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BBC trials live 3D rugby by satellite

28 February 2008

The BBC is to test screen the Rugby Six Nations match between Scotland and England live and in 3D HD to a select audience. The event is a joint venture between BBC Sport and the3DFirm, a consortium comprising media communications firm Can Communicate, 3D specialist Inition and hire and post production house Axis Films, writes Adrian Pennington.

The project has been in development with BBC Resources and the3DFirm since the start of the year. The 8 March event is claimed to be the first ever live test screening of an international sport in 3D HD although more accurately it is likely to be the first event to be satellite-delivered and screened in 3D (in February 2007, the National Basketball Association teamed up with Vince Pace’s 3D outfit, PACE, to offer the first-ever live sports event in 3D HD with footage delivered to the Mandalay Bay Hotel in Las Vegas via fibre cabling).

Technical details for the Riverside event have not been finalised but it is understood that three 3D rigs comprising dual Sony HDC950s will capture the action. One will be positioned up high for wide shots with two at pitch level. The dual HD streams will be transmitted multiplexed to down link at Riverside Studios, demultiplexed and combined on reception before projection onto a large screen for an audience wearing stereoscopic glasses.

According to Aashish Chandarana, BBC Sport innovations executive the process is very much at a test stage. “We’re not saying that this is how people will watch sport in the future but it proves the ability of the technology and introduces some editorial decision making.

“We’re trying to do something no-one’s tried before and bounce dual HD signals around and re-encode them as a 3D experience,” said Chandarana. “Editorially it will not be a fast-cut TV experience but more the experience you’d get if you were at Murrayfield. We’re experimenting with camera positions. There won’t be too many fast-cuts, fast pans or zoom close ups. The director will be new to this too.”

The 3D feed will be standalone and not cut into BBC Sport’s live host broadcast and will be supplied with surround sound. Audio commentary will probably be provided via a mix of Radio 5Live, TV commentary and clean sound feed (each will be trialled and the audience reaction gauged).

“3D is taking off as a big screen event around the world for recorded material. There may be interest in broadcasting live events to big screen venues and if there is we want to be at the forefront of those producing it.”

Axis will also post produce a short highlights package in 3D.

Coincidentally the Riverside Studios, formerly owned by the BBC, were the location of the BBC’s first broadcast of colour transmissions in 1967.

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