Sony Open telecast provides stunning golf views in 3-D

Pittsburgh-based NEP Supershooters sent its SS9 mobile production truck to help the Golf Channel broadcast live 3-D coverage of the recent Sony Open from Waialae Country Club in Oahu, HI. A full 16 hours of the two-day event was carried in 3-D by participating Comcast, Cox Cable, Time Warner Cable, DIRECTV and other service providers Jan. 15 and 16.

The Sony Open was the first PGA Tour co-sponsored event televised live in 3-D; although, last year's Masters Tournament, also sponsored by Sony, was broadcast in 3-D as well.

The production served as a real-world test bed for a variety of Sony 3-D HD production technology as the Golf Channel presented stunning 3-D views from the third and fourth holes as well as holes 17 and 18. The Golf Channel also provided HD (1080i) coverage of all four rounds of the tournament, using many of the same Sony HD cameras.

“We wanted the 3-D equipment to fit a little more into a normal production flow, and worked to shrink the size and the weight and streamline the cabling” said Joe Signorino, NEP senior project engineer. One reason for reducing the bulk of individual stereoscopic camera systems was so they could be put mounted on lightweight broadcast jib arms, Steadicams and used by handheld camera operators.

The crew used Sony HDC-P1 cameras with HDFA-200 3G camera adapters mounted in Element Technica rigs (six rigs were used for the four holes of 3-D coverage). The rigs, Quasar and Pulsar 3-D models, were controlled with Sony’s new MPE-200 multi-image processor with the MPES-3D01 stereo image-processing software. The software also helped the on-site stereographers maintain camera alignment and correct for errors introduced in the camera chain, such as image geometry and color matching.

Sony’s MVS-8000G switcher with special 3-D software and HDCAM SR decks were used during the production and for preproduction of scenic shots for inclusion during the event. Sony 3-D LUMA displays were used for all evaluation monitoring. Sony cameras also were used for the 2-D HD broadcast as well.

The telecast marked one of the first uses of the Element Technica Pulsar 3-D rigs on a remote sports event production. Pulsars are designed for midsized cameras, such as the Sony P1s. The lighter-weight Pulsar rigs, along with Canon 22s zoom lenses and Sony’s HDFA-200 two-channel HD camera fiber adapter, which feeds signals from both P1s on a single fiber-optic cable as well as provides the camera operator intercom and monitoring functions, made the 3-D camera systems much more manageable.

“We’ve now cut (the rigs) down to the 40lb range,” said Michael Rintoul of Element Technica. “It’s all the same equipment, made them a lot more mobile, and it made them a lot more flexible in the way they can be used.”

Two of Element Technica’s large-camera Quasar 3-D rigs are mounted with Fujinon 42x lenses in a side-by-side configuration, secured on heavy-duty Vinten Vector heads on Spider cranes that can be driven into position and raised to the desired elevation.

The 3-D convergence operator for each 3-D camera position employed the Technica Hand Controller, which is fed through the Sony MPE-200 stereo image processor to control interocular and convergence. The convergence workstations were built into fly packs for shipment to Hawaii for the production.

Editor’s note: Click here for an exclusive podcast interview with Glen Levine, NEP Supershooters vice president of engineering, about the 3-D setup for the golf tournament and the state of 3-D sports broadcasting today.