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Sky trials 3Ality software + integrated cameras

Sky is testing 3Ality’s 3space software for automated alignment and convergence, which it believes can reduce the number of 3D crew required. It will also test twin lens camcorders.

BSkyB has begun testing 3Ality’s 3space suite of software tools for automated alignment and convergence and is positive its use can reduce the number of 3D crew required on location, writes Adrian Pennington. Sky Sports is also to test a number of twin lens integrated camcorders.

The 3Space software is being tested on a range of Sky Sports productions, including at Manchester City Vs Tottenham and the Heineken Cup rugby final.

“The principal is to get from a situation now in which five to eight operators all have slightly different ideas of depth budget toward a more controlled environment,” said Darren Long, Director of Operations at Sky Sports. “3Ality suggest one operator could manage five camera pairs. We think 2-3 cameras are manageable, with operators treated more like vision mixers with intelligent software between cameras allowing a smoother transition between depth. Even one operator to manage 2-3 cameras is a massive step change.

“The software isn’t perfect, but that is what the testing is about. As the software matures, and as we build more logic into it, we’ll be able to take an analysis of 50 football matches and say this is the kind of depth and pace we are looking for and build that into the editorial plan. The Holy Grail is to have one or two stereographers managing the whole show. Long term, that may happen.”

Sky is also trialling 3Space on entertainment shows, with music concerts perhaps better suited to bringing multiple camera pairs under the control of a couple of stereographers because of the slower editorial pace of such events.

3Ality’s automatic lens line-up procedure (IntelleCal) shows particular promise. IntelleCal profiles and matches lenses and performs alignment on five axes to automatically align two cameras on a rig, at the push of a button

According to Long: “The issue with rigs is the amount of time it takes to set the lenses on them. We have to get to a position where the process is automated. I saw a demo of the system which effectively had the camera’s lined up in five minutes. That sort of speed would be an incredible boost to our operations.”

Sky is also about to beta test a range of new integrated cameras, including shoulder mount camcorders such as the Sony PMW-TD3000 (pictured) and Panasonic’s AG-3DP1, for Steadicam work.

“I want to see more of these types of camera because we are desperate for them,” said Long, who has tasked Aerial Camera Systems with devising smaller form factor stereo-cams for behind the goal soccer action.

Long added that Sky was also to test Avid’s new stereo 3D editing software with a view to installing it at Sky’s production facility “as a middle ground between Final Cut Pro and Mistika.”

He added: “The manufacturing market has gone from phase one of stereo into phase two, which is to fill in the gaps in the 3D production toolbox. There is a lot that is promising out there but we need to keep pushing manufacturers to deliver.”