CBS Sports Director Mark Grant Makes the Leap to 3D

Mark Grant has directed hundreds of basketball games for CBS, but nothing could quite prepare him for the challenge of this past weekend. On Friday night in Indianapolis, he became one of just a handful of individuals to have directed a live sporting event in 3D when he directed the college All-Star Game that served as a prelude to the Final Four. By Monday night’s NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship game, he will have quadrupled his experience in the 3D realm, with three more broadcasts under his belt. Prior to Saturday night’s doubleheader, Grant spent some time with SVG, discussing the differences he has found between 2D and 3D directing, why Lucas Oil Stadium works well for 3D, and the biggest challenges he faces in translating his skills to a silver-screen presentation of 3D.

How is your preparation for this 3D broadcast different from a 2D show?
Right now, 3D is never going to be a priority in the arena, so we have to take what’s given to us by whoever is doing the event. We have to stay out of their way, but we have to cover the event as well, so we have to find positions that are going to work. They may not be the ideal positions for us, and we may want to have other positions here, but we don’t want to get in the way of the standard 2D show.

The people that are paying to see this telecast are used to seeing a certain type of coverage, so we have to mimic that coverage but, at the same time, take it to a higher level in 3D with different angles and different perspectives.

Lucas Oil Stadium is much bigger than a traditional college arena. How does that affect the show?
If we were in a little bitty gymnasium where we couldn’t get far enough back, it would be very difficult to show the enhanced 3D look. Being in a big arena like this is definitely a plus.

We’ve tried to find places for our cameras where we can put the viewer into the arena so that it’s going to look good on movie screens. We’ve been able to find some spots that a viewer is going to look at the shot and say, “That’s a great-looking shot.” And that may not be the traditional shot that is used in college basketball because a lot of those shots don’t work in 3D.

What changes did you make after Friday night’s All-Star Game?
Everything at the All-Star Game worked out just like we had wanted it to. There were a few tweaks we had to make with our graphics, but, in terms of the cameras themselves, we were happy and very excited about what we’re about to do. We think we have ideal positions and great lens placement.

As far as the graphics, we changed the height of the graphic on the screen and the busy-ness of it. Sometimes what looks really cool on an HD monitor does not look good on the silver screen. Because we’re so used to dealing with HD and TV as opposed to film, we had to rely on the experts in the film industry to tell us that something may look nice on our monitor but, on a 40-ft. screen, it isn’t going to look good. [For] those of us who are coming from a video world, trying to put this on a big screen is not as easy as it seems. We’ve got to throw out our egos a little bit and listen to the people who work with big screens all the time.

We did a transmission test Friday night to a theater, and we really had a chance to tweak what we’re going to do. When we go on-air on Saturday night, hopefully, people won’t complain, because we got all the kinks ironed out because we had a chance to do it the day before.

How do you change your directing style for 3D?
You have to go a little slower, and you have to be much more subtle in your moves. You sometimes have to hang on a shot longer than you would want to. In this world, you want to let the viewer experience what they see and not keep jarring them from cut to cut to cut like we normally would. You have to really take your foot off of the accelerator and allow the game to come to you. You really have to back off and make subtle camera cuts at the right times.

It’s a different thought process. The pictures are so fantastic, and the viewers will appreciate it a lot more if they can take it all in and savor it. A lot of the great shots end up on the floor, because you’ve got five or six cameras that have great shots, but you can’t just put them on the air right now like you want to. You have to be patient and take the shots that you have and say that’s a great shot — and right now that’s the only shot we need.