Historically known as a broadcast equipment rental house that has supported all types of SD and HD digital productions, Bexel is now jumping into the 3-D production arena with a series of services and equipment packages that puts it and 3-D production within reach of a wider variety of professionals, from broadcast networks to single-camera operators.
"We see an opportunity to service the middle of the production market and also to be a company that the big boys can turn to when they need something extra, but don't want to hire another entire production truck," said Jerry Gepner, CEO of the Bexel Group. "For 3-D to truly reach its potential, production companies need to start employing it across a wide range of content, not just at premier events. Until now, scalability and operating costs were among the key challenges limiting 3-D production."
To this end Bexel, a unit of the Vitec Group's Services Division, has committed its locations in Atlanta, Burbank, Chicago, Dallas and New York to offering Panasonic 3-D technology. This includes the new Panasonic 3DA1 3-D camcorder as well as larger stereoscopic camera rigs rented with a pair of Panasonic AK-HC1500G box-style HD (1080i/720p) cameras. The company has added six 3-D camera rigs to its inventory: four 3Ality Digital side-by-side and beam-splitter rigs and two of the new Parallax3 Renegade (beam-splitter) models.
Gepner said that aside from a new multiyear agreement with Panasonic to carry Panasonic 3-D production equipment, Bexel will continue to rent other cameras, like the Sony HDCP1 box-style models on 3Ality and PACE Fusion camera rigs (which they supplied for the ESPN X Games and other events in recent months), but the Panasonic equipment can be offered at a lower price point. A single Panasonic 3DA1 would rent for about $600 per day. Adding a tripod, lights and a wireless microphone might raise that to $800-$1000 per day. The camera itself lists for $21,000 new and is slightly backordered.
"We have to remember that we're still in the early days of 3-D production, and people need to test out the gear and see what they can do with it," Gepner said. "The history of this business was built on rental companies supplying equipment that producers might not be able to afford otherwise."
Bexel has also reconfigured one of its existing 53ft mobile production trucks with a new PESA 3Gb/s router, EVS 3-D/HD servers and Vizrt graphics systems to handle stereoscopic 3-D events. It's called the BBSOne mobile production environment and can be used for both 2-D and 3-D events. In fact, the unit was on-site in New York City during the recent U.S. Open tennis tournament handling five different HD feeds for ESPN International, DirecTV's Open Mix (allowing subscribers to pick from a series of mosaic views), USOpen.org and AT&T's U-Verse. (The U.S. Open was broadcast live in 3-D by NEP Productions and distributed via DirecTV's new n3D channel, sponsored by Panasonic.)
"This new BBSOne mobile unit is all about flexibility," Gepner said. "We're promoting it as a great 3-D production environment on wheels, but it can help produce literally any type of production from 3-D to HD and even Internet streaming, which we did for the U.S. Open."
For Panasonic, the agreement with Bexel is another attempt to get its 3-D production gear, including a new 3-D-capable AG-HMX100 switcher and a 25in monitor (BT-3DL2550), into the hands of as many production professionals as possible in the shortest amount of time. More content means more reasons to buy a new 3-D TV set.
"We truly believe 3-D will be successful this time around because we now have affordable production tools on the market and viewing technology in the home that was not available before," said Jan Crittenden, product manager for Panasonic's 3-D camcorder. "Companies like Bexel will help to seed the market and stimulate the creation of new 3-D content. Every aspect of this industry is getting on board to make 3-D happen."