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Sky and CPG iron out 3D future at Ryder Cup

While Europe celebrated victory over USA on the golf course, two titans of 3DTV production – one a pioneer of technology, the other a pioneer in broadcast and production – were allying to deliver a 30-camera live 3D coverage.

While Europe celebrated victory over USA on the golf course, two titans of 3DTV production – one a pioneer of technology, the other a pioneer in broadcast and production – were allying to deliver a 30-camera live 3D coverage. For Sky and Cameron Pace Group the host production of the Ryder Cup in 3D was a chance to address a clash of 3D cultures head on and to find some common ground whereby both parties can work together in future. CPG are forthright exponents of the one production for dual outputs model, where the camera positions, crew and editorial are matched 2D with 3D (which CPG calls 5D) as the only practical, economic and creative approach that will work regardless of event. Sky, along with other European 3D exponents such as the BBC and FIFA production company HBS, has to date largely adopted a more nuanced approach with separate production units in the belief that certain sports, like football, require different camera positions and direction to maximise the 3D experience. The Ryder Cup at Medinah Park near Chicago represented their first major pairing and an opportunity for both parties to examine the philosophy and technology of the other. “We have worked together with Vince Pace [co-chair of CPG] for a long time on test shoots and we took the 3D coverage of the US Masters 2011 [which CPG co-produced with CBS Sports] but this is our first major production venture,” said Sky Sports’ Director of Operations Darren Long. “The timescales were pretty tight but we were confident that we had the capability to deliver The Ryder Cup in 3D and so it has proved.” The timescales were too tight in fact for CPG to plan its preferred 5D modus operandi. Instead, the 3D production was separate from the NBC and the European Tour 2D output and employed 120 people on-site. “Sky has a significantly different creative approach to telling the story of a golf tournament,” said Pace. “We are respectful of that and my role is to make sure they are getting the visuals they need. For example, their camera positions tend to be a lot lower to the ground [than the 2D] – more intimate to some of the greens. The innovation from our side is to be able to support that style by managing all the cameras remotely from the truck and allowing Sky to pick and choose the shots they need.” He added: “CPG is firmly rooted in a single production but we are having discussions with Sky on a creative and technical level. What we both share is a fundamental belief in the power of 3D as an entertainment medium and everyone is trying to determine the best way to get that value.” Shadowcam Perhaps the most notable technology was deployed at hole six. While familiar to US users like ESPN, the MaxRemote Shadowcam – which pairs two extra cameras onto a 2D camera – was apparently the first time that Sky had used CPG’s core 5D technology in earnest. “For us, the Ryder Cup is about working with a seasoned broadcaster and distributor of 3D and sharing some of the new tools and approaches we have and laying the foundations for further discussions,” said Pace. “It is a significant step forward for 5D into the future with Sky. There’s a lot of new technology here, but also a lot of people well seasoned in 3D production, and that combination has not happened before. The Shadow system gives them a chance to see how it can be applied for future use on their side and helps them to understand what that camera can bring to the table.” In an ideal world Pace said he would like to populate each hole with two 3D cameras – one to capture the putting shots and one for player reaction – but that wasn’t possible this time around given the number of positions already allocated to 2D cameras. “In the past we have generally covered only the action on the back nine with 3D cameras,” said Pace. “This time we had a camera on every hole but that brings different challenges, not least is that for certain holes you are dependent on that single, critical camera. We would like to be putting two cameras on every single hole and to come out of the gate with an integrated 2D-3D package.” CPG technology on the course ranged from the MaxRemote to the Camnet Profile Manager providing automated calibration and status monitoring for up to 20 cameras. “Everything we showcased at NAB and IBC is in play here,” said Pace. “You could not do this level of multi-camera production over such a wide playing field without this technology.” Edge violation Sky had voiced concerns about previous CPG golf productions where edge violations and cuts between camera angles had in their mind created some viewer discomfort. This time around those issues appear to have been excised. “Every now and then certain shots can be exposed to people crossing in the path of the lens. The more you push 3D away from a conservative style the more vulnerable you are to intrusion [by spectators for example stepping in line of sight]. We are working on technology to protect the camera from such occlusions by using sensors around the camera to detect untoward movement.” Asked whether CPG had its eye on producing the English Premier League, jewel in the UK and Sky’s sports portfolio, Pace replied: “Absolutely. We believe every sport can benefit from the enhanced experience of 3D and we hope to that this will be the beginning of a relationship with Sky to develop that.” According to Long: “We spent a lot of time with CPG working through how we wanted to cover The Ryder Cup. From the relationship side of things, we are hugely excited to be doing something new and different with CPG who are world-renowned in the film industry and can bring fresh ideas. In the UK they are not known for sport broadcasts, but in the US they have huge experience and they‘ve brought some new ideas to how we can deliver The Ryder Cup in the best possible way.” – Adrian