HBS takes Hockey World Championships into third (HD) dimension

By Carolyn Braff
This
weekend, European-based Infront Sports & Media/Host Broadcast Services will
step into a new dimension as HBS records this weekend’s International Ice
Hockey Federation world championship finals in 3D HD for private screenings
after the games. Its initial foray into the technology will test different
techniques that will begin the process of perfecting the 3D HD broadcast.

“One
of our key missions is to innovate to be at the forefront of our industry,”
explains Peter Angell, director of production and programming for HBS. “With
the explosion in interest of 3D HD over the past 12 months, we felt that was
something that we wanted to be involved in and we needed to find the right
vehicle for that.”

The
IIHF’s 100th year anniversary, along with the location of the championship
tournament in hockey-wild Canada,
made the IIHF championships the perfect vehicle for HBS’ introduction to 3D.
Because this production is HBS’ first in the new medium, the company is
starting on a modest scale, taping the weekend’s four games in 3D and
post-producing that content into a 3D highlight show for private viewing after
the event.

“We’ll
be doing private screenings to use this first step as a learning curve for us,”
Angell says. “We’ve got to do a lot of testing to give ourselves an opportunity
to see what works best for hockey. This is why we’re producing four games
rather than just one. We have to change our mindset of how a game is covered.”

Angell
explains that while traditional televised sports rely on a high center camera
position for the basic play-by-play action, HBS believes 3D is best viewed from
a different camera location, one that brings the viewer closer to the action.
The physical setup of a hockey rink – with a Plexiglas barrier surrounding the
field of play – makes it all the more difficult to find that ideal position,
and all the more interesting as a 3D HD experiment.

“We
are trying to learn from all the different tests that have been done in 3D,”
Angell says. “We’ll find over the four days of production the best hockey
camera positions and the best way of covering hockey that we can in 3D.”

To
produce the event, HBS is teaming up with television broadcast partner Dome
Productions, provider of the mobile facilities for the television feed, and The
3D Firm, a consortium of European 3D specialists. The 3D Firm has designed
special rigs that will attach to Dome’s standard HD broadcast equipment in the
Majestic HD truck to create the 3D HD feed.

“The
model we’re using is to try to use standard broadcast facilities in HD wherever
possible,” Angell said. “We mate the standard broadcast technologies and
workflows from Dome with the specific 3D rigs from The 3D Firm, put those
together and get out of that stereo 3D HD.”

This
weekend’s event will be shot with a pair of cameras in each of four different
positions, and while most of the setup mimics a typical HD broadcast, extra
care must be taken to ensure that each pair of cameras is perfectly aligned to
replicate the viewing angles of the human eye.

Although
HBS has no plans to make this particular event available to the public,
according to Angell, 3D HD viewing of live events is certainly not far away.

“We
have a lot of events coming up in the next few years that can benefit from 3D,
and we feel it’s something we’re going to have to offer to our partners in the
future,” Angell says. “For big landmark events like the World Cup final, the
Super Bowl, the Olympics and other must-see events, we’re probably only a
couple of years away from 3D HD.”