master camera it ends up being in BBC One’s camera shot. Out all of the problems, that would be one I would like to resolve and find a place where we both can get an equally good position.”
As with the 2D footage, Sony Hawk-Eye animations was included in the 3D version. Hawk-Eye is an adjudication system that tracks the tennis ball via triangulation techniques and images captured from a series of cameras. The data is animated to provide the viewer with a visual representation of exactly where on the court the ball hits. For the 3D broadcast, Sony created 3D software to render an offset clone of the original image.
2012 is the second of a three year contract for Sony to provide the 3D broadcasting infra-structure for Wimbledon and was regarded as another success.
Kim Shillinglaw, Head of 3D for the BBC, told 3D Focus, “The BBC’s 3D coverage of the historic Wimbledon Finals last weekend provided a fantastic opportunity to continue the BBC’s two year trial experimenting with 3D production and distribution. This has ensured this momentous piece of British sporting history has been captured in 3D for potential use in years to come.”
Reflecting on last week’s live 3D global tennis broadcast, Sony’s Mark Grinyer said “The success of our 3D coverage can only be judged on the reaction from the consumers, broadcasters and cinemas who provided them with the experience. To date, feedback for this year has been great. Some of this is due to technology, but a larger part is due to experience. Last year there was no bench mark, but this year we had a target to aim beyond”.
Cineworld, one of the UK cinema chains screening the Wimbledon tennis 3D coverage, enjoyed a surge in bookings thanks to the gripping finale. John Travers, Cineworld Alternative Content Manager, told us, “At Cineworld we have an on-going commitment to screening the very best arts, comedy, sport and theatre content available. With this in mind, we were delighted to be able to show the Wimbledon final in 3D at 13 of our sites across the UK. The reception from customers was amazing; ticket sales tripled as soon as Andy got to the final and we actually sold out all of our Scottish screenings. Sports fans should keep their eyes peeled for similar events in the near future!”
Duncan Humphreys from Can Communicate was equally positive saying "It was a real pleasure to work, once again, so closely with AELTC, SONY, NEP Visions and all the key crew members, it felt like we had put the band back together! The actual production was pretty much flawless even though the weather presented a few challenges, cold and wet with the roof open, warm and dry with it closed. It's a tremendous experience working at the Championships and I look forward to developing the production further in 2013".
Next year, 5D cameras (a camera that combines a 3D and 2D camera) are likely to be considered and the BBC almost made a 5D camera for this year's coverage. The idea is to replace the BBC’s main camera one with a 5D camera to solve the space issue.
Looking forward, Mark Grinyer believes more cameras should be possible…“Looking to the future there are options for increasing the number of matches covered on centre court, the number of cameras on centre court or even looking at adding additional courts to the coverage. One area we keen to explore with BBC Sport are options to use 3D cameras at locations like the crane over Murray mount, today this is a 2D conversion to 3D but a better solution for 3D would be 3D camera with 2D using one eye. Conversations about utilising 3D cameras in a shared mode need to had early as both production teams need to understand each other’s needs so we will be addressing this in the coming months”.
It was reported in TVB Europe today that Mervyn Hall, Broadcast Manager at the AELTC, has opened talks with Sony to extend the 3D coverage after 2013.
What did you think?
Did you watch the Wimbledon tennis 3D coverage? If so, what did you think? Let us know below!
VIDEO – BEHIND THE SCENES OF THE WIMBLEDON 3D BROADCAST
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