NBC/ABC trial Days Of Our Lives & Happy Endings comedy in 3D

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During the 'Focus on 3D TV' conference at MIPTV, Spencer Stephens, Chief Technology Officer of Sony Pictures USA, revealed the company has partnered with 3ality Technica to prove 3D can work in scripted drama and comedy.

MIPTV 3D coverage brought to you in association with 3D specialists Presteigne Charter.

According to Stephens, most of 3ality Technica’s business has moved away from live 3D sport, as soap and comedy producers hire the company’s technology and expertise to trial what impact 3D could have on their lifestyle shows.

The MIPTV audience were presented with clips from 3D versions of the long running 'Days Of Our Lives' soap, produced by NBC. This was accompanied with a stereoscopic clip of ABC’s comedy series 'Happy Endings' and TV movie 'Battle of the Year: The Dream Team' (which, unlike the others, will be broadcast in 3D).

Stephen’s core message was that 3D for TV can be achieved working to a 2D schedule and for little extra cost. All three examples were produced working in conjunction with the regular 2D production crew – a process termed as '5D' by 3ality Technica.

Sony Pictures and 3ality Technica have been working on 3D production for a while including the upcoming 'The Amazing Spider-Man' 3D film. Steve Schklair, founder of 3ality Technica, told 3D Focus that Spiderman 3D was produced to a 2D schedule and Stephens confirmed yesterday that this efficiency can now be applied to 3D television production. For example, 'Days Of Our Lives' 3D was an hour long episode shot in one day using three 3ality Technica TS5 rigs rigs. The Screen Gems TV movie, 'Battle of the Year: The Dream Team' 3D required 35 days of shooting on location in LA and Montpelier using 3 rigs and 2 X 3D camcorders. Sony compared the market and selected the 3ality rigs due to their automatic alignment feature, saving time on set.

What the 3D bought to the scripted genre and comedy examples is a matter of personal preference but it was undeniable that the quality of the 3D was excellent, especially impressive considering the production turn around time (just one day for a one hour episode of 'Days Of Our Lives').

“Get 3D right on set – do not rely on post” urged Stephens who also said that a lot of TV audiences watch scripted drama and comedy so for 3D to go mainstream, such trials were essential. “People have found it very interesting and others are very excited about seeing it”. He continued “You have to think about what you put in the vault. I mean, what do we do with SD shows now?”

3ality CEO Steve Schklair has often said the company was working on 3D episodic content. We don’t know if these were the shows he was referring to (these were one-off trials) but it indicates that there is at least a curiosity from US networks to see what their core assets could look like in 3D.

Last year, we reported that CBS were trialling DDD’s conversion technology on some of its back catalogue but there has been no news since as to whether the network plan to release any of its 3D content commercially.

Sony operate a 3D training centre in Culver City, who have so far trained over 3000 clients. The facility aims to train 2D producers in 3D production for free in an attempt to boost a stagnant industry.

Sony and 3ality Technica may have proved the case that 2D and 3D can be produced together with no detriment to the schedule and now even the budget due to 3ality Technica’s recent announcement of a 3D delta fund. The question is – will consumers want to watch their lifestyle soaps in 3D?

Back in the UK, ITV trialled filming some of its ITV Studios productions in 3D including Countdown, The Jeremy Kyle Show, the title sequence of Coronation Street and Emmerdale in 2010. There is clearly a desire to discover whether 3D can add anything compelling to lifestyle programming. The issue is, is it enough to persuade people to change channels and don their glasses? The BBC already struggles to persuade their viewers to switch to the HD version of BBC One and BBC One HD is free and does not require glasses.

In the following session, CEO of HIGH TV 3D Eric Klein argued that 3D does have a place in lifestyle programming but not for the reasons you might expect. In a surprise admission, Klein said that 3D does not offer anything extra (when asked what 3D brings to a 3D cookery show for example) and that it is simply the evolution of television. HIGH TV 3D is now available in 27 countries and is set to expand further as Klein announced the company will be launching three new digital terrestrial 3D channels in Europe and that, although most of their carriage deals have so far been free-to-air to the consumer, the company hopes to make a return of its investment of producing over 500 hours of 3D content so far, by moving to a subscription model.

The 2D version of the 3D episode of Haapy Endings will broadcast today on ABC in the USA.