ESPN tries live 3-D coverage of college football telecast

ESPN will present a 3-D telecast of a college football game Saturday, Sept. 12, between the No. 4 ranked University of Southern California (USC) at No. 6 ranked Ohio State to specially equipped theaters across the country. The production will employ Sony HDC-1500G HD cameras specially modified for stereoscopic production and transmission of the game as well as 3-D image processing software developed by Vince Pace (with director James Cameron) and his company Fusion 3D. The game will also be televised in SD and HD on ESPN and ESPN HD, respectively, for viewers at home.

Anthony Bailey, VP of emerging technologies at ESPN, said the game is serving as a full-scale trial and will allow the network to determine what it takes to produce, transmit and enable a compelling 3-D experience (eventually at home).

The production will be ESPN’s first 3-D telecast after more than two years of testing the technology in live game applications. It also will provide ESPN with the ability to evaluate workflow operations, 3-D camera positioning and transmission changes and gauge fan reaction to a 3-D telecast.

The 3-D game will be shown at the Galen Center on the USC campus as well as theaters in Columbus, OH; Hartford, CT; and Hurst, TX. Fans can win tickets to the screenings through ESPN Radio’s 710 ESPN Los Angeles, 103.3 ESPN Dallas and WBNS-FM in Columbus.

ESPN will use separate production trucks, supplied by NEP Supershooters, technical crews and on-air commentators for the 3-D and SD/HD productions. One of the main NEP trucks will feature a Sony MVS 8000 switcher that will be used to handle two uncompressed HD signals at about 3Gb/s. Various display types and transport mechanisms for 3-D viewing, including cinema projection, large-scale arena viewing and consumer-sized LCD monitors, will be employed across the different venues.

The telecast is the third 3-D test screening of a football game in the United State. Last fall, the NFL tested the technology in theaters for a playoff game. Then in January, thousands of people in 30 cities nationwide paid about $20 to watch a 3-D airing of the 2009 BCS championship game. That game was shot using Sony HD cameras and image-capture technology from 3ality Digital and transmitted live via Cinedigm’s CineLive satellite distribution network from Dolphin Stadium in Miami to an event sponsored by Sony in the Paris Hotel and Casino’s RealD-equipped Theatre des Arts in Las Vegas to coincide with the annual Consumer Electronics Show.

Pace also worked with the NBA on a special All-Star Game presentation of the 56th annual NBA All-Star Game at the Mandalay Bay Hotel in Las Vegas in 2007.