Move to 3D HD continues as BBC goes live for 6 Nations Rugby Union match on March 8

By Kevin Hilton
SVG Europe correspondent

The BBC has over the years used its coverage of the 6 Nations rugby union tournament as a testing ground for new television technologies and on March 8 will mark a first by presenting the match between England and Scotland in 3D. The Calcutta Cup game will be shown in 3D stereoscopic high definition on a big screen to an invited audience at the Riverside Studios in Hammersmith, west London.

This year’s 6 Nations got underway earlier this month, with the only publicized new technology being a fully HD version of the postcam. The stereoscopic trial is a joint venture between BBC Sport and the 3DFirm, consisting of production company Can Communicate, Inition, a specialist in 3D production and technology, and camera hire and post-production company Axis Films.

Explaining the reasons behind the test Aashish Chandarana, innovations and production executive with BBC Sport, says, “There is a lot of interest in 3D, with Philips and Samsung producing plasma screens for the format and NHK in Japan transmitting test programmes, so we saw that it was a possibility for live sport and big events, not just for film.”

Can Communicate has been developing 3D production since 2005, when it worked on an experimental film for Coca-Cola that was used for the FIFA 2006 World Cup Trophy Tour. David Wooster, a partner in Can Communicate, said 3D coverage would come into its own for big, difficult to get into to events like the FA Cup Final.

Speaking about the England-Scotland match Wooster says, “This is not like the 23 camera TV coverage people are used to now. This is a close-up experience that is like being there.” To cover the game in 3D three pairs of Sony HDC950 cameras are being supplied by Axis Films. One of these was the first to be put together for 3D broadcast work and Wooster says it will probably be named the Calcutta Rig.

One set of cameras is to be located high up in Edinburgh’s Murrayfield Stadium for wide shots, with the other two rigs at ground level. The signals produced by each pair of cameras are gen-locked together, as any discrepancy between the two ruins the 3D effect and can hurt the eyes of viewers.

A standard vision mixer in the BBC Resources OB scanner will mix the signals in sync and then two multiplexed HD signals will be uplinked over satellite to Riverside Studios. Once there the signals will be decoded as an HD-SDI output and fed to two projectors for the screening.

The audience will be wearing special glasses but Wooster said the decision on which 3D system to use, either polarized or color spectrum, had not been made yet. The pictures will be accompanied by a surround sound mix.