3D Sports: a look behind the scenes

Sport is an obvious way to attract Australian audiences to 3D, but in addition to requiring viewers to have a 3D-capable television, it also requires the broadcast teams to rethink how they set up and produce the sporting event.

The three-dimensional television revolution ignited this week when Fox Sports coverage of a "friendly" soccer match between the Socceroos and the New Zealand All Whites became the first Australian program broadcast in high-definition 3D.

Reaching a potentially wider audience of 3D converts will be tonight's rugby league State of Origin game, which Channel Nine will also broadcast in high-definition 3D free-to-air .

Sport is an obvious way to attract Australian audiences to 3D. But in addition to requiring viewers to have a 3D-capable television, 3D also requires the broadcast teams to rethink how they set up and produce the sporting event.

Soames Treffry, director of Fox Sports channels explained that covering events in 3D not only requires different camera angles and timing of cuts, it introduces a new complication — convergence — dealing with how and where the twin 2D images are offset to ensure the viewer enjoys the best 3D experience, without unwanted side effects.

"With 3D you've got to be very careful. Everything has to be slower and more gentle. All the pans and zooms have to be a lot slower because of convergence. [The convergence people] decide what part of the 3D image is going to be in focus.

"If you try and do any of that too quickly, effectively you'll give people motion sickness and make them crook, and you don't want your viewers throwing up," said Treffry.

Unlike traditional TV, where directors add effect by dynamically cutting between cameras, the best 3D experience is achieved with a "less is more" approach.

"In 2D we have a heap of cameras and you can cut quickly and move things around far more dynamically. [With 3D] it's like you're actually sitting at the MCG [Melbourne Cricket Ground] and observing the game yourself," he said.

For the Fox Sports Socceroos match, it wasn't just the action on the screen that was in 3D, the pre-game graphics and adverts were designed to provide a completely new experience too.

"The team line-ups were amazing — you were actually in them. You saw the shot develop from the goalkeeper, defenders, midfielders and strikers; and it just came around you," said Treffry.

However, this additional dimension comes at a hefty price because broadcasters have to provide the 3D content in parallel with traditional HD content, which effectively doubles their costs.

"I don't think all live sport will be done [in 3D]. I think you'll find it'll be more around special events. I know the French Open this year is doing Centre Court in 3D, the FIFA World Cup of course is doing it in 3D. So I think you'll see it more of a special event thing for the time being," added Treffry.

 

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