ESPN, Pace Prods. get into 3D game

USC-Ohio State football match marks public debut

With Disney committed to S3D at the corporate level, it was natural for the Mouse House’s sports network, ESPN, to look into the format for live broadcasts.

The net has been quietly experimenting with S3D for months, including an internal test of last year’s Kansas at South Florida NCAA football game.

Last Saturday, it unveiled the result, producing an S3D telecast of the USC-Ohio State football game that was shown at a handful of venues nationwide, including theaters, arenas and ESPN Zone sports bars.

Pace Prods. worked with ESPN on the telecast; both ESPN and Pace were making their public debuts with S3D gridiron coverage.

Any stereo telecast is a challenge today because there are still no broadcasting standards for S3D. Anthony Bailey, VP of emerging technologies for ESPN, says the net has been working with Pace and other vendors to establish best broadcasting practices. “If things work, we’re hoping they become standards,” he says.

Directors and technicians are also still learning how shooting football in S3D differs from traditional 2D.

Kevin Stolworthy, ESPN senior VP, content and information technology, says that while the tests have shown lower camera angles work better for 3D, audiences are used to the higher perspective used with 2D cameras.

For Saturday’s game, ESPN negotiated a middle ground between the low angles of its earlier test and their normal higher angles. “But we probably need a middle ground to that middle ground,” he says. “We’re tinkering as we go, and each stadium is different.”

The net used seven Pace stereo camera rigs. In addition, the net used two graphics systems, one for each eye, to create true stereoscopic graphics.

For his part, Vince Pace, CEO of Pace Prods., says that for Saturday’s game his team was able to use longer lenses and better camera placement than for last year’s test, all of which helped to extract some “spectacular shots.”

“We learned we could cover football (in S3D),” Pace says, “because people were focused on the entertainment style, the use of camera angles, (rather than) focusing on whether 3-D technology worked.”