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World Cup 2014 in 3D ‘a grand experiment’

Francis Tellier, the CEO of HBS, has urged patience from those calling for football matches like those at the World Cup to be simultaneously produced in 2D and 3D.

Francis Tellier (pictured), the CEO of HBS, has urged patience from those calling for football matches like those at the World Cup to be simultaneously produced in 2D and 3D. “This is not Hollywood, this is a live sports production,” he states. “There will be progress in 2014, but we have to be patient.” Although FIFA won’t greenlight a 3D production of the 2014 World Cup until next year, it is unlikely to rollback the breakthrough it made in 2010. Cost, however, remains a considerable concern; and if it goes ahead, “3D in 2014 will be a grand experiment,” said Tellier. While 25 matches were covered in 3D in 2010, the production was entirely separate to that of the main 2D host feed, although both were provided by HBS. Using that model to shoot all 64 matches in a country the size of Brazil would require either dedicated roving outside broadcast trucks or a dedicated 3D unit at each of the 12 stadia. The former is risky in the extreme and both are financially impractical unless FIFA media rights holders and their distributors are prepared to pay. The Cameron-Pace Group (among others) are lobbying HBS to use its technology in 2014 and arguing that it can bring the cost down by mirroring the 2D cameras and having essentially one production. Tellier has a track record of consistent innovation and is certainly not resistant to change, but feels 2014 is too soon to make that leap. “The productions of 2D and 3D will become ever more closely integrated over successive tournaments in 2014, 2018 and 2022,” he said. “If we had two separate productions in 2010 then maybe we are 1.8 productions in 2014 and 1.5 in 2018. The costs certainly have to come down, but maybe it will never be 100% integrated.” He points to one of the key moments in his career: his decision in 2003 to produce a single HD and SD production for the 2006 World Cup in Germany. “We are at a similar junction now. I had been pushing the idea of a single SD and HD since 1998, but running up against a brick wall. People said that editorially the 4×3 and 16×9 aspect ratios were editorially too different. Maybe they had a point – but from where we stand now it doesn’t matter. My argument was also that you cannot finance a double production forever. So certainly the productions will become closer and closer,” he said. He agreed with the idea that 2D and 3D productions require different editorial treatments but “these are not insurmountable. Ultimately it will be for the audience to decide how they prefer to see the World Cup presented.” NHK’s Super Hi-Vision format could be tested in 2014 at large screen public venues in Brazil and move to an experimental phase in 2018 with possible wider broadcast by the time of Quatar’s World Cup in 2022, Tellier speculated. “Remember we are still broadcasting in 1080i. The next step, for 2018, will be a move to 1080p. Super Hi-Vision is another step beyond that of course, but it is good for FIFA to be seen at the forefront of technology. Already he has begun planning for the Russia-hosted FIFA World Cup in 2018. “We will begin talking with providers locally about stadia and telecoms infrastructure. Everything is possible if you are well prepared.” HBS is also likely to introduce a second channel of clip compilations in 2014 devoted to ultra motion replays alongside the existing highlights clip compilation. “We produce match content and non-match content (ENG style programming and colour around the event) but we have to cater for the needs of basic broadcasters as well as the most sophisticated ones like ESPN and the BBC. That’s why we offer turnkey programme packages as well as helping them all reach audiences on multiple screens with ever-greater interactivity,” he said. “What we need to improve in 2014 is to provide information to broadcasters about what we have recorded and where they can find it. There is so much material that we can generate; we need to help rights holders make the most of it so that material which could enhance their programmes and presentation is not left on the table.”